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New contracts bring changes to Yellowstone winter tour business

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The business landscape for winter tour operators in Yellowstone National Park saw a shake-up this week as the National Park Service awarded a series of concessions contracts that will remain in effect for the next decade. Some longtime snowmobile and snow coach operators were selected to continue guiding winter visitors into Yellowstone, while many others with decades of experience were not among those awarded new contracts. Continue Reading →

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Yellowstone and Grand Teton open for winter season

Doug Kraus, a firefighter who lives in Mammoth, skis into the backcountry Friday near Top Notch Peak.

The winter season kicks off today in Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks, as entrances open to snow coaches, snowmobiles, skiers and hikers along the snow-covered roads through both parks. A mix of travel and recreational activities are allowed on different roads and trails in both parks. Visitors are reminded to come prepared by carrying personal emergency survival equipment in their vehicles and dressing appropriately for outside activities in extremely cold weather. Continue Reading →

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Yellowstone invites proposals for winter tours by snowmobile, snow coach

The National Park Service has released a prospectus soliciting proposals from businesses interested in providing guided, interpretive over-snow vehicle tours of Yellowstone National Park. A total of 23 new contracts will be awarded and put into place for the 2014-2015 winter season. They will take the place of 13 concession contracts for guided interpretive snow coach tours and 21 commercial use authorizations for guided interpretive snowmobile tours currently in place in Yellowstone. Continue Reading →

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Yellowstone winter tour operators wary of new concessions contracts

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Yellowstone National Park managers passed a major milestone last week with the release of a final winter-use rule that appears to have gained widespread acceptance as a workable solution to 15 years of ongoing legal challenges over snowmobile travel in the park. But it's unlikely park planners will have much time to celebrate their success, as there is a large piece of the winter-use puzzle that remains unsolved. Continue Reading →

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Final rule for winter travel in Yellowstone gains widespread approval

Two people share a snowmobile during a January 2012 trip into Yellowstone National Park.

CODY, WYO. — After more than 15 years of contentious debate over snowmobile travel in Yellowstone National Park, the National Park Service on Tuesday released a final winter-use plan that appears to have a solid chance of avoiding legal challenges. The latest plan follows six previous failed attempts and a total of more than 1.1 million public comments. Environmental groups have said snowmobiles are loud, dirty and stressful for animals. Tour operators have said increasing travel restrictions have made it difficult to stay in business. Continue Reading →

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Yellowstone Park releases proposed winter-use rule for public comment

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The National Park Service on Tuesday released for public comment a proposed rule outlining the use of snowmobiles and snow coaches in Yellowstone National Park. The rule will eventually become the basis for how winter use is managed in Yellowstone. Similar rules proposed over the past decade have been subject to legal challenges from environmental organizations, tourism industry groups and state and local government agencies. Continue Reading →

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Yellowstone Superintendent Dan Wenk wins praise for outreach on winter use

Yellowstone National Park Superintendent Dan Wenk speaks Thursday in front of the Roosevelt Arch during a kickoff event for a project that will reconfigure the North Entrance to the park. (Ruffin Prevost/Yellowstone Gate - click to enlarge)

As another winter season in Yellowstone National Park begins, it might be understandable if some local residents are pessimistic about resolving long-standing disputes over snowmobiles in the park and other related winter-use issues. Local tourism workers and environmental advocates have had front-row seats to more than a decade of public debate and court challenges over the effects of snowmobiles in the park, as well as whether to maintain access over Sylvan Pass, at the park's East Entrance. But surprisingly, gateway community business leaders are expressing optimism—even satisfaction—with the direction park managers are taking on winter use. And not just because the most recent draft plan calls for continued snowmobile access and keeping Sylvan Pass open. Continue Reading →

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Yellowstone opens Saturday to snowmobiles, snow coaches for winter season

Photographers in Yellowstone National Park snap pictures in January during an eruption of Old Faithful geyser. (Ruffin Prevost/Yellowstone Gate - click to enlarge)

Yellowstone National Park kicks off its winter season as scheduled Saturday, operating under the same management plan as last year. Beginning at 7 a.m. Dec. 15, visitors can travel the park’s interior roads on commercially guided snowmobiles or snow coaches from the North, West and South Entrances. Travel through the park’s East Entrance over Sylvan Pass is scheduled to begin Dec. 22, according to a statement released Wednesday by the park's public affairs office. Continue Reading →

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Yellowstone winter-use plan scores well with gateway snowmobile fans

Two people share a snowmobile during a January 2012 trip into Yellowstone National Park.

Gateway communities around Yellowstone National Park have been weighing in this week on the latest draft winter-use plan for managing snowmobiles and snow coaches in the park, with generally favorable reactions from snowmobile enthusiasts. The plan calls for managing traffic by "transportation events" and grouping snowmobile riders in clusters of 7-10 sleds per event. It allows for a total of 110 daily transportation events, with a cap of 50 events for snowmobile riders. One event each day from each gate is reserved for unpaid guides. Continue Reading →

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Yellowstone planners set public meetings on ‘complicated’ but ‘defensible’ winter-use plan

A collared elk is wary, but appears relatively undisturbed by passing snowmobiles in Yellowstone National Park.

Yellowstone National Park Superintendent Dan Wenk said Thursday that he believes the park's newly released draft winter-use plan is "complicated," but also "incredibly defensible," and that it will lead to a quieter, cleaner winter experience for visitors. If the plan survives expected court challenges — the last decade has seen constant legal wrangling over snowmobiles in the park — it will take effect in 2014, after a two-year transition period that follows current rules. Wenk and park planners will be discussing the plan later this month during public meetings in gateway communities around the park. Continue Reading →

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