For the first time in more than a decade, winter visitors to Yellowstone National Park will have a chance to tour the park by snowmobile without using a commercial guide.
The National Park Service announced this week that it is accepting applications for non-commercially guided snowmobile trips. The program will be run as a lottery through a federal public lands website where prospective visitors may select their preferred dates and submit an online request.
Applications will be accepted online at http://recreation.gov through October 3, according to a statement released by the park’s public affairs office.
If there are multiple applications for the same entrance for the same time period, one application will be selected by chance and awarded the permit. After the conclusion of the lottery, any remaining or cancelled permits will be available on a first-come, first-served basis through the same website starting in November.
Since 2003, all snowmobile travel in the park has required a commercial guide. Under the latest revised winter-use plan, the Park Service allowed for a self-guided option where non-commercial parties may enter using a guide who has passed an online certification program.
According to the application page at recreation.gov, costs include a $6 application fee and a $40 reservation fee due trip confirmation. Standard entrance fees also apply.
The application page also notes that fees are not refundable if, for instance, travel through the East Gate is prohibited due to avalanche danger along Sylvan Pass.
“Avalanche danger on Sylvan Pass, west of the East Entrance, can close the park road for hours or even days,” the website states. “There will not be refunds or rescheduling due to road closures”
The Non-commercially Guided Snowmobile Access Program was authorized in the 2013 final Winter Use Rule. The program allows one non-commercially guided group per day to enter Yellowstone from each of its four winter entrances. Trips can range in length from one to three days. A maximum of five snowmobiles is permitted in each group and all snowmobiles must meet the “best-available technology” standard required for commercial operators.
Permit holders are considered guides and must be at least 18 years old by the first day of the trip. All snowmobile operators in a non-commercially guided trip must possess a state-issued driver’s license and have successfully completed the online Yellowstone Snowmobile Education Certification program, which will be available starting in November 2014.
Additional details on the online certification program were not immediately available.
Park officials noted that the State of Wyoming, through Governor’s Office and the State Trails Program, has provided critical support for the development of the required on-line snowmobile education course.
More information regarding the program can be found at http://www.nps.gov/yell/parkmgmt/ngsap.htm or by contacting Alicia Murphy, Non-commercially Guided Snowmobile Access Program Coordinator, at [email protected] or 307-344-2627.
Contact Yellowstone Gate at 307-213-9818 or [email protected]