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Author Topic: Yellowstone In Winter  (Read 4505 times)
Kathy
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« on: December 21, 2010, 11:51:35 AM »
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We shall be spending 10 to 12 days in Yellowstone National Park in January. The first few days in a 4X4 truck in the North section. We will then move to West Yellowstone and use a snow coach to explore the rest of the Park. In addition to landscape photography we hope to capture some of the wildlife. I just wondered if photographers who have visited in winter have any suggestions on things not to miss. I appreciate it will be cold although temperatures this week have been the same as here in the UK. Last night BBC television broadcast the first of 3 programmes on Yellowstone and episode 1 was on Winter in the Park. Having seen it several friends are questioning the balance of my mind!! For those in the UK it will remain on BBC iPlayer for a week and has confirmed my opinion that I have a great holiday to look forward to.

Many thanks for any suggestions.
Kathy   
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vandevanterSH
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« Reply #1 on: December 21, 2010, 12:11:33 PM »
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I have done Yellowstone winter trips three times.  It's great because of the reduced number of tourists.  If your are spending 10-12 days in the Yellowstone area, I would try to do a few days in Jackson WY and see the Tetons.  In addition the National Elk reservation is in Jackson and thousands of Elk are there. 

Steve
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bradleygibson
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« Reply #2 on: December 22, 2010, 07:45:07 PM »
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+1.

A few years back, my wife and did this for two weeks out of our Subaru.  Mammoth in the winter is beautiful, and there'll be almost no one around.  We did the north, the west and Jackson.  The North and Jackson were amazing.  The west was less so, since we didn't do the snow coach, so we didn't get far in.

You should see quite a bit of wildlife, particularly in the mornings and evenings.  Obviously there will be bison wintering over, but look for coyotes hunting voles and other rodents under the snow with a characteristic pounce.  They can be very, very shy, depending on where you find them, so bring your big glass.

I'm jealous!  Smiley  Have a great time,
Have a great time!
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gdwhalen
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« Reply #3 on: December 23, 2010, 04:43:45 PM »
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I did that trip 10 years ago before you had to have a guide with you.  Was able to tour the entire park for 4 days on a snowmobile by myself.  A truly majestic and phenomenal place to spend your time.  I don't know how the park works now, with the guide system, but I would try to think of the trip as if it was summer and go down every road, every trail that you can.  The entire park is truly astonishing in winter and, with that much time, you will have a fantastic trip.  Jackson Hole and the Teton's are a great place as well. 

Bring plenty of warm clothes, plenty of batteries and just shoot until your finger falls off.
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vandevanterSH
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« Reply #4 on: December 23, 2010, 05:15:20 PM »
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"  I don't know how the park works now, with the guide system, "
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I did snow machine trips in the old days and three in the "guided" system.  The "old day" is what gave winter touring in Yellowstone a bad name.  The last tour that I did two years ago, I talk to a ranger about the impact of the snow mobiles.  He said with the current system of very restricted number of permits and certified guides, it's not an issue.  In the "old days", the rangers were giving out about 600 citations a day for chasing animals, going out of bounds and general bad behavior.  He said that two had been issued so far for that winter season.  Quite often, the snowmobiles will be sharing the road with Bison.

Steve

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gdwhalen
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« Reply #5 on: December 23, 2010, 05:24:22 PM »
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Maybe so, but I wasn't one of those people getting citations or chasing animals.  I loved the solitude and freedom of being alone with the sites and animals.  But times change and I am sure that "globally" it is for the better.
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bradleygibson
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« Reply #6 on: December 23, 2010, 05:56:24 PM »
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it would be nice for those willing to get trained/certified and/or accept steeper fines for illegal activity to be able to get special permits to go solo. Too bad...
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vandevanterSH
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« Reply #7 on: December 23, 2010, 08:40:44 PM »
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Maybe so, but I wasn't one of those people getting citations or chasing animals.  I loved the solitude and freedom of being alone with the sites and animals.  But times change and I am sure that "globally" it is for the better.

Unfortunately the number of irresponsible idiots vastly exceeds the people who enjoy the winter solitude and respect the tenuous nature of food availability and energy expenditure of the animals.  I can remember 20 years ago, the parking areas jammed with people unloading their two stroke snow machine and then going like a bat out of hell into the park.  We are fortunate that there isn't a ban on all single rider snowmobiles; IIRC, it was very close to being put into effect.

Steve
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Kathy
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« Reply #8 on: December 24, 2010, 11:27:12 AM »
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Yes, it is disappointing that idiots ignore the requirements of the animals in winter. Unfortunately those idiots exist worldwide as I know from volunteering at my local nature reserve. I can promise that respect for the wildlife and the search for solitude will both be high priorities.

Steve, you mentioned you have visited 3 times under guided conditions do you have any recommendations to get the best out of the visit. I should mention that this trip is specifically to Yellowstone, we have already been fortunate to visit Jackson, the Tetons and Yellowstone in the Fall a few years ago. We are travelling with friends, also keen photographers and hope to be able to have one of the smaller snow vehicles to ourselves so we have better control over where we go or should I say how quickly we move on from an interesting location.

Many Thanks
Kathy
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vandevanterSH
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« Reply #9 on: December 24, 2010, 04:01:51 PM »
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Steve, you mentioned you have visited 3 times under guided conditions do you have any recommendations to get the best out of the visit.
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I would suggest looking at various tour operators and looking at the tour packages to get an idea of what is being offered.  Individual guided tours are also available.

Steve

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Kathy
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« Reply #10 on: January 12, 2011, 06:01:36 PM »
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Thanks Steve.
All decisions are now made. The first few days will be self drive in a 4x4 covering Mammoth Hot Springs and the Lamar Valley. We then move to West Yellowstone where we have a 9 passenger Snow Coach for just the two of us and 2 friends. So plenty of space for gear and we will be able to stay as long or as short a time as we wish at any location. Our itinerary covering the thermal areas and the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone will be dictated by the weather conditions.
Miles Hecker's article Winter in Yellowstone came at just the right time.

Many thanks to everyone for their advice.
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lightstand
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« Reply #11 on: January 12, 2011, 09:05:54 PM »
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"  I don't know how the park works now, with the guide system, "
I did snow machine trips in the old days and three in the "guided" system.  The "old day" is what gave winter touring in Yellowstone a bad name...  a ranger about the impact of the snow mobiles.  He said...  In the "old days", the rangers were giving out about 600 citations a day for chasing animals, going out of bounds and general bad behavior. 


This is absolute B U L L !!! 600 a day,  I grew up close to the park and did visit it by snow machine back then,  I would be very skeptical if the park ever had enough riders in it on one single day, maybe a hugely popular weekend but very seldom during the winter months to statistically create the possibility of 600 citations a day in front of the limited amount of Rangers patrolling the park in winter?! Ha! What a bunch of...

As an avid Cross Country skier I will never defend snowmobilers, but some stupid park ranger claiming bull like this is ridiculous! Most of the snowmobilers that use to be able to frequent the Park know of Island Park and areas nearby where they have free reign to drive fast and off trail.  Most of the locals are quite aware of the dangers in winter and respect the backcountry for it, of the few times I've known people to get lost in the park by going off road they were complete eco-tourist idiots.  and yes it is quite the favorite past time to tell the glorious foolishness that happens in the park there are some great songs by employees that memorize them, but most of that is during the summer. Nowhere close to the spin that Ranger was spewing to restrict winter access like they have.

I've just returned from spending a good deal of time visiting the folks and this is a very hot topic in that is has shut down West Yellowstone's economy and limited the Park to only the very wealthy no longer a Park for the people. I do apologize for the off topic post but do find this quote misleading to people reading an internet forum distantly thinking this new policy is anywhere close to a justified one. The rich should pay more taxes if they get this type of treatment or those Rangers should lose their jobs for not having their previous workload. 

To the OP: if you have some time to leave the park and have cross country skies, Harriman State Park over in Idaho is a great place to photograph the recovered Trumpeter Swan and is quite pretty in the winter.  the Book Peddler in West Yellowstone has good coffee, and Gennies outside of town by the lake is a great place to cook your own steak,  have a good pair of glove liners for keeping your hands semi-warm when fiddling with camera gear.
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Lonnie Utah
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« Reply #12 on: January 13, 2011, 09:07:18 AM »
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has shut down West Yellowstone's economy and limited the Park to only the very wealthy no longer a Park for the people.

In the winter, or all year round?  I have never had access issues to the park in the summer....
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lightstand
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« Reply #13 on: January 13, 2011, 10:06:07 AM »
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 "In the winter, or all year round?  I have never had access issues to the park in the summer...."

Yes I was referring to the winter months, people don't use snow machines in the summer. However having hundreds of cars creating traffic jams and fast food vendors spewing waste everywhere doesn't seem to effect the Rangers' policy.  Most locals I know of only visit(ed) past tense the park in the winter and seem to be the most effected by this stupid policy.  Whereas in the summer when the tourist are swarming most locals stay far away. 
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Kathy
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« Reply #14 on: February 14, 2011, 05:07:15 PM »
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First thanks to all those who gave advice, it was much appreciated. We have now returned from a spectacular trip to Yellowstone.

We spent 3 day around Mammoth and although we got some nice images it was disappointing to note the changes to this area during the past 12 years, the terraces have lost much of their drama. Unfortunately we failed to get to the Lamar Valley, due to drifting snow and white out conditions we were advised against travelling. We then moved on to West Yellowstone where we had exclusive use of a snow coach for 8 days and were fortunate to have great weather with at least 2 hours of sun each day and avoided all the storms that hit the USA during our trip. With early starts, long days and a companion, Nigel Turner, with 18 years experience of photography in the park we came home with a very satisfying haul of good images. The snow coach drivers / guides were excellent providing lots of background information on the Park. However we were very fortunate to have the benefit of Nigel's photographic knowledge of the Park as we were able to position ourselves to take advantage of the best available light.

8 days may appear like a long time to spend in the Park but there are plenty images to be made. Also you have to allow for a few days to be written off to bad weather (although we were lucky) and it is a holiday so it is great to have time to enjoy the Park's splendid solitude. On several occasions at sites that would have been crowded in autumn we were on our own for hours, a great privilege indeed. Even at Old Faithful there were just 6 people standing on the boardwalk, just unbelievable.
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Thomas McConnell
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« Reply #15 on: June 09, 2011, 08:20:56 AM »
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Yellowstone is a great place, specially in winter. I am looking for my turn in the Yellowstone.
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