Cross Country Skiing and Snowshoeing
Before you rent or borrow equipment, check for fit and suitability for wilderness use. Choose skis and boots made for touring or mountaineering. Narrow racing skis may not give you enough surface area to break trail and low shoes may not give you enough ankle support. A list of concessioners providing cross-country skiing services is available if you did not bring your own skis or would like to take a guided ski trip.
Even in severe winter temperatures, you can be comfortable and safe if you dress properly to prevent chilling and overheating.
Yellowstone has miles of trails for the adventurous skier and snowshoer. Whether you are skiing a groomed trail in a developed area or venturing into the backcountry, remember that you are traveling in wilderness with all its dangers: unpredictable wildlife, changing weather conditions, hydrothermal areas, deep snow, open streams, and avalanches. You have chosen to explore and experience the land on its own terms, but your safety is not guaranteed. Be prepared for any situation and know the limits of your ability.
Most of Yellowstone is backcountry and managed as wilderness; many miles of trails are available for skiing. Track is set only on a few trails. All unplowed roads and trails are open to cross country skiing and showshoeing. When skiing on unplowed roadways used by snowmobiles, keep to the right to avoid accidents.
Park elevations with adequate skiable snow range from 7,000 to 10,000 feet (2133 - 3048 meters.) If you are coming from lower elevations, acclimate yourself and test your capabilities by taking short day trips before considering longer excursions.
Orange metal trail markers attached to trees may be difficult to find in winter. Even on a well-marked trail, you can become lost easily in a whiteout or blizzard. Only skiers thoroughly familiar with the area should attempt off-trail travel.
Few streams have bridges. Parties venturing into the backcountry should carry a USGS topographic map and a compass and know how to use them. When planning your trip, get specific information on conditions from rangers at a ranger station or visitor center.
A Backcountry Use Permit is required for all overnight ski trips. Contact a park ranger at a ranger station or visitor center before you begin a ski trip-whether for a few hours or several days. Some park areas could be open to skiing or snowshoeing on designated routes only during severe winter conditions to protect wildlife. Maps of these routes will be posted at trailheads, but check with a ranger before beginning your trip. Trip planning should include allowances for limited daylight, snow conditions, temperature extremes, and the number of people in the group, their experience and physical condition. Overnight ski and snowshoe trips during December and January are difficult due to short days, extreme temperatures, and soft snow. Learn as much as you can about winter survival. Talk with park rangers before you leave on any trip.
Choose skis and boots made for touring or mountaineering. Narrow racing skis won't provide enough surface area to break trail.
Our winter backcountry video is a great resource for planning your next cross country or snowshoeing trip.