It’s Sunday morning in WestYellowstone and, after spending the better part of yesterday sweeping and cleaning the Rendezvous Ski Trails, I awoke to find an inch of new snow on the ground. The new snow is beautiful and serves to remind me that the Yellowstone Ski Festival is less than a month away! We live for winter here in West Yellowstone and our winter begins with the Yellowstone Ski Festival. This year the dates for the Yellowstone Ski Festival are November 21, 22, 23, 24 and 25, 2006.
By now, most of you are familiar with the Yellowstone Ski Festival but for those of you that aren’t here’s a super abbreviated history: Back in the late 1970’s, the US Ski Team started to make annual trips to West Yellowstone and soon after that, Drew Barney and Dick Hunt started a series of Nordic ski clinics during the week of Thanksgiving. Eventually, the major ski manufacturers started to attend and allow the public to demo the latest in Nordic equipment. And four years ago, the SuperTour races were added to the mix. Today, this gathering of skiers is called the Yellowstone Ski Festival and the event includes skate and classic clinics for skiers of all levels, the Try It and Buy It Gear Demo, an Indoor Ski Show and the SuperTour races.
Last year at this time, I wrote a story that detailed special events, places to eat, and things to do during the Ski Festival. The piece went over very well and I think that it helped folks plan their visit to West Yellowstone. Rather than reinvent the wheel, I thought I would update last year’s article with information for this year’s event…
Special Events and Highlights
Free Heel and Wheel Celebrates 10 Years in Business: Incredibly, it’s been ten years since Melissa Alder and Kelli Sanders decided to open Free Heel and Wheel. Since then, West Yellowstone’s favorite Nordic ski and bike shop has become a regional favorite. Free Heel and Wheel, located at 40 Yellowstone Avenue, is Nordic ski headquarters for the Yellowstone Ski Festival. Need skis? Coffee? Boots? Lunch? Gloves? Clothing? They’ve got it all. Free Heel and Wheel is the place to be during the Ski Festival (if you can get in the door). Stop in and congratulate Melissa and Kelli on 10 great years!
Chloë Lanthier-Brandner to speak Friday night: We are excited to see Chloë’s slide show “Decade of Extreme Endurance”. Chloë has been competing for more than a decade in solo endurance and multi-day expedition races around the world including; running across the Sahara desert, riding her bike across the Iditarod Trail in Alaska – in the winter, and running around Mont Blanc in France. Chloë also has more than 15 years experience in developing and leading innovative programs in health science, human performance, outdoor camps and motivational presentations. Don’t miss the Friday night slide show!
Thanksgiving Day Turkey Trot: This will be a free fun run at 2:00 PM on Thanksgiving Day. It will start at the Rendezvous Trailhead Building and wind through the streets of West Yellowstone – even more exercise to help work up an appetite before Thanksgiving Dinner! Imagining Yellowstone Avenue full of Nordic skiers makes us smile. Look for details on our website and at the Indoor Ski Show once you get to town.
Stone Grinding by Boulder Nordic Sport and Engineered Tuning: Engineered Tuning partners Boulder Nordic Sport (BNS) and Caldwell Sport Specialties (CSS) will bring a full-service stone-grinding ski shop to the Yellowstone Ski Festival November 20-26. Owners Nathan Schultz (BNS) and Zach Caldwell (CSS) will travel to the event with two Tazzari stone grinding machines (skis that are stone ground generally absorb more wax and perform better) and staff to provide professional ski service at the season-opening event.
Daily Yoga and Pilates Classes: Yoga is back! This year, Robin Mochi and Brenda Holland will be conducting 6:30 AM classes at the Holiday Inn for $10. It’s a great way to warm up before a day of skiing. Shauna Laszlo will also offer a series of $10 Pilates classes at 12 noon at the Holiday Inn.
There are quite a few restaurants in West Yellowstone and we have worked hard to make sure that most of them are open during the Yellowstone Ski Festival. Here’s a brief review of most of the places that have committed to being open during this year’s event:
Bullwinkle’s Saloon and Retaurant - 19 Madison Avenue: Bullwinkle’s is a West Yellowstone landmark. With a wide selection of different entrees ranging from sandwiches to seafood, there is something for everyone at Bullwinkle’s. Jackie and Dennis also have a full bar with a great selection of beer and wine. Phone: 406-646-7974
Wild West Pizzeria – 14 Madison Avenue: Wild West has always been a big supporter of the Ski Festival and Aaron Hecht and his crew gets overrun during the event. Their pizza is incredible and, in case you didn’t know, Wild West is the source of the famous lasagna that Freeheel and Wheel serves every winter. Strozzi’s Bar and the Red Door Lounge are right next door if you need a cold beer. Phone: 406-646-4400
TJ’s Bettola at the Airport: First, yes, the restaurant is really at the airport. And you’ll find the entrance to the airport a little over a mile north of town on the west side of the highway. TJ has been a Yellowstone Ski Festival supporter for the last two years and she does a wonderful job in the kitchen. She specializes in fine Italian cuisine and has a terrific selection of wines. Dinner reservations are highly recommended! TJ’s will be closed between now and November 18 so to make reservations (and, yes, some folks have already beat you to the punch) call 406-646-4700 and leave a message or call TJ directly on her cell phone at 406-799-6448
Uncle Laurie’s Riverside Café – 237 Firehole Avenue: It’s tough to find a better breakfast and lunch spot in town. Another big Ski Festival supporter, Laurie serves everything from breakfast burritos to turkey sandwiches to Mexican dishes. She’s also got an espresso machine and she knows how to use it. This one’s a no-brainer. Laurie has extended her hours during the Ski Festival and will be open from 7:00 AM – 4:00 PM on Tuesday and Wednesday, closed Thanksgiving Day and open from 6:30 – 4:00 PM on Friday and Saturday. Phone: 406-646-7040
Bar-N-Ranch – west of town off Highway 20: This is where the restaurant owners go to eat on their night off. Enough said? Mike and Gayle Gavagan took on the Bar N Ranch a couple of years ago and they have turned it into a delight for in house guests and visitors alike. They have a totally new menu this year and you’ll definitely want to get reservations. Open every day and serving Thanksgiving dinner from 4:00 – 9:00 PM. Phone: 406-646-0300
Beartooth Barbecue – 111 N. Canyon Street: Beartooth is one of West Yellowstone’s most popular restaurants. Now in his third year of business, Eric Tipps serves up the real deal and he is serves it several ways: ribs, sandwiches and even salads. A great selection of beers makes Beartooth Barbecue a good call. Phone: 406-646-0227
Grizzly Crossing Café – 105 S. Canyon Street: Karen Silcott, the owner of this new restaurant, called me back in May to tell me that she would be open during the Ski Festival. Her plans have not changed and we are excited to have a new restaurant option here in town. Grizzly Crossing is located between the IMAX and the Grizzly Discovery Center and they plan to serve breakfast, lunch and dinner. Karen is also planning on serving a big Thanksgiving Dinner. Phone: 406-646-4040
Sydney’s Mountain Bistro – 38 Canyon Street: Sydney’s is another new restaurant in West Yellowstone. Located at the intersection of Canyon Street and Madison Avenue (on the southwest corner), this small place serves lunch and dinner and opens at 11:00 AM. The menu includes wild salmon, Panang chicken and great steaks. Phone: 406-646-7660.
New York Diner – 215 N. Canyon Street: Yet another new restaurant! This one is owned and operated by Gail and Derek Auclair, the folks that run Yellowstone Lodge. If you’ve ever talked to either one of them, you’ve heard their accents and know darn well that they ought to know what a New Your Diner serves. The Diner menu includes grinders, chowder and pizza – and a glossary of “lingo” that includes terms like “pete-sir” (usually ordered with pepperoni and cheese) and “grinduh” (a submarine sandwich). Free delivery! Phone: 406-646-7375 or 406-646-7380.
The Canyon Street Grill – 22 N. Canyon Street: This place just feels good. It’s decorated like a 1950’s diner but it’s brightly lit, super clean and just, well, cool. The food’s great and the Turemans and their staff are friendly. Phone: 406-646-7548
Wolf Pack Brewing Company – 139 N. Canyon Street: Another long time Ski Festival supporter, Wolf Pack serves up some of the finest beer Montana has to offer and it’s made right on the premises. I like the Kolsch No. 10 but there’s a lot more to choose from. Wolf Pack also has a diverse menu that ought to please the entire group. Phone: 406-646-7225
Trapper’s Family Restaurant – 301 Madison Avenue: This is another restaurant run by the Turemans – except you’ll find this one at the Day’s Inn at the west end of Madison Avenue. Like Canyon Street, you just can’t go wrong here. And for those of you interested in variety, it’s real close to the Holiday Inn. Check it out. Phone: 406-646-9375
Oregon Short Line – 315Yellowstone Avenue: Speaking of the Holiday Inn, this is their restaurant. Meal packages will be available for guests but the restaurant is also open to the public. This is the most conveniently located restaurant for those of you that want to stay close to the action of the clinics and the Indoor Ski Show. Phone: 406-646-7365
Three Bear Lodge and Restaurant – 217 Yellowstone: The Three Bear Restaurant is only open to guests of the Lodge during the Ski Festival. They do have a great meal package, though, and are a big part of Ski Festival tradition. Phone: 406-646-7353
Things to Do
Cross country skiing: Of course, most of you will be here to ski so we ought to touch on that. The Rendezvous Ski Trails are at the south end of Geyser Street and can be reached by a short walk from any hotel in town. Look for the distinctive archway that marks the entrance to the trail system. In a good snow year, you can expect to find up to 25 kilometers of groomed trails. We don’t need too much snow to start grooming here – Doug Edgerton can begin work once 4 to 6 inches of snow have accumulated. This would be a good time to point out that West Yellowstone has a back-up trail system that we use in years when winter gets a late start. We call this area “the plateau” and some of you may have skied there on the first day of the 2004 Yellowstone Ski Festival. The plateau is 7 miles south of town, 1000’ higher in elevation and includes about 20 kilometers of trail.
So, you are done skiing for the day and you’ve had your dinner. What to do? Well for starters, there are the evening wax clinics and seminars that place in conjunction with (and, in some cases, separately from) the Indoor Ski Show. All of those seminars are free and, with the exception of a few Fall Camp Clinic sessions, open to the public. But you say you’ve had your fill of wax tips, training information and talk about racing? Here are some other options:
Bear’s Den Cinema: Our little movie theatre does a great job of bringing in the latest and greatest films. They haven’t decided what they are going to show during the Ski Festival quite yet but Merrick (the manager) thought that they might bring in the new James Bond movie. The movie starts each night at 7:30 PM. Stay tuned.
The Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center: There is a lot to be learned at the Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center. There is no finer place to see two of Yellowstone’s most incredible animals. There is a lot to be learned here – don’t miss it.
Yellowstone IMAX: The IMAX is currently showing “Yellowstone”, “Bears” and “Grand Canyon”. This lineup may change a little before the Ski Festival starts but, regardless, if you’ve never seen an IMAX film, you should try to work an evening here into your plans.
The Book Peddler: The Book Peddler, located on Canyon Street, not only serves up a killer latte; it is also a great place to shop for books about Yellowstone National Park and Western History.
Morning Glory Coffee and Tea:Morning Glory Coffee and Tea, located on Dunraven Avenue, is West Yellowstone’s brand new coffee roaster. Their spacious shop is perfect for relaxing and catching up on your reading while you sample the terrific, locally roasted coffee.
I think that’s enough information for now. The main I’d like you to remember about the Yellowstone Ski Festival is that, in addition to getting on the snow for some early season skiing, it’s about having fun, relaxing and reuniting with friends during the holidays. West Yellowstone is looking forward to your arrival and we will do our best to ensure that you have a great visit. Think snow!
If you have any questions or if you would like more information about the Yellowstone Ski Festival, visit