Yellowstone National Park has long been a favorite with winter visitors, beginning in 1949 with snowplanes. By 1955, many 10 to 15 passenger snowcoaches provided even more access to America’s oldest national park. By the 1960s the snowcoaches were outnumbered by the ever-growing number of snowmobile enthusiasts embracing the new winter sport — snowmobiling.
All of Yellowstone’s roads south of Mammoth Hot Springs were designated as official snowmobile routes on May 7, 1974, and snowmobiles soon poured into the park. Yellowstone’s superintendent, Jack Anderson, felt that snowmobiles were a better option to provide winter access than plowing roads for automobile traffic, which had been demanded several times over the years. Building on the mission of the national parks to conserve the scenery and wildlife, while also providing for their enjoyment, workers began grooming snowmobile trails and opened a hotel at Old Faithful to encourage snowmobile visitors.
By the 1990s as many as seventy thousand snowmobiles carrying some eighty-five thousand visitors entered the park each winter. It was a snowmobile winter wonderland, with the community of West Yellowstone, at one of the park entrances, designated the “Snowmobile capital of the world.”
Times were changing, however, as the world became more and more concerned about emissions, particularly those of the 2-stroke snowmobiles, and their impact on the park environment. The noise level of snowmobiles was also declared a problem, so the park service announced a plan to gradually phase out snowmobile usage in 2000.
The rest, they say, is history, as environmentalists locked horns with snowmobile enthusiasts and the communities that relied economically on the snowmobile industry. Today, only snowmobiles meeting rigorous emission standards are allowed into the park in limited numbers. Snowmobilers must be accompanied by a guide and are restricted to provided trails. It is still, however, one of the most amazing places a snowmobiler can visit!
Photo Journey Snowmobiling Yellowstone National Park
Plan Your Snowmobile Trip to Yellowstone National Park
To plan your snowmobile trip to Yellowstone, visit the West Yellowstone official Web site at: http://www.westyellowstonechamber.com/
Yochim, Michael J. (2003) “Snow machines in the gardens: The history of snowmobiles in Glacier and Yellowstone National Parks,” in Montana: The Magazine of Western History, Autumn 2003.