In our sparsely populated neighbor to the north,Yellowstone National Park
opens up for winter use today. If you haven't been to Yellowstone in winter -- or alternately have been turned off by the park's summer crowds -- it's an entirely different world after the snow falls. Not only are the crowds nowhere to be seen, the opportunities for cross-country skiing to see backcountry geysers, frozen waterfalls, and the park's wild residents and their amazing resilience to near-arctic conditions. (Trivia: The moose is Yellowstone's best-winterized animal.)
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Recent efforts to ban snowmobiles ultimately failed -- the park instead implemented more stringent regulations and a quota system -- but the silent options of skis and snowshoes remain the best way to experience the Yellowstone winter. Guided trips are available for those who don't want to venture into the bison- and geyser-dotted landscape on their own.
Trips to Yellowstone in winter aren't necessarily cheap -- snowcoach trips to Old Faithful are about $150 per adult round-trip and rooms at the Old Faithful Snow Lodge run about $150 to $200 a night -- but you can save some money by staying in the gateway towns of West Yellowstone and Gardiner, Montana, and taking a $15 ski shuttle to trailheads in the park's northern fringes. The only plowed road in the park connects Gardiner with the northeast entrance via the Lamar Valley, a great wolf-watching area.