As winter quickly approaches here in Yellowstone Country we are reminded of the vast power of Mother Nature and how she can transform landscapes with the bat of a lash. Right now we are in the transition period between summer and winter....some may call this fall. Up here we call it the shoulder season. Mother Nature was somewhat sensitive in rushing us into the winter season, in fact a week ago it was in the 60s and sunny. Visitors were wearing flip flops and shorts. We are now burdened with digging out the puffy jackets and boots and getting ready for another winter in Yellowstone Country....but HEY it's not soo bad. For recreationists this means skiing, snowmobiling, and snow coach tours into the park. It's a great time to see the park in a different light....snow-covered pines, beautiful snow-covered peaks, and elk and other wildlife abound. How good does that sound? If you haven't been to Yellowstone Country in the winter...you are seriously missing out. Here are a few tips for staying warm and prepared in the backcountry while visiting Yellowstone in the winter:
1.) Layer - It is extremely important to layer in this weather...it can go from sunny to snowy in a matter of minutes and having a breathable base layer helps control your inner body temp whether hot or cold. Next is a warm fleece or wool layer. This will keep in that heat when it does get chilly. Lastly a waterproof outer layer. This will keep the wind, rain and snow from penetrating your human fortress and keep you warm and happy throughout the days activities.
2.) Over dress - While I don't suggest wearing extra socks, as this can sometimes cut off the circulation to your feet, especially in ski boots, I do suggest being over prepared. If that means bringing an extra pair of socks in your pack.....better safe than sorry. I also suggest wearing some sort of protection over your face. Sure you look like a bank robber, but who cares, your warm and your face isn't drying out from the bitter winds that tend to blow from time to time up here. Gloves are equally important. I find leather works the best especially if you waterproof them.
3.) Prepare - In this environment you have to prepare for anything and everything. Know where you are going. If you are doing a snow coach or snowmobile tour, ask the guide to show you on a map where you are going so you at least have an idea. If they happen to not know, maybe you should choose another guide service! Bring a snack in your bag in case you're out for a bit longer than expected. Also bring a set of matches or lighter just in case. While 99.9% of the time everything will work out as planned, being prepared will only help keep your mind at ease and focused on having fun!
4.) Know your Limits - Nobody knows us better than ourselves. Know your limits and stick to them...no matter what the person next to you is doing. Knowing your limits on the slopes, out on the snowmobile trails, or in the field will keep you from pushing yourself too far, which in the winter time can be a tough mistake. Trust me, there are some burly, tough, in-shape people that live up here...what they can endure may be far different from what you can. Know your limits, don't try to push yourself too far, and you will come out satisfied.
Following these simple rules will greatly increase your enjoyment of Yellowstone Country in the winter. For most of us that live up here this stuff becomes second nature. That way we can focus on what matters: that next powdery ski run that your going to dominate...or that beautiful elk battle you are about to photograph, you know the important stuff!!