GRANITE PEAK PUBLICATIONS: Books accompanying travelers to the Park since 2002

All posts tagged snow

Winter season opens in Yellowstone

Categories: News, Trip planning, Winter
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[December 16: The snow cover at Old Faithful looks even better on the webcam than it did yesterday, as you can see in this late afternoon screen shot. I need to make a slight correction to yesterday’s post—]

OFG_Webcam_12_16_15

Starting today, December 15, 2015, three of Yellowstone’s entrances are open to over-snow vehicles, park officials announced. A fresh snowfall assured that the planned opening day can take effect, and snowcoaches and snowmobiles can enter through the West, South, and North Entrances. However, over-snow vehicles really take over at Mammoth Hot Springs, which is five miles from the North Entrance. Starting next Tuesday, December 22, the East Entrance will be open.

The road from the North Entrance to the Northeast Entrance is open year-round to wheeled vehicles, meaning the roads are plowed. Still, you might be wise to use all-season tires or carry chains.

If you’d like to read about my winter experiences in the park as well as about the wolf-watching trip taken by my friend Rita Reining last year and excerpts from a historical account of skiing through the park long ago, select “Winter” from this website’s “Categories” box.

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Nature cooperates with Yellowstone!

Categories: News, Trip planning, Winter
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Just this morning I’ve found for the first time this fall that the National Park Service webcam at Old Faithful is showing snow covering the Old Faithful / Upper Geyser Basin area. It is interesting to notice where the black sinter-covered ground still shows—these are areas where the subsurface is warm enough to melt snow no matter what the air temperature may be.
UGB_Webcam_11_4_15am

This is nicely coordinated with the closing of all Yellowstone roads to wheeled traffic, except for the all-season road between Gardiner and the Northeast Entrance near Silver Gate and Cooke City.

There are seven webcams of different parts of the park accessible at the NPS webcams page.

If your winter Yellowstone visit reservations are not yet made, call concessioner Xanterra at: 307-344-7311 NOW!

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Planning for a Winter Trip to Yellowstone?

Categories: History, Through Early Yellowstone, Trip planning, Winter
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With things beginning to shut down and weather growing more wintry in the park, maybe it’s time to think about a trip there. It can be glorious to see everything covered in ice and snow, icicles glittering from the tree branches, frozen waterfalls, and everything cushioned with quiet.

In my post last October 24th, I quoted a snippet of winter description to whet your appetite for such a Yellowstone winter trip. From the same author, I’ve chosen some longer excerpts, the most eloquent descriptions of the Yellowstone winter scene I’ve ever read. T. Elwood (“Billy”) Hofer was guide to tourists, scientists, and hunters and an all-round capable outdoorsman. He was one of the first people to traverse the world’s first national park on cross-country skis (which he called snowshoes). He was there in the fierce winter of 1887.

Next year you’ll be able to read the whole amazing story in my historical anthology, Through Early Yellowstone: Adventuring by Bicycle, Covered Wagon, Foot, Horseback, and Skis, to be available by early summer to coincide with the National Park Service centennial. With twenty-first century climate warming, you may not see quite what he saw—but maybe you will.

From Hofer’s “Winter in Wonderland”

On February 16 I visited Norris Geyser Basin. A heavy fog hung over the country, with a light snow. As I approached the Basin, I was startled by the resemblances to men and animals the ice-laden trees showed, as, standing sentinel duty on each side of the road, they appeared to be watching our approach. Everything was loaded down with the steam frozen as it had drifted from the geysers. There were fantastic forms of men and women looking into the pools. Up the road were seen hogs, rabbits, mules, elephants, leopards, tigers, cats and dogs; animals of all kinds and shapes, creatures that outside of the Park nothing but a disordered mind could conjure up. All were in white, but often with dark eyes, ears and mouth, or limbs or faces, where the deep green of the pines showed through the white ice. Now and then a bough free from frost projected through the ice to form the plume of a soldier or the ears of a mule or rabbit. Again there appeared the form of a woman holding a child, bending over it as if to protect it from the wintry blasts. . . .

Wandering around among the pools in the mystery of the fog, alone in the world—like one at sea on a raft without a sail in sight—I could not see the ghostly goblin band over the hill I had left behind, but I could feel their presence; and now and again I would suddenly come in sight of more of them as I approached the timber either on my right or left. I found ice and snow everywhere in the valley. I could travel on my snowshoes on snow and ice 8 ft. deep, by the side of streams of hot water, while snow was falling on me, and white rabbits were mysteriously disappearing from sight among the snow-laden trees on my left. Flies were seen on the surface of the stream, and where the water was collected in shallow pools a water insect like a worm could be seen on the bottom moving sluggishly about. Most of the colors of the rainbow lined the bottom of the stream, though the shades were pale. I followed down the stream of the waters running from Constant, Black Growler, Ink Geyser, and the pools in the northern part of the Basin, until it was joined by the waters from the Monarch, New Crater, Vixen, Spiteful, Coral and the other beautiful pools, springs and geysers in the main basin. . . .

As I approached Coral Spring I was almost tempted to shoot at a large polar bear; he was ten feet up a dead tree near the spring; he had climbed up the tree and was looking back at the hot water as if afraid of it; I could have believed him to be alive as I first saw him through the fog and falling snow. He was only ice, however, and had grown right there where he was, as the frozen steam had added to his bulk. He was at least ten feet long; and as he grasped the tree with all his legs, one foreleg thrown over a dead limb, he was a perfect picture of a great white bear. If carved from a block of ice by an artist he could not have looked more natural. . . .

Further east I came to another steam escape, somewhat sheltered from the wind. Near this was an ice-covered tree, which had taken the form of a woman, her garments covered with the most delicate frost work lace, fringes and tassels, more delicate than the finest silk, and that a breath of wind would disturb and break; a gossamer-like bridal veil of frost hung over all, looped and gathered into folds. It was the most delicate frost work I have yet seen. With one beam of sunlight all would have disappeared. The whole fabric was so fine that parts were continually breaking off and falling on the snow below, making a train for the dress. . . .

I had now been in the Basin several hours, had seen boiling water and solid ice within less than a foot of each other, and little mounds of green and blue tinted ice, where the spray from the small geyser jets fell; and I had stepped across running streams of hot water, with my snowshoes elevated above the stream by two or three feet of snow and ice. In summer no such extremes meet; nothing so beautiful and delicate as the frostwork is then to be seen. Before I left the Basin the fog lifted; the wind began to blow, swaying the trees about, rattling their icy garments; the ghosts and goblins were going through a weird dance, bowing and swaying to each other, accompanied by the mournful music of the wind as it sighed and moaned through the pines. . . .

The clouds lifting showed Mt. Holmes in the northwest. This beautiful peak with its snow-capped summit rose from the dark masses of green timber. In places the trees were so laden with snow as to give the whole forest a white appearance; the last snow had covered every limb and bough, and one could call it a forest of silver trees. In a few places the wind had blown the snow off, revealing a dark green and giving to the landscape the appearance of shadows of passing clouds.


Call the concessionaire Xanterra at 307-344-7311 for room and snowcoach reservations—or contact one of the private concessionaires, if you’d rather drive a snowmobile. And keep your fingers crossed for snow!

See my report on a winter trip to the park.

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Precipitation in Yellowstone—but not at the best time

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Although the Beartooth Highway and Dunraven Pass opened on time yesterday (May 22), cold and rainy weather is the norm right now in Yellowstone.

There was less snow than normal again this winter, following a decades-long trend, but the park service announced a rain-caused trail closure on Wednesday. Recent heavy rain and snow caused a rock and mud slide across the Brink of the Lower Falls trail, and the popular trail is closed until conditions dry out and the trail can be cleared. Yellowstone Canyon District Ranger Tim Townsend said, “Right now the entire slope above the trail is still wet and unstable, making it unsafe for crews to work in the area.”

From page 185 of Yellowstone Treasures, here’s the thrilling view you will not be able to access until the trail is rebuilt.YT_pg185_2015-05-23 at 4.18.34 PM

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Yellowstone Park Opens to Over-snow Vehicles Today—But Wait . . .

Categories: Trip planning, Winter
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Today, December 15, is when the winter season officially begins in Yellowstone. This means you should be able to travel in snowcoaches or with commercially guided snowmobile groups starting now.

But the snow cover is so limited between West Yellowstone and Old Faithful, that the National Park Service is allowing “only commercial snowcoaches with rubber tracks or large oversnow tires” on that stretch of park road, according to today’s Jackson Hole News and Guide.

If I were so lucky as to be going to the park this winter, I would make my plans for mid January through the end of February, when snow conditions are much more likely to be good. Here’s where you can read about my unforgettable January 2012 luxury winter trip.

Of course, you can also make all the arrangements yourself through Xanterra (307-344-7311) or a private concessionaire.

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Roads closing for winter break in Yellowstone

Categories: Trip planning, Winter
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All Yellowstone Park roads except the all-weather road between Gardiner and Cooke City in the northern part of the park will close Monday, November 3, 2014, at 8:00 am. And just in time, too: On Sunday and Monday, October 26 and 27, there was up to one foot of snow in some places and a few drivers were stranded until snowplows could reach them. A dusting of snow remained at Old Faithful in late afternoon on Tuesday (10/28), as I just saw on the Old Faithful streaming webcam.

December 15th will be the day most roads will be ready for snowcoaches and snowmobiles.

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You could ski in Yellowstone Park this winter!

Categories: Through Early Yellowstone, Trip planning, Winter
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As the leaves begin to turn and we begin to think ahead to the holidays, it’s also time to plan that Yellowstone winter trip you’ve been hoping to take. Having been lucky enough to visit four times in the winter, I can tell you there is nothing like it in the world!

To whet your appetite, here’s a paragraph from a historic winter wonderland story that dates back to the bitterly cold February of 1887, when there was no hotel at Old Faithful. The story tells of Yellowstone Park guide and intrepid skier Billy Hofer’s experiences in the Old Faithful area as he skied around the park on a wildlife-counting tour for Forest and Stream magazine. What Hofer calls “shoes” are the 9-foot-long skis he made for himself.

Hofer wrote: “The morning of the 21st [of February] . . . I visited the whole of the Upper Geyser Basin, going out past the Castle to Iron Creek, which was open, crossing it twice on a snow bridge without getting off our shoes. Along this stream down to the Specimen Lake and Black Sand Geyser there were many bare spots with bright green grasses, and several water plants growing in the warm water and earth, some even showing flower buds. The bright green mosses and plants looked doubly green beside the white snow. All along this creek was to be seen the usual number of ice forms. One in particular was very life-like. It looked like an Esquimau, dressed in white bear robes, with a bundle of sticks in his arms. He had a woe-begone expression on his face, as though in trouble because he had so little wood.”

Happy skiing (or snowshoeing)!
On snowshoes by the Firehole River

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What it’s like when plowing Yellowstone’s roads

Categories: On the Web, Transportation, Winter
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I’m a big fan of Brett French’s writings in the Billings Gazette. Today I want to share his simile of what the snow-plowing crew experiences each spring while clearing the roads.

“About 7 miles north of West Thumb along the shore [lies] still-frozen Yellowstone Lake. That’s about an hour’s drive south from the plow crew’s headquarters at Mammoth Hot Springs, Wyo. Although the sun is shining intensely, the entire landscape at this elevation of about 7,700 feet is still buried under several feet of sound-stifling snow, like a huge cotton ball stuffed inside Yellowstone’s volcanic caldera ear [italics mine]. And even though today is warm and sunny, the crew has frequently suffered through days with temperatures bottoming out at 20-below zero or colder, or had storms or wind blow snow back on top of just-cleared pavement.”

The whole article is at “Yellowstone plow crews labor to open park for spring visitors.”

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Fresh snow at Old Faithful

Categories: Geysers, News, On the Web, Winter
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snowfall Old Faithful

Finally! A real snow cover at Old Faithful Village.

Yesterday was the last day of March, and at last we have a lot of snow on the ground at Old Faithful Village. From a screen shot I took yesterday morning, you can see that the snow now comes to the top of the post holding the Old Faithful Geyser sign. With no wind at all the trees were gorgeous, and seeing this takes me back to magical winter visits to the park.

You can see this for yourself at: www.nps.gov/yell/photosmultimedia/webcams.htm.

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SPRING CLOSURES—roads close for plowing
February 28: East Entrance
March 1: Mammoth to Norris road
March 2: Madison-Norris-Canyon road
March 16: South Entrance

SPRING/SUMMER SEASON ROAD OPENINGS
April 18: West Entrance
May 2: East Entrance
May 9: South Entrance

Note that not all hotels, cabins, and campgrounds open when the roads do.
For information about this year’s facility openings, see
the National Park Service’s Plan Your Visit page for Yellowstone.

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