Israelis, Floridians, and U.S. Air Force Trek into Yellowstone Park by Snowmobile (Jack Welch)
Published on Saturday, February 18, 2012 in Guest Columns, News & Updates
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What an Adventure! On Sunday the January 15th I had the opportunity to join a guided group on the trek from West Yellowstone, Montana to Old Faithful. Our guide was Gaylon Tibwell from Yellowstone Arctic and Yamaha Tours, one of the commercial trip providers from West Yellowstone, Montana. On my trek, I saw first hand how international visitors, fellow citizens and member of the U.S. Air Force from Utah enjoyed the snowmobile as a form of transportation to Old Faithful. The Israelis really enjoyed the adventure and took lots of pictures! In addition, the couple from Orlando, Florida stated at lunch “Snowmobiling to Old Faithful was something we will long remember!”

Here is a summary of our trek. We started our day by meeting at the Yellowstone Holiday Inn and to meet our guide and were assigned our Arctic Cat snowmobiles for the trek. We signed the rental forms and got suited up for the adventure. Next we had a short safety talk by Gaylon, our guide, who covered the operation of the Arctic Cat four stroke snowmobiles and the hand signals we would use as we toured the Park.

Next, we set out for our first stop, the Yellowstone Park West Gate. This is a very popular stop because of the large Yellowstone entrance sign, a great place for group pictures. With only a few miles under their belts, the group really looked forward to riding the Arctic Cat four strokes, and the guide and I wanted to make sure they had a great experience on the trek. I also wanted to explain the history of the winter access issue and snowmobiling in the Park.

After Gaylon, our guide, checked us in at the West Gate and we were off to our destination for the day, the Old Faithful area. At Old Faithful we planned on having lunch and seeing the geyser. In addition we would have time to view the new Old Faithful Visitor Center and its many exhibits.

The weather was cool and crisp with gusts of wind to 40MPH. The trail was, of course, the groomed summer highway and it was smooth. As we headed for our next stop, the Madison River overlook, the riders got their first taste of the beautiful scenic vistas of the Park as we traveled along the edge of the Madison River. They also saw evidence of an eagles nest and many elk, bison and a group of swans on the river. At the Madison River overlook the Israelis commented that so far the snowmobile was a great way to experience the Park and looked forward to the rest of the day. In addition, one of the riders asked why the snowmobiles had restrictors on the throttles? I explained the Park’s speed limit is only 45 mph and these Arctic Cats without restrictors would go much faster. I also pointed out to the group that the snowmobile is just one of the forms of transport in Yellowstone for winter access. The group commented that this trip in the Park would be the major highlight of their holiday weekend in West Yellowstone!

We continued on to the Old Faithful area with a short rest stop at Madison Junction Warming Hut. During our stop at Madison Junction my group got to see several snowcoaches and asked about how the coach fit into the Yellowstone transportation system. I explained that it was another form of access to the Park. The group commented they liked the snowmobile better!

Our next stop was a tour of the Fire Hole River side road. We stopped on the road to check out the Fire Hole River Falls. We also had a chance to view the only authorized river swimming area in the Park. This side trip allowed the group to take a lot of great pictures of this special river!

We next reached Old Faithful just as the geyser went off. In other words, we missed it and had to wait another ninety minutes for the next eruption. With time to spend before the eruption our guide suggested we eat lunch in the Geyser Grill. During the lunch I was asked why anti-groups want to eliminate access by snowmobile to Yellowstone. I explained the issues and how the snowmobile community had solved the many issues presented. The entire group commented that they thought that many of the their friends would enjoy an outing to Yellowstone by snowmobile and that it was wrong to limit the choices on access to the Park in the winter.

After lunch we saw Old Faithful Geyser and spent some time viewing the new Old Faithful Visitor Center which just opened last summer. We next headed toward the thermal areas on the road back to Madison Junction. The group had their first opportunity to experience a bison herd on the groomed road. The folks from Florida really liked the experience of being up close and personal with those “Big Animals”!

Time was growing late and we started back to West Yellowstone. We arrived at Holiday Inn at 4:30 pm. After filling the Arctic Cats with fuel we thanked our guide and the group agreed that “closing snowmobile access to Yellowstone would just not be right because they felt that the snowmobile provided the best form of transportation to see the natural wonders of Yellowstone Park!”

As we said our goodbyes they stated they would return some day for another Yellowstone winter snowmobile adventure!

Jack Welch is a Special Projects Consultant to the BlueRibbon Coalition and a member of the International Snowmobile Media Council

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