Yellowstone set to open
By Mike Koshmrl, Jackson Hole, Wyoming
Date: December 14, 2012
A fresh blanket of snow will greet visitors to Yellowstone National Park when it opens for the winter season Saturday.
All of Yellowstone’s roads designated for snowmobile and snow coach travel are slated to be open, park spokesman Al Nash said. Skiers are also allowed to use the routes.
“We are able to open all of our over-snow roads to all types of snow coaches and snowmobiles that are normally allowed in the park,” Nash said. “We can’t always say that for the start of the season. The last few days really provided us some significant and much-needed snowfall.”
Snowmobiling in Yellowstone, a contentious and heavily litigated issue, is authorized under a temporary rule that allows up to 318 commercially guided snowmobiles and 78 snow coaches a day. A long-term plan is in the works.
Guiding businesses, including 10 located in Jackson Hole, hold a limited number of permits. Jon Poolson, owner of Jackson-based Old Faithful Snowmobile Tours, secured two permits this season that allow him 19 snowmobiles a day.
Old Faithful Snowmobile Tours has a number of trips lined up for the opening weekend, Poolson said.
“Everything’s good,” he said. “We could always use more, but I’m not complaining about business.”
A year ago, with three permits, Poolson said he “ran pretty much totally full” through the entire winter season.
Randy Roberson, owner of Yellowstone Vacations in West Yellowstone, Mont., was also encouraged by the recent weather. Roberson runs both snow coaches and snowmobiles into the park, and can accommodate up to 140 people a day, he said.
“We’ve been waiting for that storm to hit us and it finally did,” Roberson said in a telephone interview from West Yellow-stone. “Someone’s watching out for us.”
The season is shaping up, he said.
“Reservations look strong for the winter,” Roberson said.
The busiest time of year for winter travel in the park is just around the corner, Nash said. Many families hold their Christmas celebrations at lodges, such as the Old Faithful Snow Lodge, in the world’s first national park, he said.
The busy season runs through New Year’s Day. There are other popular times later in the winter on other holiday weekends, he said.
Opening dates for services and lodging in the park are staggered, with most opening over the next two weeks.
Old Faithful services open Saturday, except for the Snow Lodge and Obsidian Dining Room. They open Tuesday. The Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel, dining room and gift shop open Dec. 20.
Mammoth can be reached by car in the winter, but only from Montana.
Yellowstone’s east entrance near Cody, accessed via Sylvan Pass, opens Dec. 22.
Winter-season entrances and services shut down between March 1 and March 15, Nash said.