The interior roads of Yellowstone National Park are being packed and groomed in order to open to commercially guided snowmobile and snowcoach travel as scheduled in mid-December.
Limited, managed motorized oversnow travel over groomed, snow-packed park roads will be permitted again this season under the same temporary plan as last year. The plan allows up to 318 commercially guided, Best Available Technology (BAT) snowmobiles and up to 78 commercially guided snowcoaches a day into the park.
The roads that link West Yellowstone, Mammoth Hot Springs and the park’s South Entrance with Old Faithful and Canyon are set to open to commercially guided snowmobiles and snowcoaches at 8 a.m. Wednesday, Dec. 15. Motorized oversnow travel on the East Entrance road and Sylvan Pass is scheduled to begin a week later, at 8 a.m. Wednesday, Dec. 22.
The park’s list of permitted snowmobile and snowcoach operators is available online. No commercial operator submitted a proposal to provide snowcoach tours from the park’s East entrance this season.
At Old Faithful, the Geyser Grill, the Bear Den Gift Shop and the Old Faithful Visitor Education Center will open for the season on Dec. 15. The Old Faithful Snow Lodge and Cabins and the dining room will open on Saturday, Dec. 18.
The Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel, dining room and gift shop will open for the season on Tuesday, Dec. 21. The Yellowstone General Store, the medical clinic, campground, post office, 24-hour gasoline pumps and the Albright Visitor Center at Mammoth Hot Springs are open all year.
Open to wheeled vehicle travel all year is the park’s North Entrance and the road from Gardiner, MT, through Mammoth Hot Springs on to Cooke City, MT, outside the park’s Northeast Entrance. At Tower Junction, gasoline is also available at a 24-hour, pay-at-the pump facility.
All communities around and on the way to Yellowstone are open year-round, with local businesses offering a wide range of winter recreation opportunities. Extensive information and assistance for planning a visit to Yellowstone are on the park’s web site.
Work is progressing on a new long term plan to guide future management of winter use in Yellowstone. The National Park Service is preparing a Draft Environmental Impact Statement, which will analyze the effects of a wide range of winter-use alternatives on the park and its resources. This study is expected to be released in late winter or early spring for a 60-day review and comment period. The National Park Service intends to finish the plan and issue any new winter-use regulations before the start of the 2011-2012 winter season.