There are a number of ways to enjoy Yellowstone National Park in winter, ranging from snowshoeing or cross-country skiing into the park, riding a snowmobile or snowcoach in to Old Faithful and spending a night or more, or driving to Mammoth Springs and staying in the hotel there with day trips into the park's interior.
While exploring on your own is a great way to enjoy the park, you also can sign up for one of five "Lodging and Learning" packages that provide a detailed itinerary that gets you out into the park. Those packages might involve cross-country skiing, viewing the park's famous geyser basins, or going in search of wildlife.
Yellowstone National Park Lodges, operated by Xanterra Parks & Resorts, and the Yellowstone Association Institute collaborate to offer the packages.
The park’s winter season begins Dec. 18 with the opening of Old Faithful Snow Lodge. Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel opens Dec. 20. The lodges provide the only wintertime accommodations within the park. Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel will close for the season March 4, 2013, and Old Faithful Snow Lodge will close March 3, 2013.
“Since we introduced these packages in 1999, close to 15,000 participants have made a winter or summer Lodging & Learning package their preferred way to enjoy Yellowstone,” said Rick Hoeninghausen, director of sales and marketing for Xanterra in Yellowstone. “Our wildlife viewing, cross-country skiing and geology all stand alone as world-class, but combined they create an unparalleled experience.”
Each program includes accommodations, some meals, and Xanterra’s “Snow Card” good for 10 percent off meals, in-park transportation, tours, ski shop services and most retail items. Some Lodging & Learning package components vary based on location. Rates quoted here are per person, double occupancy, plus tax and utility fee. Rates vary based on location, room type, number of people and applicable tax rates. Yellowstone Association members pay $10 less than the quoted rate.
* The “Old Faithful Winter Expedition” features two nights at Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel and two nights at Old Faithful Snow Lodge. Under the guidance of an Institute instructor, stops throughout the park include the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River, Yellowstone Lake and various geyser basins. Available on Dec. 20 and 26, 2012 and Jan. 2, 9, 16, 20, 23, 30 and Feb. 6, 13, 17, 20, 24, 27, 2013, rates start at $1,075 per person for double occupancy and $1,325 for single occupancy.
* The “Winter Wildlife Expedition” allows participants to observe and learn about bison, elk, bighorn sheep, pronghorn, coyotes, wolves and other wildlife. Available on Dec. 30, 2012, Jan. 13 and 27, 2013 and Feb. 10, 24 and 26, 2013, this program features four nights of lodging at Mammoth Hotel. Rates start at $665 per person for double occupancy and $849 for single occupancy.
* “Yellowstone on Skis” features five days of cross-country skiing with daily trips to the Blacktail Plateau, Lamar Valley, Yellowstone’s Grand Canyon and the foot of the Gallatin Range. The program is led by a naturalist/guide from the YAI, and a professional cross-country skiing instructor will accompany the group on two days to help participants improve their skills. Offered on Jan. 12 and 26, Feb. 9 and 23, 2013, the package includes three nights of lodging at Mammoth Hotel and three nights of lodging at Snow Lodge. Rates start at $1,619 per person for double occupancy and $1,995 for single occupancy. Ski rentals are available but not included in any of the packages.
* The “Winter Wolf Discovery” is offered on Dec. 23, 2012 and Jan. 6, 20 and Feb. 3, 12, 17, 2013. Instructors provide expertise on the reintroduction of wolves to the park and lead wildlife viewing excursions through the Lamar Valley. This four-night package includes accommodations at Mammoth Hotel. Rates start at $705 per person for double occupancy and $889 for single occupancy.
* “Winter in Wonderland” is designed as a comprehensive introduction to Yellowstone in winter. Guests receive four nights of lodging at Mammoth Hotel and two nights at Old Faithful Snow Lodge. Guests explore the park via snowcoach, skis and snowshoes and learn about wildlife in the Lamar Valley, geology in the Old Faithful region and more. This program runs Monday through Sunday, Dec. 24, 2012 through Feb. 25, 2013. Rates start at $1,385 per person for double occupancy and $1,729 for single occupancy.
Xanterra also offers a variety of self-guided winter “Getaway Packages” and a guided snowmobile “Adventure Package” as well as lodging and transportation options for those who want to explore the park on their own.
Except for the road from Gardiner, Mont. to Cooke City, Mont. via Mammoth Hot Springs, transportation within the park is limited to snowmobiles and enclosed heated snowcoaches during the winter. Snowcoach transportation is available daily to a variety of park locations. Xanterra also offers a wide range of half- and full-day snowcoach, ski and snowshoe tours and ski and snowshoe rentals as well as expert instruction and other services.
Lodging & Learning programs can be booked by calling (1) 307-344-7311 or toll-free 866-GEYSERLAND (866-439-7375) or by submitting the secure online package reservation request form found on the website. Yellowstone Association members receive a $10 discount on all courses, and family memberships begin at just $35 per year.
Complete details about “Lodging & Learning” packages as well as winter “Getaway” and “Adventure” packages, accommodations, restaurants and activities in Yellowstone can be found by calling (1) 307-344-7311 or toll-free 866-GEYSERLAND (866-439-7375), or visiting the web site www.YellowstoneNationalParkLodges.com