New Regulations for Snowmobiles and Snowcoaches in Yellowstone

Yellowstone National Park has proposed new guidelines for winter use of snowmobiles and snowcoaches within park borders.

Update: December 11, 2013

Yellowstone Winter Tour Operators Undergo Change

As a result of a massive overhaul of the Yellowstone National Park regulations on winter snow-travel vehicles, a similarly large change is being made to the selection of vendors. Recently, the park service altered daily snowmobile limits to allow 480 machines (up from 318) and decrease the daily limit for multiple-passenger snowcoaches from 78 to 60. The winter of 2013-2014 will be the final year of the old regulations.

A prospectus went out on November 26 for vendors interested in vying for the 23 available contracts open for next year, including 10 from Yellowstone’s south gate. The prospectus will close January 27. Chosen operators will hold contracts for 10 years, through 2023-2024. All selected vendors must provide both snowmobile and snowcoach tours.

“We’re going to try to look for [businesses] that can do both,” Dale Reinhart, Yellowstone’s branch chief of operations in concessions management, told the Jackson Hole News & Guide. “They’re going to have to find out if they can team up with somebody, or expand or subcontract [out the service].”

According to the News & Guide qualified contract candidates must pledge to:

  • “Protect, conserve and preserve resources”
  • “Ensure a good overall visitor experience and provide reasonable rates”
  • Have a strong background in operating snowmobiles and snowcoach tours
  • Have the “financial ability to carry out the proposal”
  • “Take into account proposed franchise fees”

Because of the ensuing regulation change, preferential treatment is no longer being given to longstanding contracts. Reinhart notes that this will allow new companies to bid on the contracts.

“It’s because the old contracts just offered snow coaches, and now with the new final rule the new operators have to provide what we call ‘transportation events,’ ” he said. “That’s enough material change where we couldn’t keep the preferential right.”

March 15, 2013

New Snowmobile Regulations

Yellowstone National Park has proposed new guidelines for winter use of snowmobiles and snowcoaches within park borders. A hotly disputed topic between recreationists and conservationists for decades, the park service hopes to appease all parties with what Yellowstone Superintendent Dan Wenk calls “the most protective alternative that’s ever been proposed by Yellowstone or the National Park Service.”

New limits would increase past daily snowmobile limits from 318 to 480 while decreasing daily multiple-passenger snowcoach allowances from 78 to 60. The proposal, which would go into effect for the 2014-15 winter, aims to protect the park’s airshed, soundscapes, wildlife and visitors.

“I think it’s going to allow the quality of the resource to remain excellent, and also visitor experience to be excellent,” Wenk told the National Parks Traveler. “(This is) an impact-centric alternative. It makes the park quieter, and cleaner, than currently authorized. It develops new and very robust standards for both snowmobiles and snowcoaches.”

Debates over the usage of snowmobiles on Yellowstone’s snow-covered roads have raged since 1974 when the park adopted a master plan for the area’s winter use. Since then, park planners have reviewed and revised the plan after numerous attacks through lawsuits or threats of lawsuits.

The new plan will soon be open to 60 days of public comment.