yellowstone in winter

Especially after a messed up year like this, making plans for an adventurous snowmobile trip in the great outdoors seems like a great use of summer time. And, it just so happens now is the time to get your application in for a trip to one of the most beautiful and adventurous places in North America.

The National Park Service is opening the application process for non-commercially-guided snowmobile trips into Yellowstone National Park this week. Applications will be accepted from August 1-31, with “winners” of this annual lottery notified sometime in September.

Snowmobiling in the park was in severe doubt in the 1990s, when a battle raged between various groups over whether motorized access to the park and specifically winter motorized access should be allowed. After much study, debate and a plethora of lawsuits, snowmobiling access was continued but only on very restricted, commercially guided tour utilizing “Best-Available Technology” machines.

Starting in 2013, the newer Non-Commercially Guided Snowmobile Access Program was added. It allows one group of up to five snowmobiles to enter Yellowstone each day from each of the park’s four winter entrances. Those rides much follow the very restricted access rules and must utilize new Best Available Technology (BAT) rules, but are allowed to set their own pace. However, rules state that the non-commercial visitors be familiar with snowmobile safety, general first aid and snowmobile repair.

After the lottery, any unclaimed or cancelled permits for unguided tours will be available on a first-come, first served basis starting on October 1. Here’s a link to find out more.

Yellowstone National Park snowmobile

Restrictions & Requirements

The following rules are posted on the National Park Service website:

Non-commercial guides are responsible for ensuring that everyone in their group complies with park regulations. Non-commercial guides should be familiar with snowmobile safety, general first aid, snowmobile repair, the park road system, as well as park regulations. In addition:

  • Non-commercial guides may not charge a fee; these trips are for friends and family groups only.
  • Maximum group size is five snowmobiles per permit.
  • All snowmobiles must be registered and certified as meeting NPS requirements for New Best Available Technology (BAT). No side-by-side machines with tracks are allowed. BAT snowmobiles can be rented from local businesses.
  • All snowmobile operators must:
  • Non-commercial guides may lead no more than two trips per winter season.
  • To lead an overnight trip (maximum of three days and two nights), non-commercial guides must secure a multi-day permit in the lottery.

Make sure to read more about the logistics & regulations involved in planning a safe, fun trip.

Editor’s Note: Every issue of Snow Goer magazine includes in-depth sled reports and comparisons, aftermarket gear and accessories reviews, riding destination articles, do-it-yourself repair information, snowmobile technology and more! Subscribe to Snow Goer now to receive issues delivered to your door 6 times per year for a low cost.

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