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Winter in Yellowstone

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Blanketed in several feet of snow between November and April, Yellowstone takes on a new appearance in winter: a silent and bizarre world where waterfalls freeze in mid-plunge, geysers blast towering plumes of steam and water into the crisp air and bison – beards matted with ice – stand in huddles. It’s undeniably cold, and transport can require some hefty pre-planning, but crowds are nonexistent and wildlife-spotting opportunities are superb. Only the fifty-mile road from Gardiner to Cooke City via Mammoth Hot Springs is kept open (although beyond that, the Beartooth Highway is closed). The park’s sole winter lodging is available at Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel or Old Faithful Snow Lodge & Cabins (both accessible only by snowcoach and snowmobile, and closed for Nov and much of Dec).

Xanterra (t 1-866/439-7375, w http://www.travelyellowstone.com) operates snowcoach trips and tours of the park over the closed roads from West Yellowstone, Flagg Ranch to the south, Old Faithful and Mammoth Hot Springs ($55–70). Snowmobile rental, generally cheapest in West Yellowstone, costs around $150 a day; only a limited number of snowmobiles are allowed in the park at any one time, so reserve ahead. Much less expensive is cross-country skiing and snowshoeing, with groomed or blazed trails throughout the park.

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