Last February, a motley crew of four couples from the Gold Coast of Florida convinced me that taking a snowmobile tour into Old Faithful was a good idea. I'd been living in Bozeman for nearly 10 years and never been on a snowmobile, so it seemed like a good opportunity to experience the Park in winter and see what all the fuss was about.
We spent the night in West Yellowstone at the Three Bear Lodge, starting with cocktails in the lounge followed by a tasty prime rib dinner. Afterward we trudged over to the local movie theater-turned dressing room to collect our snowmobile suits, boots, gloves, helmets, and goggles for the next day's adventure.
Breakfast was hearty and we were soon ready to roll with full bellies. Our gang had a quick but comprehensive lesson from the guide on snowmobile etiquette, operation, and rules of the road. As we left the hotel parking lot, I promptly ran my rig into the back of the guideâ€™s snowmobile, for which I received a reprimand and review from our guide, explaining what the brakes were for. He mentioned that they were included in the package price.
Per instruction, we traveled single-file behind our guide into the Park. I braced myself and gritted my teeth as I tried to keep up with the group. It didn't help that my helmet was steamed up and I could barely see.
We headed toward Old Faithful. Keeping my rig on the road took most of my concentration and I could hardly wait for lunch at the Snow Lodge. After chowing down, I collapsed in a comfy chair while the other girls shopped for hats.
Back on the trail, we pulled over often, and I have to say, watching a wolf pack along the steamy Firehole River was worth the price of the whole shebang. Not to mention the elk and buffalo sightings in this pristine winter wonderland.
I don't care much for politics, but it didn't seem like a few hundred snowmobiles are having much impact on wildlife in the Park. The animals we saw hardly seemed alarmed at our presence. If it's that big a deal, perhaps the Park Service ought to address the impact of two million visitors driving around in thousands of cars all summer.
One-night inclusive packages at Three Bear Lodge start at $200. For more info, call 646-7343 or visit threebearlodge.com.