Event Feature: West Yellowstone Ski Festival

The West Yellowstone Ski Festival, known to many as "The Fall Camp", is the place to be if you wish to be totally absorbed in XC Ski Culture for a full week in North America! Here on Thanksgiving week every year, you will find thousands of your closest XC Skiing friends. Skiers of all stripes from beginners to varying national teams. Expect to see everything from the German National Biathlon Team shoveling snow onto the trail if necessary to drunk half naked people running down the street at night (at temps near zero), to what some would call the best XC Skiing on the planet.

This will be my 10 time to "The Fall Camp" in the past 11 years, and I'm thrilled to be going again! As I work in the ski industry, I'm generally there on a working trip, but still have plenty of time to enjoy the great skiing and people!

"The Fall Camp" began back in the 70's as a twinkle in the US Ski Team's eye. You see, West Yellowstone has what is likely the most reliable early season snow in the lower 48. Year after year, the US Ski Team went there for a Thanksgiving training camp. Each year, a few other teams would show up for this great early snow and training. Before you know it, there were hundreds and thousands of skiers in town. Of course, where there are thousands of skiers, the ski industry companies will follow. Today, the West Yellowstone Ski Festival is a big scale event featuring varying clinics (technique, waxing clinics, etc), on snow demo for any XC Ski Equipment you could imagine, a consumer trade show, great skiing, and often celebrity guests such as Thomas Alsgaard (in picture to right), or Alan Lindsley (ha, did anyone catch that?). In my 10 years at the fall camp, there was snow every year by the end of the week, but generally good snow the entire week.

The skiing in town on the Rendezvous Trails is phenomenal, with world class grooming (done by the founder of Yellowstone Track Systems grooming equipment). Elevation in town and on the trail is about 8000 feet, so us flat landers generally feel it. This 35k trail system meanders along the base of the Gallatin Plateau, traversing up and down the base of this mountain. Snow conditions are usually fantastic with one major snowstorm common during the week. Temperatures are generally cold, with lows often near zero and highs usually in the 20's.

If the snow conditions happen to not be good in town at the Rendezvous Trails, the backup plan is driving the narrow gravel road up to "The Plateau" (note this is only groomed if there is no snow in town). "The Plateau" is true high mountain skiing. Skiing up there is roughly 1000 feet higher than in town, so about 9000 feet. The skiing up there is on gravel service roads, with the same expert grooming you'll find on the Rendezvous Trails. Here you will find long climbs, up to a couple K's long followed by amazing descents. Don't despair if the snow isn't good down low, as the skiing on The Plateau is excellent and challenging! When driving up the plateau, be certain to drive cautiously. An All Wheel Drive vehicle is best for getting up this road.

It's easy and relatively affordable to get to "The Fall Camp":
  • Simply fly into Bozeman (a great airport to fly into).
  • Get a rental car at the airport (Enterprise has a great fleet of Subaru Foresters)
  • Drive up (up hill, but south) to West Yellowstone, about a 2.5 hour scenic drive on dry roads
  • Get a hotel room at one of the many options. Some good affordable places include The Stagecoach Inn, The Brandin' Iron, Days Inn, and many others.
  • Good eats can be found at several places including the local Packer Bar called Bullwinkle's, at the local ski and bike shop called Freeheel & Wheel, and a number of others...
So, this coming Thanksgiving week, join me and other CyclovaXC members for a great week of skiing, eating, drinking, elbow rubbing, and trying out the latest ski equipment. You won't be disappointed.

There are probably some good hotel coupons available for the Yellowstone area.


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