Yellowstone Ski Trip

Posted by Dutchman Monday, September 28, 2009

I saw an article today about the potential for snow in Yellowstone National Park over the next few days. It reminded me of the trip we took in February of 1988 to ski in Yellowstone.

We were on a budget (eight of us) and all crammed into a small motel room in Livingston on the way out. I think the cost was $35. I rolled out a sleeping bag and slept in a closet. Others were passed out all over the floor.
We skiied up the road to Tower from Roosevelt Lodge. I stopped for a lunch break on a bench at the gift shop at Tower, which is closed during the winter. A German woman was sitting on a bench nearby. A Raven landed between us, obviously looking for a handout. It "croaked" at us, and the woman got kind of excited and asked in a heavy accent, "will that bird attack us?". I couldn't quite understand what she said, and mistakenly replied "yes". Talk about a person coming unglued...
We decided to ride in one of the Haaglund snow coaches from Mammoth to the Old Faithful Snow Lodge. These were articulated tracked vehicles built by the Swedes for army operations in that country. We quickly discovered the primary design principle. You pack a bunch of soldiers in one and then drive it around in the snow for four hours. When you stop and let them out, they are ready to kill.
Skiing around the geyser basin at Old Faithful was awesome. Everything is coated in white frost and snow. The steam from the thermal area quickly freezes and covers everything, including wildlife. As most trails were "out and back", there were a number of times a herd of buffalo would be blocking our trail on the return leg. Needless to say, we skiied very quietly and carefully to pass through the herd.

There was only one place to eat when staying at the Snow Lodge. Fortunately, the food was great, though a little pricey, as it had to be brought in via snowmobile.

Three of us went "off trail" on our final day. We ended up near a small thermal area in a side valley. Later, upon our return, we discovered that the area was noted for it's poisonous fumes, which often killed wildlife that wandered to close.

One morning, we took a snowcoach shuttle up to the trail head on the far side of Bunsen peak. We skiied the old Bunsen Peak Road back down to Mammoth. This road was closed to vehicles years ago, as modern traffic would have difficulty with the narrow switch backs. The effortless downhill glide lasted for four miles.

Our snow coach trip back to Mammoth saw us traveling down the road through the Silver Gate, a section of road hanging on the side of a cliff, after dark. About half way down, the engine died. It was then the driver told us how hard it was to keep the engines running. They and their transmissions wore out often. We waited for about 45 minutes in the dark and sub freezing temperatures, for a replacement coach to pick us up.

There is frugal and then there is frugal. Tim would often sit in the car eating his favorite baby carrots, while the rest of us ate in a restaurant.

One fellow, subsidized his trip expenses by playing pool at the local bars in Gardiner each night. He was usually out until 2 or 3 a.m. and was always the last to rise in the morning. He'd skip breakfast and sleep in the van on the way out to the trailhead.

When you backcountry ski all day long at high elevation in the Rockies, you can eat all the calories you want, and still lose weight.

One of the women on the trip was single, as were Tim and I. She seemed to always choose the trailheads Tim and I picked. Near the end of the trip, Tim asked if I was interested. I said no, "she is all yours". A year and a half later, they were married. Other than the buffalo, that was my only close call.
We returned to the Yellowstone area later in the summer of 1988 for a two week backpacking trip in the nearby Beartooth and Wind River Wilderness areas. There were a number of small forest fires going when we left (no we didn't start them). They later grew to be the well known "Fires of 88" which burned large portions of the Lodgepole forest in the park. Many of the trails we skiied were a maze of downed timber from the fire. Knowing this we decided not to return to ski there until a few years passed, allowing the trails to be cleared. Instead we went to Leadville, Colorado and skiied the backcountry and "hut to hut" trails there. I never did get back to ski Yellowstone.


  1. Anonymous Says:
  2. Dear Bachelor:

    Any regrets with the statement, "She is all yours?"

  3. Dutchman Says:
  4. Nope! Although, now that I think of it, she is a trained dietician. Maybe I wouldn't be in my current weight loss predicament.


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I'm a middle aged divorced father living with my two sons. We like to canoe, bicycle, fish, camp, play baseball, and spend money when we want and where we want, without permission from anybody. HA!


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