WEST YELLOWSTONE, Mont. — Doug Edgerton is the man, literally, in West Yellowstone. A resident since 1971, he’s been the town’s primary nordic groomer for nearly as long, getting his starts as grooming snowmobile trails in the ’70s then towing bed springs and a track setter up on South Plateau for then-U.S. Ski Team coach Marty Hall and his crew for the first time in 1978.
Thirty-four years later, Edgerton, 62, has worked several Olympics and is widely considered a go-to guy when it comes to grooming. Technology has changed and the number of people seeking early cross-country skiing in November has grown significantly from the first fall training camp in West Yellowstone. In 1984, Edgerton started his own grooming-equipment business, Yellowstone Track Systems, and remains the man in charge to this day.
He’s the head and only groomer at Rendezvous Ski Trails, which occupies most of his nights in the winter, and works around the clock for nearly three weeks leading up to the annual Yellowstone Ski Festival (YSF) each November. This year, low snow forced organizers to move the SuperTour opening races from Rendezvous to South Plateau, exactly where skiing got going in West Yellowstone.
While the trails and roads up on the plateau, at elevations between 7,000 and 8,000 feet, are mostly used by snowmobiles after December, they’re also a dependable backup for skiers in November. Has West Yellowstone changed much then?
“Oh yeah,” Edgerton said. “The whole world has changed.”
This year’s lack of snow is nothing anyone can control, and it’s similar to what YSF organizers experienced in 2008 when they had to move the SuperTour races to South Plateau for the first time.
The difference this year is the amount of snow up on there, about 1,000 feet higher than town. With about a 3-inch base on Wednesday morning, it wasn’t much and about the least Edgerton had ever seen. Then again, Thanksgiving fell earlier this year, moving the festival up to mid-November.
At 3:45 a.m. Edgerton waited in his illuminated PistenBully Edge, one he recently bought used from Mount Baker in Washington, as a FasterSkier reporter hopped in. From there, he drove the 14-foot-wide snowcat several miles up an access road to the plateau and proceeded to groom the 14-foot-wide snowmobile routes: first the Whiskey Trail, then South Plateau.
Check out FasterSkier’s firsthand experience of the nearly four-hour trip as Edgerton prepped the trails for hundreds of skiers to use throughout the rest of the week (see video above). For an idea of where they went, and where people are skiing, refer to the map below.