Welcome to the Yellowstone Ski Festival!

Posted by David Kask on Nov 04 2008 at 04:00PM PST

For over 29 years, cross country skiers from acrossNorth America and around the world have traveled to West Yellowstone, Montana’s Yellowstone Ski Festival to begin their Nordic ski season on the Rendezvous Ski Trails. Traditionally, the Yellowstone Ski Festival takes place during Thanksgiving week and this year will be no different. The dates for this year’s Yellowstone Ski Festival are November 25, 26, 27, 28 and 29, 2008. The event's highlights include a series of Nordic skiing clinics, the SuperTour races, the Try It and Buy It Gear Demo (the largest public gear demo of its type) and an Indoor Ski Show.

Whether you are a beginning skier or an experienced racer,West Yellowstone is THE place to start your ski season. Last year, over 2300 skiers from around theUnited States andCanada were inWest Yellowstone for the Yellowstone Ski Festival. Where else can you participate in ski clinics coached by former Olympic athletes and lifelong Nordic skiers, try out and purchase the latest ski gear and accessories, and share the Rendezvous Trails with so many great skiers? The Yellowstone Ski Festival offers all of that and more!

Skiing has a long history in the West Yellowstone area and dates back more than a century to when U.S. Cavalry soldiers patrolled Yellowstone National Park on skis they dubbed "agony boards". Skis were also used by early explorers and trappers as they traveled through this immense mountain valley. In 1908, the Union Pacific Railroad reachedWest Yellowstone and put the town on the map as the West Entrance toYellowstone National Park. Summertime tourism boomed but when deep snows closed the mountain passes and shut down rail travel,West Yellowstone was a world unto itself. With four to six feet of snow on the ground from November to April, skis were used for both travel and sport.

In the 1970's, Neal Swanson and his sons, Kent and Carl, saw the potential for expanding the cross country skiing opportunities inWest Yellowstone. With the help of Claude Coffin and his U.S. Forest Service crews,Kent put in many long hours fashioning the Rendezvous Ski Trails on the old logging roads south of town. Meanwhile, Carl was skiing competitively and in 1978 he won the Junior Nationals. In that same year, the Swansons were able to coax the U.S. Nordic Ski Team toWest Yellowstone for their November training camp. During each November since then, hundreds of our country's best skiers flock to this tiny mountain community for up to a month of physical and mental conditioning. In 2006, ski teams from Middlebury, Duluth East Nordic, theUniversity of New Mexico, the University of Alaska at Anchorage, Montana State University, the University of Minnesota and Whitman College all kicked off their ski seasons in West Yellowstone.

Biathletes are also present in large numbers during the Yellowstone Ski Festival. The U.S. Biathlon Association used the Rendezvous Ski Trails to train and compete for years before a permanent firing range was established adjacent to the trail system in 1985. The range is now considered one of the best in the country and it continues to draw biathletes from around the world for early season training.

We hope that we will see you at the 2008 Yellowstone Ski Festival. As usual the Festival will include all of the activities that took place last year and we are always looking for new ways to improve and diversify the week.  Stay tuned to this website for regular updates as our planning progresses.

On a final note, we hope that you will support our local sponsors and the equipment manufacturers who come to West Yellowstone for Thanksgiving. Without their support, the Yellowstone Ski Festival would not happen - please show them your appreciation!



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