7 Reasons You Should Get to West Yellowstone This Winter
West Yellowstone provides beautiful winter scenery at every turn, like this view of Muleshoe Bend. Photo credit: Chris Daniel
If we told you that there’s one place where you can experience dog sledding, ice fishing, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing races, snowmobiling and skijoring, would you believe us? Or, would you ask, “What the heck is skijoring?” Well, such a place does in fact exist, so keep reading and we’ll get to that skijoring part. If you’re not already familiar with West Yellowstone, Montana, there’s a reason it’s a haven for Nordic winter events: With consistent snowpack until early May, and 35 kilometers of scenic trails that are groomed daily, it has the absolute ideal climate and terrain. If you’re into winter sports, we can truly say there are few places you’ll find such a unique variety of events all in one place. Here are seven reasons you should get there this winter.
1. To Watch Dog Sledding Races, Dec. 15-16
Canine kinetics have powered hunting and travel for more than a millennium. The annual Rodeo Run Sled Dog Races honor this timeless tradition with a two-day event that draws competitors ranging from junior novices to Iditarod veterans. Mushing teams will compete in configurations of 12, eight, six or four dogs, and the courses range from five to 32 miles in distance depending on the number of dogs in a team. Races begin at 9 a.m. both Saturday and Sunday, where the winter morning air will be pierced by the sounds of eager yips and pounding paws as the sled teams begin their runs down the course. The event is free to the public, and Saturday evening you’ll even have the opportunity to meet the mushers, as well as the stars of the event: their dogs.
Get more details about the Rodeo Run Sled Dog Races.
2. Competing in an Ice Fishing Tournament, Jan. 18-20
Ice fishing has evolved much over the past two decades; gone are the days of drilling a hole and patiently waiting for a fish to swim by. Today, sonar technology and power augers are utilized to locate concentrations of fish and cut multiple holes to maximize a fisherman’s haul. So, if catching the largest amount of fish in a limited period of time is your game, West Yellowstone is hosting this year’s NAIFC (North American Ice Fishing Circuit) National Qualifier on Hebgen Lake. Cash and prizes will be awarded to the top teams, and the top-ten finishing teams will also receive an invitation to the National North American Championship to be held next December. There’s even a free Ice Fishing Camp for kids if your mini ice anglers happen to be along for the trip.
Learn more about the NAIFC National Qualifier and register.
3. To Play in the Snow Like a Kid, Jan. 19-20, Feb. 2-3 and March 2-3
Kids’N’Snow is a special weekend that brings families out to West Yellowstone from all over the country, and that also brings the kid out in every one of them. Practice snowshoeing and learn about nature with a ranger, ice skate at the ice rink in the town park (ice skates available at no charge), have fun on the trails with cross-country skis, meet a raptor and participate in other special youth-geared programs. Warm up with hot beverages, sled on the sledding hill and make your own s’mores. It’s really just old-fashioned family fun for kids of every age. And, further fostering that inclusive family vibe, all West Yellowstone visitors are welcome to participate at no charge!
You can preregister for some Kids’N’Snow events that have limited availability.
4. For Newbs to Get a “Taste of the Trails,” Feb. 17
If you’re new to snowshoeing or cross-country skiing and would like to try it out in a laid-back environment, the annual Taste of the Trails will allow you to do just that, all while enjoying the beautiful winter landscapes that the Rendezvous Ski Trails have to offer. Participants can casually stride from place to place as desired, refuel with friends at one of four snack stations, and explore the trails in a relaxed, noncompetitive atmosphere. The five-kilometer course is designed to encourage skiers and snowshoers of all ages to try these winter sports in a simple and fun format.
Make sure to get your tickets for Taste of the Trails by February 6.
5. So You Can Put Your Skiing Skills to the Test, March 2
Now in its 39th year, the Yellowstone Rendezvous Race will be an awesome way to see how effective your cross-country skiing conditioning was this winter. With six different concurrent races to choose from depending on your level of ability — 2K, 5K, 10K, 25K classic, 25K and 50K — it’s the premier cross-country skiing event in the region. As implied by the name, it is a reunion of old-timers, some of whom have trained and skied on this trail system for years, and an invitation to newcomers to experience it for the first time. If you’re a Nordic Skiing enthusiast, there is no better way to celebrate the end of the winter season than by participating in the Yellowstone Rendezvous Race.
Register for your chosen event in the Yellowstone Rendezvous Race.
6. Witnessing Your First Skijoring Championships, March 9-10
So, just what is skijoring? The name itself is derived from the Norwegian word “skikjøring,” which translates to “ski driving.” It’s a winter sport where cross-country skiers are pulled along a course by either dogs, horses or automobiles, sometimes reaching surprisingly high speeds. Although the practice of skiers being pulled by animals goes back hundreds of years abroad, stateside the sport has only been gaining popularity in recent years — further evidenced by the fact that this year’s event will mark the sport’s debut in West Yellowstone. Over the course of the two-day event, promoters are expecting 80 to 90 competitors and as many as 5,000 spectators. Now that you know what it is, don’t miss out on what is sure to be a completely unique experience.
Check for updated details on the upcoming Skijoring Championships.
7. Checking out Snowmobiles Both New and Vintage, March 15-17
If you’re into more motorized methods of enjoying snowy terrain, the Snowmobile Expo and Powersports Show will be the perfect way for you to shred away the waning days of winter. Manufacturers will unveil their newest 2019 snowmobiles and accessories to the public, and do demonstrations as well. The event will also be one of the largest gatherings of vintage and antique snowmobiles in the American West, featuring models that comprise the entire span of snowmobiling history. Racing events will include: 120cc racing for youngsters four to 12 years of age, the UTV Show & Shine which will feature races in both 1000cc and 1000cc turbo classes, and the AMA Championship Snow Bike Series Round 6.