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Yellowstone in February

My wife and I will be traveling to Yellowstone to the winter lodge for a three night stay. We have spent many years in California snow crosscountry skiing, snow shoeing, and hiking but we have never experienced snow in the Rockies or ridden in a snow cat, etc. We could use some help planning for this trip from all of you great travelers out there. Here are a few questions:

  1. How cold is Rocky Mountain cold?
  2. What is life like in a snow cat for a few hours and how to dress properly for the ride?
  3. Is layering pretty much the same or should our base layer be of a medium to heavy weight?
  4. Is the snow wet snow or dry snow? (We have been in Minnesota in the winter, for a few days, and were blown away by the dry snow flurries)

Thanks to all in advance for your support, tips, and feedback.

Posted by
281 posts

I live in the Colorado mtn. I have been to Yellowstone in winter once. Rocky mt. cold tends to be dry on average, but Yellowstone is far north and very high. We had low temps well below zero when we were there. Snow tends to be dry too. But of course we had rain/wet snow mix yesterday with warmer temps. As far as dressing i would definitely have various layering options hard to say what as everyone is different in their cold tolerance.

Posted by
16171 posts

World of difference between Champagne Powder and Sierra Cement.

Posted by
104 posts

Hi Steve, I live a couple hours south of Yellowstone so hopefully this helps you!

  1. Rocky Mountain cold is cold! The air here is extremely dry especially in the winter. Last week we had temps of -30's at night and anywhere from -10 to about 3 degrees during the day. Be prepared for the wind chill factor. Don't let the bright happy looking sunshine deceive is still freezing cold even with the sun out! I would recommend sunglasses because the sun reflecting off of the snow can be blinding.

  2. The snow cat should be heated and fairly comfortable.

  3. Dress in layers, with your base layer being warm but breathable. If you start sweating, then you'll never get warm again. Make sure you have a warm hat, gloves, and footwear. I would also recommend a scarf as well to keep your neck warm and wrap around your face if you need. The wind can be bitter and it feels like exposed skin is burning. Those little hand and foot warmers that you can put in your boots and pockets are great! Be prepared. There are approximately 150 people having an unplanned sleepover at the Headwaters Lodge at Flagg Ranch tonight due to poor weather conditions resulting in roads being closed.

  4. Our snow varies from dry fluffy powder to heavy wet snow. The snow that's fallen the last few days has been pretty wet and heavy.

Yellowstone is amazing and magical any time of year, but it's a whole different experience in the winter. If you plan on taking a camera with you, make sure you have an extra battery to swap out. The extreme cold will drain the batteries quickly. If you're not used to winter driving, the most important thing is just slow down. Don't let the crazy local drivers intimidate you. We drive in snow and ice more often than not, so it's second nature to us. I'm not sure where or how you are arriving to the area, but Idaho, Wyoming and Montana all have really good websites for monitoring road conditions. Wyoming's is and you can link to Idaho and Montana's websites from here. If you have any other questions, just let me know, I would be happy to try and answer them. Safe travels and enjoy your visit to beautiful Yellowstone :-)

Posted by
1878 posts

Yellowstone is amazing, my wife and I traveled there in May-June 2009. I am sure you will have a nice time. I would go to REI or North Face to get some heavy winter clothes. The difference between 30 degrees F an 0 is a really big difference. 30 is cold but 0 takes your breath away. (I speak from experience having spent a winter in Connecticut).

Posted by
14458 posts

What I learned about the camera batteries. . . . keep the spares in an inner pocket. A warm battery is a happy battery

Posted by
5020 posts

My cousin lives in SW Idaho and tells me not to consider visiting him until June. Is Yellowstone even open in the middle of the Winter?
If it is, what are your transport options, especially if there is a heavy snow?

Posted by
487 posts

geovagriffith, Yellowstone is open during the winter, but the lodgings are really limited and most of it is closed to regular vehicle traffic. Only the road between Mammoth Hot Springs and the northeast entrance is open to cars, otherwise you have to travel by guided snowcat or snowmobile tours. There are a limited number of permits that allow you to do your own snowmobile travel in the park. Roads start clearing in mid-April and more facilities start to open in mid-May. Your relative mentioned waiting until June because the weather becomes more reliably better then and the trails will be losing their snow pack. Late May and early June are still what the rest of us would consider "spring time". It can still snow year-round, so always check weather conditions when heading that way and be prepared.

This site has some more information about visiting in winter.

Posted by
5664 posts

We did Yellowstone in mid to late February a number of years ago. West Yellowstone was in the single digit F temperature range with a bit an inversion that trapped the snowmobile blue smoke. We took the Bombardier snowcoach into the Old Faithful Snow Lodge for a multiple day stay.

Temperatures in the Old Faithful basis were somewhat warmer than West Yellowstone. Something to do with the park's geothermal activity. We were waxing green for the single digit F temps at the Rendezvous Ski Trails but were waxing extra blue at Old Faithful with temps in the mid-20s F. Rendezvous snow was very dry and sharp while Old Faithful snow a bit wetter even when new. Old Faithful snow went from new higher moisture (loose snowball) to transitional (solid and wet snowball) within a couple of days. That that is only a single week experience.

The Bombardier is fully enclosed so warmth when reasonably dressed for the outdoors is not a problem. The tracked vehicle is noisy but ear protectors are supplied that attenuate the noise.

I will add that you could book one-way Bombardier shuttle rides to drop-offs at the Divide for a downhhill return to the snow lodge. Climb to the high point from the road then its more or less downhill to the lodge.

Divide Ski Drop Info Choose from 3 different drop off points. Just
let your driver know where you would like to be dropped. There is not
a “pick up” option. You must come back to the lodge on your own.