Whether an experienced skier looking for a scenic workout, a family looking to combine outdoor sports with fun, or just a beginner, there is some great cross country skiing just down the road. The Rendezvous Ski Trails in West Yellowstone, the Riverside Trail leaving from West Yellowstone and going into the park, and 40 miles of ski trails in the Old Faithful area create the perfect ‘trifecta’ experience.
The trail system is unique because of its location at a high altitude adjacent to the Continental Divide which produces early and late season snows. Last year, according to Jamie Green, West Yellowstone Education Foundation program director, grooming started on November 6 th and didn’t end until May 6 th , 2006. Skiers in the know call it “ultra-reliable” snow because it comes every year. In addition to a long season and great snow, the Rendezvous Ski Trails can boast about the best grooming in the country. Grooming falls under the direction of Doug Edgerton. Edgerton is also owner of Yellowstone Track Systems ( www.yellowstonetrack.com ) and is also known for his work as Chief of Course Preparation for the 2002 Olympics at Soldier's Hollow in Salt Lake City , UT.
The Rendezvous Ski Trails reaps the rewards of Edgerton’s manufacturing innovations and close proximity and expertise. Key to trail grooming is trail preparation. Each fall, Edgerton and volunteers remove branches, rocks, and smooth out holes in anticipation of the first snows. This prep combined with know-how equals great ski trails with as little as 4” of snow. During the winter season, trails are groomed on an as needed basis except for Monday, generally before and after weekends plus after snowstorms.
The trail system is also super user-friendly. The initial flat terrain and gently rolling hill are great for beginners. According to Green, “There is no better place to lean to ski.” Subsequent loops and optional cut-offs mean the course is never boring or predictable. You create your own route by linking together different loops from 0.9 to 7.3 KM each (see insert). A children’s play hill and local tele hill are also incorporated into the system. Volunteer and Windy Ridge Loops are designed to challenge experienced skiers.
The Rendezvous Ski Trails are home to one of the largest Biathlon training sites in the U.S. , second only to the Soldier Hollow 2002 Olympic Venue in the Western U.S. With a maximum size of 24 shooting lanes, the range has hosted National Championships, North American Cup events, and Olympic Team Trials.
Trail passes are required when using the Rendezvous Ski Trails between November 1 and March 31. From December 1 through March 31, season passes are $25.00 while one Day passes are $5.00. Passes can be purchased at the trailhead, the USFS, the Chamber of Commerce and from several local merchants.
Ski rentals and expert advice is available from locals, Kelli Sanders and Melissa Alder, owners and operators of Freeheel and Wheel. This shop, which just this fall celebrated ten years in business, is located at 40 Yellowstone Avenue and is Nordic ski headquarters for the annual Yellowstone Ski Festival. Check their website for rental equipment and pricing, http://www.freeheelandwheel.com/ski.html . Rentals are also available from Bud Lily’s Trout Shop, 39 Madison Avenue in West Yellowstone . (Trail passes are also available from both shops.) The Rendezvous Ski Trail System :
The system includes seven different trail sections and a kid’s play hill. Approach Trail
(The Inn and Out) - 1.2 KM: This trail is totally flat and starts at the distinctive Rendezvous Ski Trails archway. The Inn and Out is a great area for warming up and practicing your technique. Follow this trail out across the South Plateau Road to the main trailhead. Kid’s Loop/Bison Boulevard
– 0.9 KM: This section of the trail system is mostly flat and parallels the Approach Trail until they come together before crossing the South Plateau Road . Cutoffs link the two trails at several different points. (The kid’s play hill can be accessed from this trail.) The Rendezvous Loop
– 6 KM: This loop is highly recommended for beginner and intermediate skiers. The trail includes several climbs and descents and offers four chances to shorten the loop ad different cutoff points. This loop is a great choice on windy or snowy days as the thick timber offers plenty of protection. Deja View
– 7.3 KM: This trail is best for intermediate and advanced skiers. Deja View includes the two longest climbs in the trail system. Once you reach the top of these climbs, you’ll be rewarded with panoramic views and equally long descents. This trail also offers access to the tele hill. Volunteer
– 2.3 KM: This twisting, turning, dynamic trail continuously climbs and drops and boasts spectacular views of Mt. Holmes and the Gallatin Range in Yellowstone National Park . Dead Dog
– 6 KM: Dead Dog starts at the top of Hill 191 on the Rendezvous Loop. This challenging loop takes you through forest and meadow with more rewarding views of the Gallatin Range and Yellowstone . Dead Dog rejoins the Rendezvous Loop at Intersection 10 at the base of Hill 191. Windy Ridge
– 6.5 KM: Windy is a regional favorite. The trail runs through the timber and includes some challenging climbs, descents, and turns. On a clear day, it also offers incredible views of Lionhead and the Madison Range . TRAIL MAP LINK: http://www.rendezvousskitrails.com/re...