SNOWSHOE MAGAZINE FEATURED ARTICLE:

Yellowstone Country: A Spiritual Snowshoeing Experience

Snowshoeing in Yellowstone Country is a must for wintertime nature lovers. Families will especially appreciate the bonding atmosphere created throughout this serene setting in western Wyoming. The star of the show unquestionably is Old Faithful Geyser, which has fascinated visitors since it became the first geyser in the park to receive a name back in 1870.

Old Faithful erupts about every 70 to 90 minutes, according to park officials. Its blast of boiling water can go as high as 140 feet, though the show lasts for only a minute or two. While snowshoeing the area surrounding Old Faithful, the beauty of the geyser can be experienced from a variety of locations and angles. Eugene Gearity, a local guide and bus driver with Xanterra, the concessionaire for the park, recommends that snowshoeing families take the Observation Point trail. “It’s very scenic, not far from civilization, and offers a great vantage point for visually scanning the entire property, including Old Faithful Geyser and the plentiful wildlife.”

Prior to their snowshoeing adventure, visitors can settle into their room at the Old Faithful Snow Lodge & Cabins (www.yellowstonenationalparklodges.com). This is one of two lodges open during winter months within Yellowstone. The other lodging option, Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel, is located a few hours north. According to Rick Hoeninghausen, director of sales and marketing for Xanterra Parks & Resorts in Yellowstone, both hotels opened just prior to Christmas and close the first week of March. And in the meantime, there’s a lot of snowshoe exploring to be done.

Xanterra officials make it easy for visitors to plan their snowshoeing excursions. You can either explore independently, or go with a knowledgeable guide who provides excellent background and historical information on the surrounding area. One of the featured package deals that’s very popular with guests is the “Old Faithful Winter Expedition.” Participants observe and learn about wildlife, receive breakfast and lunch daily along with a welcome gift, in-park transportation for field trips, snowshoes, one-hour hot tub rental, unlimited ice skating, and optional evening programs. This, and other lodging and learning programs are offered under the guidance of the nonprofit Yellowstone Association Institute. “Winter for us means terrific snowshoeing, a sense of quiet and solitude, and truly unparalleled opportunities for wildlife viewing,” says Jeff Brown, director of education for the Institute. “With the exception of the hibernating bears and some migratory bird species, winter in Yellowstone is the best time to view wildlife such as wolves, elk, bison, and more in their natural habitat.”

Another popular program is “Winter in Wonderland,” which is designed as a comprehensive introduction to Yellowstone in winter. Guests receive four nights lodging at Mammoth Hotel and two nights at Old Faithful Snow Lodge. Guests explore the park via snowcoach, skis, and snowshoes while learning about wildlife in the Lamar Valley, geology in the Old Faithful region, and more. A snowcoach, by the way, is Yellowstone’s exclusive transportation vehicle that shuttles passengers throughout the park during winter. Equipped with Mattracks for over-the-snow use in winter, these unique vehicles have all the comforts of a regular shuttle bus. Snowcoaches have been providing winter-season transportation in Yellowstone National Park for more than 50 years. Xanterra operates a fleet of snowcoaches throughout the park.

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