Sunday, December 14, 2014

A Quiet Revolution

Dusting Continues
park opens to tires
.. This is not the warmest mid December on record. It's getting close.
.. Around town there may be six inches of snow on the ground. The plow piles are not too deep and there is some bare pavement on some streets and sidewalks. The neighbors are not planting tomatoes just yet. Overnight lows are in the mid teens and daytime highs nudge the low 30's on occasion.
.. Around our village winter activities are proceeding in their normal fashion as the neighbors pray for some substantial snowfall. We are getting intermittent  dustings of an inch or two when the moisture content of the air is adequate - nothing to write home about.
.. Tomorrow Yellowstone National Park will open for over-the-snow-travel and visitation. Obsolete vehicles with skis or metal tracks will have to wait for additional snow before they enter. Snowmobile traffic will be limited and dependent on this evening's snowfall - if any.
.. The ski festival was lucky to have some snow and managed to complete all events including the long races, ski camp, and biathlon courses.
.. Our first sled dog race will be on the 18th and the dogs will run no matter what the conditions. The trails through the trees are snow covered and packed. There are a few patches of mud and slush in a couple of short open stretches but the dogs can handle it. Snow is predicted for the coming week and if it all comes true there could be 6 to 8 inches of dry powder by Friday, next. We'll see.
.. There is a quiet revolution taking place with winter travel in Yellowstone National Park. This is the second year of a trial for innovative vehicles with large low pressure tires for over-the-snow-travel. Large vans and small buses are being equipped with tires up to 48" in diameter with bead lock rims and air pressures of 4 to 8 pounds.
.. Last year the trials were a success beyond any anticipated outcome. The snow covered roads were not badly rutted by the tires, as they are by other vehicles. The visitors experienced a quieter and smoother ride in the park. The vehicles are warm and well insulated, higher than others, and visibility is excellent.
.. Winter use environmental standards for noise and emissions have been met or exceeded by the trial vehicles and the current Best Available Technology, (BAT,) standards for winter use are undergoing scrutiny in light of this trial program.
.. The current BAT standards were developed over the last 15 years and depended on the previously available vehicles that were used in the winter in the park.
.. As a result of the current standards the snowmobile manufacturers have produced sleds that are cleaner and quieter per passenger mile than any of the other modes of transportation. The trial vehicles with tires may result in a better solution for winter travel than all the other vehicles currently in use.
.. There is also some talk of allowing sled dogs for limited travel in Yellowstone. And, of course, there is always a small but persistent cry for plowing and greater public access during the winter.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013


Park Openings Rescheduled!

-- Just released: "Roads from west entrance to open on the 19th."
-- That's just four more days, (probably just 3 as you read this.)
-- The official news release is HERE.

Sunday, February 17, 2013


Some News & Changes

-- Two month long sessions are being offered this year. Fifty youth will be recruited from around the nation. Live and learn in Yellowstone. Work and play in Yellowstone. Get paid for the experience.
-- Yellowstone's YCC Program recruits youth from all social, economic, ethnic, and racial backgrounds. Corps members work together under adult leadership to complete conservation projects such as rehabilitation of trails, campground restoration, and a wide variety of resource management and maintenance projects. Participants and staff develop their job and leadership skills while further exploring personal values, gaining self-esteem, expanding their awareness of work ethics, and learning firsthand about environmental and conservation issues. Corps members will also participate in evening and weekend recreational activities and discover the many options for careers in the National Park Service and other land management agencies.
News Release: HERE.
Information: HERE.

-- Yellowstone National Park is seeking public comment on a proposal to increase the daily fee charged to stay in campgrounds operated by the National Park Service.
-- For the Mammoth Hot Springs and Norris campgrounds which have flush toilets, the daily fee would be increased from $14 to $20.
-- At Tower Fall, Lewis Lake, Indian Creek, Pebble Creek, and Slough (slew) Creek campgrounds which have vault toilets, the daily camping fee would go from $12 to $15.
-- Individuals who hold a Senior Pass or Access Pass would continue to receive a 50-percent discount on camping fees charged at these National Park Service operated campgrounds.
-- The Bridge Bay, Canyon, Grant, and Madison campgrounds and the Fishing Bridge RV Park in Yellowstone are operated by Xanterra Parks & Resorts. Daily camping fees at these sites range from $20.50 to $45.00. They would not be affected by this proposal.
News Release: HERE.
Comment HERE.

-- More than a century after U.S. Army troops harnessed the power of flowing water to light Fort Yellowstone, the park is generating electricity from water again.
-- The new Mammoth micro hydro plant relies on naturally-occurring water dynamics. It captures energy from the water that flows approximately 560 feet downhill from the combined Gardner River, Panther Creek and Indian Creek water intakes on Swan Lake Flats to the existing storage reservoir at Mammoth's water treatment plant through an existing 12-inch pipe. A newly-installed generator and turbine rely on an average water flow volume of 4 cubic feet per second to produce electricity.
-- The new plant is expected to generate an average of 175 kilowatts of energy depending on the normal fluctuation of the water supply, though it is capable of producing up to 230 kilowatts. Based on an "up-time" of 80 percent (20 percent calculated for maintenance down time), that equates to more than 1.2 million kilowatt hours supplied to the park each year. The new technology also allows for this fully sustainable energy source to be synchronized directly with Northwestern Energy's electric grid, providing a savings to the park's electrical bill of approximately $73,000 annually.
News Release: HERE.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

They're Here

SnoBear on left, Grizz on right.
Note the heavy track system and suspension on the skis of the Grizz.
Photo from SnoBear Facebook Page.

Friday, January 06, 2012

A Bit Of Information


.. FACT: There is a new SnoBear dealership in West Yellowstone.
.. FACT: There are two SnoBear vehicles in the neighborhood.
.. FACT: One vehicle is in Mammoth, Yellowstone National Park, and areas nearby with enough snow to use it.
.. FACT: One vehicle is in West Yellowstone, Montana and occasionally on Hebgen Lake, Parade Rest Guest Ranch, and environs.
FACT: The vehicles are light, nimble, clean, quiet, modern, and initially designed for ice fishing.
FACT: Aircraft-design windows do not fog up when in use.
RUMOR: Yellowstone National Park is exploring the possibility of buying a fleet of these vehicles, (or a larger custom-built model,) to replace or augment their aging fleet of van-conversions and Bombardier vehicles.
RUMOR: A custom built, (to Park specifications,) vehicle should arrive in Mammoth within a month, or six weeks at the latest.
RUMOR: A ski shuttle business is in the offing for back country areas around West Yellowstone and perhaps in Yellowstone National Park.
RUMOR: These vehicles are cleaner and quieter than any winter use vehicle currently mandated by Yellowstone National Park for winter over-the-snow tourism.
RUMOR: These vehicles provide comfort and convenience that is light-years beyond that of any vehicle currently being used for winter tourism in Yellowstone National Park.
RUMOR: Yellowstone National Park officials believe that the winter visitor experience will be greatly enhanced by the use of these vehicles.
RUMOR: Winter-stressed animals do not even look up as these vehicles pass them.
SPECULATION: The introduction of these vehicles into the winter travel mix in Yellowstone National Park could be as revolutionary as the banning of Snow Planes, or the mandate for only commercial travel on all roads except the road to Cooke City.
SPECULATION: Yellowstone National Park is using the vehicles for VIP tours.
SPECULATION: These vehicles are being tested in an effort to comply with any current or future EIS winter-use requirements.