Yellowstone has miles of trails for the adventurous skier and snowshoer. Though track is set only on a few trails, all unplowed roads and trails are open to cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. 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. Your safety is not guaranteed. Be prepared for any situation and know the limits of your ability.
- Talk with park rangers before you leave on any trip and get specific information on conditions. Some park areas could be closed to skiing or snowshoeing to protect wildlife. Trail conditions and status are also available from the ski shops at Mammoth Hot Springs and Old Faithful.
- Plan your time generously. Include allowances for limited daylight, snow conditions, temperature extremes, and the number of people in the group, their experience and physical condition.
- A permit is required for all overnight backcountry trips.
- Always ski with someone else. Leave word about where you are going, by what route, and when you plan to return.
- Drink plenty of water. Yellowstone’s altitude and cold, dry winter air can cause dehydration. Carry water in insulated bottles so it doesn’t freeze.
- Do not approach wildlife. Give them time to move away from you. Travel around a herd, not through it. Always allow animals an escape route through shallow snow or on a packed trail. Stay at least 75 feet from bison and other large animals; 300 feet from bears and wolves.
- Hydrothermal features: When skiing near hydrothermal areas, stay on marked trails. Approaching hydrothermal features is dangerous and prohibited. The snow in these areas is often icy and what appears to be bare ground may be a thin crust over boiling water.
- Avalanche Danger: Avalanches can occur on any slope and hazards will not always be marked. In avalanche-prone areas carry a shovel, avalanche transceiver, probe, and first aid kit–and know how to use them. Cross slopes one at a time, while others watch from safety.
- Elevation: Consider the elevation when deciding on a ski trail. Park elevations with adequate skiable snow range from 7,000 to 10,000 feet (2133 - 3048 m), and may require you to move slowly when you are out of breath. If you are coming from lower elevations, acclimate yourself first.
- Weather: Winter weather in Yellowstone changes rapidly and can be severely cold and windy. Wear proper clothing layers. Watch yourself and other members of your party for signs of frostbite and hypothermia. Sun protection, especially eye protection, can be critical in winter.
- Do not snowshoe or walk directly on ski tracks.
- Skiers/snowshoers going uphill yield to those going downhill.
- Fill in depressions in the snow after falling to reduce hazards to others.
- If you find the trail too difficult, turn back. Please do not take your skis off to walk up or down hills as the holes you will leave are very dangerous for other skiers. If you decide to continue, turn sideways, dig ski edges into the slope and sidestep either up or down the hill.
- When skiing on the road, yield to vehicles. Ski single-file, facing traffic to avoid accidents.
Clothing & Equipment
- Dress properly and know about layering for severe winter temperatures to prevent chilling and overheating.
- Carry extra clothing, food, water, map and compass, matches, flashlight, and a whistle.
- Choose skis and boots made for touring or mountaineering. Narrow racing skis won't provide enough surface area to break trail.
- Before you rent or borrow equipment, check for fit and suitability for wilderness use.
- Don't have skis? Take a guided ski trip.