If you go . . . Read about dining, lodging, festival information and West Yellowstone amenities
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The Rendezvous Trails are the perfect setting for this inaugural skiing experience of the season. Mostly intermediate and easy trails, they wind through the lodgepole pines with good sightlines on the downhills and plenty of interconnected options to short-cut or extend one’s tour. Occasional views of distant peaks round out this mountain skiing experience. Skiing for the first time of the season at 6,600-plus feet can put a damper on one’s enthusiasm, but hey, who’s in shape to go very hard anyhow? After three or four days I began to acclimatize and felt pretty good while skiing the Rendezvous’ 40 kilometers of trails.
All of the trails are groomed wide enough for skating, though for the first few days of my visit, the Windy Ridge Trail was only groomed for classic and was really a treat. I was actually disappointed when, after more snow fell, it was groomed to its full width. Good grooming is the norm in West Yellowstone. Of course it doesn’t hurt that head groomer for the 2002 Olympics, Doug Edgerton, owner of Yellowstone Track Systems, practically lives on the Rendezvous Trails -- his home and business literally abut the trail system.
And there’s much more: wax clinics presented throughout the week by Swix and Toko, yoga classes most mornings by Bodywise Massage and Yoga and, for the kids, the Montana Outdoor Science School offers programs for grades K-6 in everything from snowflakes to winter ecology.
The Yellowstone Ski Festival is also the kick-off to the national competition schedule. In 2006, the first event up was a biathlon sprint race held on the Rendezvous Trails and biathlon range. Friday and Saturday of festival week saw SuperTour Sprint and 10 km classic races as the nation’s elite racers used this first-of-the-season opportunity to evaluate their training and test themselves against their peers.
It may be too early at this time of year to venture very far into Yellowstone National Park on skis, but there are other skiing opportunities close to town. The Riverside Trail is a mellow tour along the Madison River, where it’s not unusual to see bison, elk and geese. But if you’re looking for something a little more on the wild side, with adequate snow cover a couple of fairly easy backcountry tours into the Park include the Fawn Pass and Bighorn Pass trails. Both are also idyllic spring crust skiing routes, but on light touring gear they provide an outstanding diversion from the “crowds” at West Yellowstone.
You may have heard lavish praises of the Yellowstone Ski Festival and early season skiing in West Yellowstone. I’m here to tell you that it is all true. Admittedly, trying to get away during one of the biggest and most revered family holidays of the year can present some inter-relationship challenges. But as I observed, many actually make a family experience out of it. Some, in fact, know of no other way in which to celebrate Thanksgiving than to be in West Yellowstone. Come to think of it, what better way to give thanks, than to be with family, friends and on snow in a beautiful place?
The 2007 Yellowstone Ski Festival will take place November 20-24 with a calendar of events quite similar to the past. For more information about the festival and to keep abreast of snow conditions in the run up to the festival, visit www.yellowstoneskifestival.com.