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A Week at the Yellowstone Ski Festival

Wed, Oct  27, 2004

It’s late October in West Yellowstone, Montana and winter is right around the corner. It snowed all last week and there are still a few inches on the ground. If the weather stays cold, this could be the good base we need to have great skiing next month! If you haven’t made your plans to attend this fall’s Yellowstone Ski Festival, I have one question: what are you waiting for? This year the Yellowstone Ski Festival dates are November 23, 24, 25, 26 and 27, 2004.

For over 25 years, cross country skiers from across the country and around the world have started their ski season in West Yellowstone. Our location and elevation mean that we usually have enough snow to start grooming our trails by mid-November. In the late 1970’s, the US Ski Team started to make annual trips to West Yellowstone. Over the years, Drew Barney, Torbjorn Karlsen and Dick Hunt added a series of ski clinics during the week of Thanksgiving. Known as Fall Camp, these clinics drew a few hundred skiers to West Yellowstone every year. Eventually, Drew, Torbjorn and Dick invited the major ski manufacturers to attend and allow the public to demo the latest in Nordic equipment. Today, the Yellowstone Ski Festival includes skate and classic clinics for skiers of all levels, an On-Snow Equipment Demo, an Indoor Ski Show and the NorAm XC Supertour.

In this feature, I want to give you an overview of what you can expect to happen over the course of the week. Please read on and contact me if you have any questions:

Saturday, Sunday and Monday, November 20 – 22: You thought the Yellowstone Ski Festival started on Tuesday, November 23rd this year, didn’t you? Well, you are right. But, if we have good snow early, skiers start to arrive on the weekend before the Festival begins. Most of the folks that come to town during these three days are either from the region (Bozeman, Helena, Great Falls, Idaho Falls, Jackson) or are members of ski teams that are in West Yellowstone to train. A couple of the manufacturers usually arrive Saturday night and have demo equipment available at the trailhead on Sunday and Monday. If the trails are in good shape, this is a great opportunity to get on your skis before everyone else arrives.

Tuesday, November 23: This is the day that the Yellowstone Ski Festival really starts. The five day clinic begins at the West Yellowstone Conference Hotel, all of the manufacturers are set up at the trailhead with all the latest Nordic gear and folks start to arrive for a week of fun on the Rendezvous Ski Trails. In the evenings, the Indoor Ski Show is set up at the Conference Hotel and the different wax manufacturers hold wax clinics for the general public. If you are interested in skiing into Yellowstone National Park, don’t forget the Riverside Trail which is accessible from Boundary Street on the east side of town. This trail is generally flat (with one good downhill) and it leads to the Madison River. In a good snow year, you can also ski in along the shoulder of the main road into Yellowstone.

Wednesday, November 24: Wednesday is a lot like Tuesday except that it tends to be a little busier – especially in the evening as people arrive for the long weekend. In addition to the ongoing events listed above, race registration takes place and different local businesses host late afternoon and evening events.

Thursday, November 25: On Thursday things really start hopping. The three day clinics begin, the demos and ski show continue and even more folks arrive to enjoy the trails. In the morning, the biathlon race takes place at the biathlon cabin and, of course, there is turkey to be eaten and football to be watched. At least one team celebrates Thanksgiving by skiing into Yellowstone National Park.

Friday, November 26: By Friday, we are in the thick of it. Most of the people that are going to travel to West Yellowstone for the weekend have arrived and everyone settles into a routine: ski in the morning, relax for lunch, ski again in the afternoon, shower and cleanup, head out to indoor show, a wax clinic or one of the other events scheduled for the evening. The half-day and one day skate clinics start and so do the Junior Racer and Adventures in Winter Ecology clinics. Out on the trails, the NorAm Supertour races take place and you can watch (and learn) from some of the best skiers in the country.

Saturday, November 27: Saturday is the last and most exciting day of the week. Like Friday, all the clinics occur and there are more NorAm Supertour races. We also try to line up a good speaker for the last evening (last year we were lucky enough to have Thomas Alsgaard in town for the last night). And after the speaker is finished, Grand Teton Brewing Company sponsors a party and a band in the Ironhorse, the bar at the West Yellowstone Conference Center. This a great chance for everyone to relax and celebrate the events of the previous week. Be there!

So that’s the way we expect the week to go. We hope that you will make the most of your time in West Yellowstone, visit our restaurants and support our local sponsors. If you have any questions about the Yellowstone Ski Festival, please visit our webpage at www.yellowstoneskifestival.com , email me at info@yellowstoneskifestival.com or call me at 406-646-9427. See you in a few weeks!

  - Jamie Green