Winter Fun in West Yellowstone

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When you ski around Baker’s Hole on a sunny day, it’s hard to believe there is anywhere in the world more beautiful. The bluebird sky, pure, white snow, vibrant-red willows, and sparkling Madison River front the snow-covered peaks of Yellowstone National Park. You’re immersed in a world of saturated color.

And when the snow is just right—when it’s glittering beneath your skis—you glide along, keeping time with winter ducks and geese. Everything in life has led up to this perfect moment.

Photos by Melynda Harrison

Photos by Melynda Harrison

Until a kid wets his pants at the point farthest from the car. Oh well, it’s West Yellowstone in winter and it’s beautiful. A little urine can’t change that.

My family plays in “West” at least one weekend per winter. From Livingston it’s just two-and-a-half hours and makes for an easy getaway. West is a gateway to Yellowstone National Park and is packed with tourists in summer. But come winter, the road into the park closes to everything other than over snow vehicles and the town calms way down. This is when we visit.

Here are our favorite things to do:

Kids N’ Snow
The Kids N’ Snow program gives kids the opportunity to try out new winter activities – cross-country ski, ice fish, snowshoe, use GPS, mush sled dogs, or ride a snowmobile and much, much more. We don’t go to all the activities—I don’t think that’s even possible. We choose a few, and then make our own fun the rest of the time. It’s almost totally free, so it’s nice to be able to pop in and out of the things you are interested in.
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Cross-Country Skiing
My love is cross-country skiing. Who wouldn’t want to spend the day out in the snow in a beautiful place? Crazy people, that’s who.

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Rendezvous Ski Trails
The Rendezvous Ski Trails are “where gold medal grooming and reliable snow come together to create a Nordic skier’s dream…” There are over 35 kilometers of gently rolling, beautifully groomed trails that wind through tall stands of lodgepole pine and open meadows.” Purchase a trail pass at the entrance. Check online for the grooming report.

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Baker’s Hole Campground
This is another short ski, but it can be linked to the Boundary Trail, which starts right in West Yellowstone. I like it because it is easy for the kids to get right next to the Madison River. It’s a nice place to stop on the way out of town. And did I mention how gorgeous it is?

Other favorite family-friendly ski tours are Refuge Point and the Beaver Creek Campground.

Ice Skating and Sledding
West Yellowstone has a little ice skating rink and sledding hill in Pioneer Park. The rink is chaotic and fun. At night the music blares, marshmallows are roasted, and the kids have a blast.

The sledding hills are short, but steep. And rock hard. We take run after run under the bright sun and brilliant blue sky.

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Another place we love to visit in West is the Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center. Where families can get face to face with bears, wolves, and birds of prey without having to keep the bear spray handy. The animals at the Discovery Center cannot be released into the wild. Instead they give visitors an opportunity to observe, learn and appreciate grizzly bears and gray wolves.

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The Center has several programs kids can participate in and is home to the world-class interactive exhibit BEARS: Imagination and Reality.

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Check the website to find out more about Discovery Center programs.
Hours: October 30—April 19, 2014 – 8:30am to 4:00pm
Rates: Adults (13 and older) $9.75, Seniors (62 +) $9.00, Child (5 – 12) $5.50, Child under 5 free.
Admission is good for two consecutive days.

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