Wyoming National Parks Kick Off Winter Season

It’s still a week until the official, astronomical end of fall, but both of western Wyoming’s national parks kick off their winter seasons Sunday.

That means the start of cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and skate skiing, among other outdoor activities.

In select places in Grand Teton and Yellowstone national parks, snowmobiling is allowed. Yellowstone also offers snow coach rides. The opportunity to tour Yellowstone’s snow-packed roads draws people from around the world, and conditions are ideal going into the season, park spokesman Al Nash said.

“We have some years where access to the park in the beginning of winter season can be a bit problematic with light snow depth, and we’re not in that position this year,” Nash said. “We’ve had quite a bit of snow in recent days, and it has remained cold.”

Except for the Cody entrance, all of Yellowstone’s gates will open to snowmobiling Sunday, though snow conditions are best near the South Gate on up to Old Faithful, Nash said.

“I’m hearing talk of feet,” he said of snow depths.

Down the road from the South Gate in Grand Teton National Park, conditions for over-snow winter sports are somewhat less optimal, spokeswoman Jackie Skaggs.

“We don’t start grooming [Teton Park Road] until we get two feet of snow, so we haven’t started grooming yet,” she said Friday.

The spokeswoman guessed there was perhaps a foot on the roadbed.

“It’s actually still a really enjoyable opportunity to get up there and cross-country ski,” she said. “Basically other than the winter closure areas, Grand Teton National Park is open to skiers and snowshoers.”

Alpine winter closures in Teton park took effect Dec. 1, while Kelly Hill and Uhl Hill and the river bottom areas of the Snake and Buffalo Fork are set to close for the season Sunday.

With the Craig Thomas Discovery and Visitor Center closed through April 6, winter services in Grand Teton will be more limited than usual this year. The tourist pit stop — formerly the only visitor center open year-round — has been shuttered to save money.

Ranger-led snowshoe hikes near Taggart Lake remain available.

At Old Faithful in Yellowstone, the visitor center, grill and gift shop all open Sunday, and the cabins, lodge and dining room open Wednesday.

Services in Mammoth Hot Springs that aren’t already open year-round will be available starting Dec. 22.

Entrance fees apply during winter in both national parks. To enter on foot or to ski in, it costs $5 a day in Grand Teton. A seven-day pass to Yellowstone costs $12.

Guided snowmobiling is available throughout the main loop in Yellowstone. Sleds are permissible in Grand Teton only on Grassy Lake Road or for the specific purpose of ice fishing on Jackson Lake.

This article appeared in the Jackson Hole News & Guide on 12/14/13.