Winter in Yellowstone

winterynpThere’s nothing like Yellowstone National Park in the winter.

In the winter months, the thick layer of snow that blankets the once lush, green summertime landscape of Yellowstone National Park creates a dramatic backdrop for the quiet solitude that awaits the park’s few lucky winter visitors. A winter day in the park is a truly magical experience; there’s steam shooting up from the hot pots surrounded by fields of white, grazing snow-crusted bison and elk and, best of all, no crowds.

For Big Sky, Montana residents and visitors alike, a winter park excursion is a must, and there are many ways to explore.

Snowcoach Tours
There are a few different tour operators offering half and full-day interpretive snowcoach tours through parts of the park that are closed to vehicles during the winter. The coaches also serve as transportation to Old Faithful Lodge, Mammoth Hot Springs, West Yellowstone, and Flagg Ranch. Wintertime lodging is available in some of these areas, where people stay to cross-country ski or snowmobile (see more on that below). The snowcoach is a comfortable and warm way for the whole family to experience the park in winter. Here are some vendors:

Yellowstone Snowcoaches

Yellowstone Vacations

Yellowstone National Park Lodges

Snowmobile Tours
Cruise through the snowy landscape on a guided snowmobile tour to really experience your surroundings first hand with a dose of adventure thrown into the mix. Designed for all ability levels, from first timers to advanced riders, many of the trips are full day excursions that travel to Old Faithful Geyser Basin or the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. Here are a few of the authorized Yellowstone National Park snowmobile concessionaires:

Two Top Yellowstone Winter Tours

Yellowstone Vacations

Old Faithful Snowmobile Tours

Ski & Snowshoe Tours
A variety of ski and snowshoe tours are offered in different areas throughout Yellowstone National Park. Departing from Mammoth Hotel or Old Faithful, there are trips to the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone and tours around Old Faithful to Delacey Creek and Fairy Falls.

Ranger-led snowshoe trips through the Lamar Valley are also a popular way to spend the day, or try a tour around the Mammoth Hot Spring Terraces with a geology talk and through the northern ranges for a wolf reintroduction tour.

For more information about exploring on your own, check out http://www.nps.gov/yell/planyourvisit/skiyell.htm

For information about ranger-led programs for 2015, go here http://www.nps.gov/yell/planyourvisit/rangerwinter.htm

For guided tours, check out http://www.nps.gov/yell/planyourvisit/wintbusn.htm

Lodging
How about spending the night in a winter wonderland? Winter lodging is available in the park at both Mammoth Hotel and Old Faithful Snow Lodge. Hotels just outside the park, in West Yellowstone and Gardiner, are also open throughout the winter. For reservations and more information for all of the above programs, call (307) 344-7311 or (866) GEYSERLAND.

Custom Tours
Want to do a little bit of everything, and have a private guide to show you the ins-and-outs of the park? Choose your own adventure with custom guided tours that can include skiing, snowmobiling, or snowcoaching. For more information, see http://www.yellowstonenationalparklodges.com/things-to-do/winter-things-to-do/winter-activities-dates-rates/

Top 10 Things for Non-Skiers to do

blog_activities

Top 10 Things for Non-Skiers to Do on a Big Sky Winter Day

If you’re a non-skier, it’s easy to feel like an outcast amongst the hardcore Big Sky winter fanatics. Maybe you don’t ski because of an injury or health condition, or maybe it’s just not your thing. But you don’t have to let those powder days go to waste. If you’re not planning to hit the slopes, or if you’re taking a day off, there are many other equally rewarding winter activities to take advantage of on Big Sky winter day. Try these:

  1. Ousel Falls: This low-key hike is a great way to get out of the house on a beautiful snowy day. Less than two miles out and back, the trail switchbacks down into a canyon before crossing the Gallatin River to the falls. The Ousel Falls hike is accessible to people of all abilities, and well worth it to see the magical frozen falls. If there’s snow or ice, try using ice traction cleats (such as Yaktrax), snowshoes, or cross-country skis.
  2. Fine Dining: Big Sky is known for its world-class skiing, but its dining is top notch too. Start your day at the Blue Moon Bakery with a yummy pastry or, if you’re a late sleeper, try their excellent homemade pizza for lunch. For fine dining Montana style, visit the Rainbow Ranch Lodge Restaurant, Buck’s T-4, or Olive B’s; or for a more casual experience, try or the Gallatin Riverhouse Grill or Ousel & Spur. For a complete list of dining options, go here.
  3. Winter Ziplining: Brave souls seeking an adrenaline rush should check out Big Sky Resort’s Adventure Zipline Tour. Expert guides will acquaint you with safety equipment and procedures, and accompany you up the chairlift towards Lone Peak. Glide your way down through the epic scenery solo, or try “racing” a friend on the twin line. Reservations are required, call 406-995-5769.
  4. Sledding and Tubing: Sliding fast down a snowy hillside never gets old. Plenty of area businesses offer tube and sled rentals, and Big Sky even has its very own “Tube Park.” For an especially unique sledding experience, check out Spirit of the North Dogsledding Adventures, which offers guided dog sledding for the inexperienced.
  5. Rest and Relaxation: Get a little rest and relaxation by taking advantage of one of Big Sky’s numerous spas, which offer massage, facials, and other treatments for both men and women. Rainbow Ranch Lodge and Big Sky Resort both offer spa services; OZssage Therapeutic Spa will send a masseuse to your home or hotel.
  6. Snowshoeing: For those who prefer more laid-back winter recreation, snowshoeing is a great way to take advantage of winter weather. Explore the trails on your own or try a guided tour. Lone Mountain Ranch even offers moonlight snowshoe tours.
  7. Ice Skating: The Big Sky Town Center Ice Rink offers daily open skating, a kids’ rink, classes and other programs, including adult drop-in hockey and broomball. Go to bhssa.org for more information.
  8. Entertainment: The classy Lone Peak Cinema shows films daily and also offers a full bar, with happy hour from 8-9 p.m. Ousel & Spur Pizza Co. hosts live music every Friday through the winter, not to mention fantastic coffee, cocktails, and pizza. And check the local event schedule for up to date entertainment here.
  9. Shop and See: Stroll your way through the Meadow Village, Mountain Village, and Big Sky Town Center’s unique boutiques, cafes, galleries, and restaurants. Whether you’re looking for sports gear, western art, or souvenirs, there are many options that cater to all ages and tastes.
  10. Learn to Ski: You won’t get kicked out of Big Sky for not being a skier, but if there’s no good reason to avoid it, maybe it’s time to give in. Start slowly with a few lessons on the bunny hill, and you’ll be well on your way to hitting the slopes next winter.

Big Sky’s Winter Cruising

blog_wintercruisingDuring the holiday season in Big Sky, Montana, it’s pretty likely that there will be “lovely weather for a sleigh ride together” at some point. And there’s nothing quite as wonderful as bundling up for a peaceful journey through the snowy scenery the old-fashioned way. Whether you have an hour or an evening to spare, Big Sky offers several unique sleigh-ride experiences beginning in early December.

If you would rather not brave the elements, take in the scenery on a guided snowcoach tour, which allows guests to get up-close-and-personal with Yellowstone National Park scenery and wildlife from the comfort of a vehicle that travels off-road. Continue reading for a complete list of snowcoach and sleigh ride vendors in the area.

Lone Mountain Ranch: If you’re looking for an authentic experience, reserve a spot for Lone Mountain Ranch’s popular evening sleigh ride dinner. Guests ride in horse-drawn sleigh to an out-of-the-way cabin for a prime rib dinner cooked over a wood stove. A rustic atmosphere and “cowboy entertainment” complete the experience. Season starts Dec. 5 and runs through the end of March. http://www.lonemountainranch.com

320 Guest Ranch: The 320 Guest Ranch offers sleigh rides by starlight to Mountain Man Campsite Monday through Saturday beginning Dec. 12. A horse-drawn sleigh departs for the one-hour trip at 5:30 p.m., 7 p.m., and 9 p.m. daily; and includes either appetizers or dessert. Guests are treated to ranch stories by the campfire before returning home. The 320 Ranch also offers private sleigh rides for special occasions. www.320ranch.com

Montana Dinner Yurt: Ride a snow cat to the top of a mountain for a fun and festive night of sledding, live music, and a top-notch dinner served inside a real Montana yurt. Don’t worry – it’s warm inside! www.skimba.com

See Yellowstone Snowcoach Tours: See Yellowstone offers daily tour services to Old Faithful and Geyser Basins; and Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday to the “Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone.” These guided tours depart at 8:30 a.m. and return by 4:30 p.m. Private tours are also available. www.yellowstonesnowcoaches.com

Backcountry Adventures: Backcountry Adventures also offers regular tours to the Canyon and Old Faithful, as well as tours for private parties. www.backcountry-adventures.com

Yellowstone Alpen Guides: In addition to its sightseeing snowcoach tours, Yellowstone Alpen Guides also offers two photography tours for guests who want plenty of freedom to stop and capture the view. Tours operate daily and include opportunities to snowshoe and cross-country ski along the way. http://www.yellowstoneguides.com