In the winter wonderland of West Yellowstone, snowfall averages 143 inches, starting in November and lasting through mid-April. The streets of West Yellowstone remain snow packed all season, providing a trailhead literally at your front door. Ski or snowmobile from your hotel or motel to an extensive trail system. Snowmobile rentals (including clothing) are available for different skill levels. A 400-mile groomed trail system winds through the southern reaches of Montana and into Island Park, Idaho. For the experienced skier or snowmobiler, groomed trails lead to back country adventures. Professional guides are available to take enthusiasts to remote locations with untracked powder and no lines.
While Yellowstone logs more than three million visitors annually, only five percent of those come during the winter months. No other season rivals the wonder of Yellowstone in winter. Erupting geysers and hissing vents propel amazing clouds of steam into clear blue skies.
West Yellowstone is a cross-country ski mecca. Snow-covered trails, perfect corduroy and rolling terrain entice everyone from diehards to neophytes. The groomed Rendezvous Ski Trails, at the southwestern edge of town, offer over 35 kilometers of varied terrain from gently rolling hills to more challenging climbs. The "Upriver" and "Downriver" loops of the Riverside Trail combine for nearly ten kilometers of classic track along the banks of the Madison River. Dogs, classic skiers and snowshoers are welcome on the Boundary Trail, a six-mile out-and-back from town to Baker’s Hole Campground. Just north of West Yellowstone lies some of the best, low-angle backcountry skiing in the West. Trailheads along Highway 191 provide easy access to incredible scenery, petrified trees and winter wildlife.
Experience the winter wonderland of the forests around West Yellowstone by taking a sled dog ride. Nothing beats the thrill of a well-trained team of sled dogs pulling you through the snow-covered landscape. Our local musher and breeder welcomes you to take a tour of the kennel and learn more about this exciting sport. Four times during the winter, West Yellowstone explodes with the excited yips and barks of sled dog teams as they line up for races, including the International Pedigree Stage Stop.
On December 15th the west entrance to Yellowstone Park opens to a unique experience and adventure. Each day commercially guided snowcoach and snowmobile tours travel over snow-covered groomed roads from the west entrance at West Yellowstone, Montana to popular destinations inside the wintry heart of Yellowstone. All tours are conducted by interpretive guides. These guides are local experts and can provide a wealth of information about Yellowstone and personal experiences that you would never read in a guidebook.
The Grizzly & Wolf Discovery Center is open year round (these grizzlies don’t hibernate) and offers kid-friendly activities and presentations. The neighboring Yellowstone Giant Screen Theatre offers large-screen movies, while weekly presentations by Yellowstone Park rangers can be found right in West Yellowstone. The local skating rink is open to the public and rentals are available.
Winter brings a variety of events to West Yellowstone. Monthly Kids’N’Snow weekends offer an assortment of low cost activities introducing families to winter activities including ice skating and sledding, snowshoeing, cross country skiing, winter learning programs and Saturday night S’mores.
Ski events include the annual Yellowstone Ski Festival held Thanksgiving week each November, and the annual Yellowstone Rendezvous Race in March, the area’s only marathon cross-country ski race. Make it a weekend and bring your camera for the Youth Ski Festival on March 8. Young skiers compete in light-hearted events like musical chairs, relay races and the obstacle course. Or try one of the citizen ski races, open to every age and racing ability. Winners take home the highly coveted SPAM can trophies.
In January, the NAIFC Ice Fishing Tournament takes place on Hebgen Lake, just north of town. This official North American Ice Fishing Circuit event on Hebgen Lake at Kirkwood Resort & Marina, is winter's equivalent of summer's big time bass and walleye tournaments, filled with seminars, a kid's workshop and the fishing competition itself. The West Yellowstone/Hebgen Lake Tournament, like all NAIFC qualifiers, is a three-day event - two-thirds education and one-third competition, with a maximum entry of 150 two-persons teams. For those three days, West Yellowstone becomes the center of Ice Fishing with tremendous Fishing Education opportunities on Friday & Saturday and World Class Competition on Sunday.
The World Snowmobile Expo culminates the winter with snowmobile events, a vintage snowmobile show, a freestyle competition, and the Exhibition Hall where all four snowmobile manufacturers showcase the next year’s models all at one place at one time.