Part 1: Snowmobiling in Yellowstone during the shutdown.
In early Oct I realized a trip I am planning to visit many National Parks this spring would put me at the worst possible time to visit Yellowstone. In March the roads are neither open to oversnow nor regular vehicles, so that meant either going in the winter or waiting till after April when a portion of the park is open to cars.
Winter sounded incredible!
After googling "Yellowstone in Winter" I was hooked. It was all I could think about. Seeing bison in the snow and standing next to teal, red and orange geyser pools rimmed with the white stuff sounded dreamy. Being from Vancouver Island where we rarely get any snow made it even that more alluring.
So how would that work? You can either take tours via snowmobile or snowcoach or ski in on your own. Or so it seemed at first glance. I learned about a rare pass you could get for snowmobiling without a tour guide. But the draw for these elusive Non-Commercially Guided Snowmobile Access Permits happens in late Sept. Missed that..... not sure what compelled me to keep looking but I discovered that the dates that were left over from the draw get posted Oct 9 on https://www.recreation.gov/permits/250849
Holy Heck there were dates available! Even though it was early November.
Some of the rules for the N-CGSAP:
- 4 passes are permitted each day, 1 for each oversnow entrance
- a pass can be for up to 3 days and will use that entrances quota for each day held.
- you may obtain up to 2 passes per year
- permit holder must be 18 and have valid drivers license
- all other drivers must be 16 and have valid drivers license
- must take Yellowstone Snowmobile Education Course and be able to provide certificate if needed
- you can have up to 5 snowmobiles per pass
- snowmobiles must be BAT certified
- check in with ranger at visitors center prior to or on first day of trip
So I tried to book a block of days on the website. But the website was not letting me complete the form. I tried and gave up. Came back the next day, tried and gave up. Came back a third day, tried and decided to phone and see if someone could just book the days over the phone. The person politely said yes and started to book me and then came the OH it appears there is a glitch and I can't either. I was put on hold and then asked to try back later while they fixed the glitch.
Ironic because I always joke that if there is a glitch in something I have a knack for discovering it!
The website immediately showed a banner of under renovation. So I just kept coming back to it and when the moment came that I clicked refresh and the page was active I scooped up 2 passes for a total of 5 days from Jan 5-11!
I felt very fortunate to get these passes because I must have been the first person to bring the glitch to their attention and have a feeling if the website was working the passes would have been gone already.
Now to find people to go with me and learn how to snowmobile!
With two months to get ready I had my work cut out for me. I had never traveled in conditions of snow and cold temperatures such as what Yellowstone can produce. I had never driven a snowmobile nor pulled a trailer. And I had no one to go with. A stipulation my husband made clear was not waveable.
What I did have going for me was. I had been to Yellowstone before and I am one hell of a researcher so I set about the task of learning.....