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Snowmobiling Yellowstone

Snowmobiling is by far the most popular winter sport in Yellowstone, and thousands of speedy machines zip through the park each winter. Although controversy clouds the winter sport in a haze of heated debates and environmental concerns, snowmobilers continue to roar through the park every December through March.

As with other winter sports throughout the region, dressing and being prepared for winter weather is critical. Underneath snowmobile suits, dress in a layered garment system consisting of long underwear, wool or synthetic trousers, and wool or insulating shirts. Warm socks, gloves, stocking caps, and appropriate footwear are key.

For those not owning a snowmobile, rentals and guided tours are available from the Old Faithful Snow Lodge and the Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel, as well as in the neighboring towns of West Yellowstone and Gardiner. Lessons are also available at many places offering rentals, and all first-time users are encouraged to receive some basic instruction prior to riding in the park.

To maintain the Yellowstone snowmobiling tradition for years to come, all users should keep in mind the following regulations and safety tips:

  • All snowmobile operators must possess a valid driver’s license, and all machines must be registered within their home state.
  • Snowmobiles must feature working lights and brakes, and exhaust and mufflers must be in excellent operating condition. Maximum noise from exhaust systems cannot exceed seventy-eight decibels at full acceleration with a fifty-foot distance. Currently, most stock exhaust systems are in accordance with this mandate, but aftermarket exhaust systems are often too loud. To avoid being denied park access, check the levels of your exhaust system prior to arrival.
  • Snowmobiles are subject to the same guidelines as cars. Always use hand signals to stop or turn, drive on the right side of the road in single file, pass only when visibility is high, never exceed the maximum speed limit of forty-five miles per hour (seventy-two kilometers per hour), and obey all traffic signs.
  • Always stay on designated routes and park roads. Off-road travel, including sidehilling and berm-riding, is strictly prohibited and punishable with a fine up to $5,000.
  • Snowmobiling and alcohol do not mix, and those driving while intoxicated will be caught and charged. Any open alcoholic beverage container is also illegal, including the popular botabags.
  • Since they are permanent park residents, Yellowstone’s wildlife always have the right of way. Never approach, feed, or chase the wildlife. Winter alone is hard enough on animals without wildlife being forced to exert extra energy to quickly move off the road.
  • If wildlife blocks the roadway, stop no less than twenty-five yards away, and wait for them to move. If the animal begins walking toward you, turn around if possible, and move to a different location. If you do not have time to turn around, step off your machine, and protect yourself by keeping the machine between you and the wildlife. In all cases, never attempt to pass animals if they appear agitated. In such scenarios, animals are likely to stampede, and your safety is at risk.

Reprinted from “The Ultimate Yellowstone Atlas and Travel Encyclopedia”

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