With Winter Hitting Much of the Country Hard, There Are Many Ski Opportunities in the National Parks

Where in the National Park System will you ski this winter? Perhaps to Lone Star Geyser in Yellowstone? Kurt Repanshek photo.

Winter, it seems, is hitting everywhere these days. Even poor Las Vegas has been hammered (relatively speaking, of course) by a snowstorm. And Death Valley National Park has seen snowflakes this winter, too. So shouldn't you be planning a national park ski (or snowshoe) trip?

There are numerous opportunities out there and more than likely, if you live north of Virginia, one within a short drive of your home. Here is the Traveler's alphabetical list, which is by no means official nor all-inclusive, of where you can do your slipping and sliding this winter:

Acadia National Park

It's been said on these pages before that the touring to be had on the park's Loop Road as well as the Carriage Paths can be as wonderful as touring farther inland. And really, there aren't too many places where you can cross-country ski and watch the Atlantic wash ashore. Check this site for trail conditions.

Bryce Canyon National Park

This redrock icon in Utah offers mile after mile after mile of cross-country and snowshoeing possibilities. Heck, the 18-mile-long Rim Road is as good as any place, and the views can't be beat. And at least once a week, if snow conditions allow (and this winter they should), rangers lead snowshoe hikes along the rim of this Kodachrome beaut.

Death Valley National Park

No fooling here. I've been told by very reliable sources that if you're adept at telemark skiing that there are some delicious turns to be had on the flanks of Telescope Peak. And you'll definitely earn them.

Fort Necessity National Battlefield

It's not generally known by many, but Fort Necessity in Pennsylvania offers 5 miles of hiking trails that lead through forest and meadows around the fort and which, when there's enough snow, can be skied. However, the trails are not groomed, so after a big storm you might have to break trail. There is also a loop trail at Jumonville Glen and a short walking path at Braddock's Grave.

Glacier National Park

From West Glacier you can ski, or snowshoe, quite satisfactorily to Lake McDonald Lodge. Beyond that point, though, things get a bit more grueling.

Grand Teton National Park

Many, many options are to be found here, from touring along the main park road to killer telemark chutes in the Tetons themselves. If those are what you're after, bone up with Tom Turiano’s Teton Skiing, a History and Guide.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Well, it's not the winter capital of the South, but you can find some space for snowshoeing or cross-country skiing here. When the Newfound Gap Road is closed, you can park near the entrance of the Clingmans Dome Road, which is closed in winter to vehicle traffic, and take to your skis or snowshoes there.

Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore

Some cross-country and snowshoeing options can be found here.

Mount Rainier National Park

They don't call it Paradise for nothing. Come winter weekends this popular destination on the big mountain's flanks overflows with tubers. More hardcore sliders can bring their skis and snowboards and gain their vertical by hiking uphill (just check with the Jackson Visitor Center or Longmire Museum for condition reports) before sliding back down. And really, just about anywhere you turn in the park in winter offers the potential for a snowshoe hike.

Olympic National Park

It's called Hurricane Ridge, but come winter there's a nice little ski area here and some wonderful snowshoeing terrain to explore, ski trails to follow, and tubing to be had. Ranger-led snowshoe walks are offered weekly from the Hurricane Ridge Visitor Center. These are popular, so don't forget to sign up. Details on all these activities can be found at this site.

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore

More than 20 miles of cross-country trails roam through the lakeshore, and the snow base recently topped 2 feet! You've also got snowshoeing possibilities, ice climbing, and snowmobiling.

Rocky Mountain National Park

Skiing for beginners is kinda iffy at this park, especially on the east side, though the Bear Lake area is very popular with tubers. There also are some good snowshoe trails east of the Continental Divide. The west side receives the lion's share of the park's snowfall, and there are some nice snowshoe opportunities above Grand Lake.

Sequoia National Park

Skiing, or snowshoeing, among the big trees remains on my "to do" list, but hopefully it'll be checked off soon. The white snow, the fat red trees, you can't get more contrasty than that. If that's too sedate, sign up for a trek to the Pear Lake Ski Hut, which takes some effort to reach but rewards with spectacular vistas.

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore

Another lakeshore, another winter playground. Snowshoeing and cross-country skiing are December-to-April stalwarts, though tubing and sledding also are popular, as is ice fishing. Snowmobiling, though, is not permitted.

Yellowstone National Park

Let's see, do you want to ski (or snowshoe) through the geyser basins; ski (or snowshoe) to the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone; or ski (or snowshoe) on any number of trails that spur off the Grand Loop? If you base your visit in West Yellowstone, ski (or snowshoe) the Riverside Trail into Yellowstone from the edge of town on the eastern end of Madison Avenue (and no, not the one in New York City...)

Yosemite National Park

Wintry choices abound at Yosemite, where you can downhill at Badger Pass, cross country ski out to Glacier Point, or work your way into the backcountry from numerous jumping off points. There can also be some fine cross-country skiing at Crane Flat and through the Mariposa Grove of sequoias. Check this site for details.

Voyageurs National Park

Here's another park where snowmobiling is not controversial. There are plenty of marked trails to skim along, too, such as the Green Trail between Black Bay on Rainy Lake and the Ash River community. And there are also cross-country sking, too, on the Tilson Connector Cross Country Ski Trail and at several other locations in the park. Check Voyageur's homepage to get the latest trail reports.

That's a start. Don't be bashful about telling us what we missed.

Comments

Arguably the most unique national park ski/snowshoe opportunities, are Glacier National Park's winter trails accessed directly from the Izaak Walton Inn. Set in a snow-rich valley between the park and the Great Bear Wilderness, the inn grooms and tracksets more thean 30 km of x-c trails and also has a permit to lead ski/snowshoe tours into the park. On the map, it's in West Essex, off US Hwy 2 and also a flagstop for Amtrak's Empire Builder. See www.izaakwaltoninn.com.

Good addition, Claire. But can you tell me how noisy it is with the train tracks so close? I've thought a stay in the Belton Inn in West Glacier would be nice, but I've heard the trains running all hours of the day and night can take some getting used to.

I dont have a real recollection of unbearable train noise. It might depend whether you are on the "track side" or the other side, in the lodge, the cabooses or the new cabins. Perhaps the deep snow in the Izaak Walton Inn area muffles the sound somewhat, while in Belton, which I remember as being more of a valley, the train sounds are confined and seem louder. Just conjecture, but why not?