It is now mid-July in West Yellowstone and, like much of the country, it’s hot, hot, hot! In fact, it’s so hot that I had a conversation the other night about how nice it will be when we can start wearing our down jackets again. You see, we aren’t used to the heat up here and we live for the winter time! And, incredibly, it’s already time to start thinking about kicking off the winter season with the Yellowstone Ski Festival. This year the Yellowstone Ski Festival dates are November 21, 22, 23, 24 and 25, 2006.
For almost 30 years, cross country skiers from across the country and around the world have started their ski season in West Yellowstone. Our location and elevation mean that we usually have enough snow to start grooming our trails by mid-November. In fact last season we started grooming on November 6th! Back in the late 1970’s, the US Ski Team started to make annual trips to West Yellowstone and soon after that, Drew Barney and Dick Hunt started a series of Nordic ski clinics during the week of Thanksgiving. Eventually, Drew and Dick invited the major ski manufacturers to attend and allow the public to demo the latest in Nordic equipment. Today, this gathering of skiers is called the Yellowstone Ski Festival and the event includes skate and classic clinics for skiers of all levels, the Try It and Buy It Gear Demo, an Indoor Ski Show and the NorAm XC Supertour races.
Attendance at the 2005 Yellowstone Ski Festival was up over 2004. We estimate that close to 3000 skiers were in West Yellowstone to celebrate the start of the ski season. Overall the week was a great success: we had support from the local restaurants, the snow fell before the Ski Festival started and we were treated to a series of bluebird days. It’ll be tough to top 2005 but we are sure going to try!
So what can you expect for the 2006 Yellowstone Ski Festival? Let’s start with the mainstay aspects of the week:
The Fall Camp Clinics:
The 2006 Yellowstone Ski Festival Fall Camp Nordic ski clinics will be conducted during Thanksgiving week from November 21st through 25th. The Fall Camp Nordic ski clinics are open to skiers of all levels but we assume that 1) you have at least some experience on skis and 2) you’d like to learn expand your abilities beyond those required for basic touring. With the exception of the Junior Racer's clinic, participants must be 16 years of age or older to register.
The 3 and 5 day clinics teach both classic and skate skiing techniques. Our most frequently asked clinic question is: I just want to learn to skate ski – why do I need to know how to classic ski? The answer to that question is that the fundamentals of skate skiing (high hips, weight transfer, balance, etc ) lie in classic skiing technique. With years and years of coaching under our belts, we feel that to be a good skate skier you must also learn to be a good classic skier. Clinic participants should be sure to bring both classic (waxable) and skate skis to West Yellowstone.
On the morning of the first day, our staff of elite instructors will assess each skier's level of ability and divide clinic participants into small groups based on ability. You will ski with that group for the duration of your clinic. Each day is broken up into two on-snow training sessions – one in the morning and one in the afternoon. There are 6 different clinics to choose from:
1. The traditional three day clinic will take place from November 23rd — 25th. The fee is $240.00
2. The three day women's clinic will take place from November 23rd — 25th. The curriculum for the women’s clinic is the same as that of the traditional three day clinic. The only difference between the two is that the women’s clinic is coached by women and, of course, enrollment is limited to women. The fee is $240.00
3. The five day clinic will take place from November 21st — 25th. The fee is $340.00
4. The half-day skate clinics will take place on the morning of November 24th or 25th. The fee is $40.00. This clinic is limited to 8 people per clinic per day – sign up now!
5. The one day skate clinics will take place on November 24th or 25th. The fee is $75.00. This clinic is also limited to 8 people per clinic per day – sign up now!
6. The two day Junior Racer's clinic for ages 11 to 15 will take place on November 24th and 25th. The fee is $140. We need a minimum of 8 participants to conduct this clinic. The clinic is full when we reach 16 participants.
Four years ago, I participated in the three day Fall Camp Clinic. By the end, my whole approach to skiing had changed. Most importantly, I gained an understanding of how much more fun I would have on my skis if I improved my technique. I don’t think there is a better group of instructors anywhere — register now, you won’t regret it.
Try it and Buy It Gear Demo/Indoor Ski Show:
By the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, all of the major cross country ski, boot, pole and wax manufacturers have their tents set up at the junction of the Rendezvous Ski Trail System and the South Plateau Road. They are there for one reason: so the general public can try out the latest Nordic ski equipment. The manufacturers know their gear inside and out and can help you find the best skis, boots and poles to suit your needs. It’s really an incredible service — you can literally test drive the skis that you are interested in purchasing. In the evening, all of the manufacturers move to Hayden Hall at the West Yellowstone Conference Hotel where they hold wax clinics and continue to answer all of your technical questions.
The NorAm XC Supertour:
So, you come to West Yellowstone, you participate in the clinics, you shop for new gear and then what? How about watching world class skiers compete in the NorAm XC Supertour? Last year’s event included most of the Nordic skiers that went on to compete in the 2006 Olympic Games in Torino. I can’t overemphasize the importance of the races to the Festival. For me, watching and sharing the trail with these great skiers is both inspiring and instructional. The NorAm XC Supertour is the icing on the Yellowstone Ski Festival cake. This year the Classic races will be held on November 24th and the Sprint races will held on November 25th.
Last year, we expanded the events and programs that we offer during the week of the Yellowstone Ski Festival. We plan on continuing all of those events and programs this year. They include:
Kid’s Recreation Program:
We plan to expand our offerings for children again this year. First of all, the Montana Outdoor Science School will be back in town to run a series of clinics for children. The details of those programs are still being worked out and will be posted on the Ski Festival website as soon as more information becomes available. And like last year, we plan to work with the Recreation Coordinator for the Town of West Yellowstone to create other kid friendly options. As soon as we work out the details, we will post the information on our website.
Thanksgiving Day Turkey Trot:
At about 40 participants, last year’s Turkey Trot was a lot bigger than I thought it would be. So this year, we’ll get a little more serious about the planning. We won’t, however, get to serious about the event itself. We’d like to encourage everyone to dress up in some kind of costume and have a great time as they run through town and work up an appetite before Thanksgiving Dinner! Again details will be posted on our website as they become available.
100 Meter World Record Attempt:
Last year, Kevin Hochtl broke the US 100 meter World Record here in West Yellowstone. Sponsored by the USSA, the main event was open to a very limited number of qualified participants. After those folks were done, the course was open to anyone that wanted to take a shot at the record. Held right in front of the Rendezvous Ski Trails archway, the event was an unqualified success.
I know its summertime and you’re probably thinking about swimming or trail running or cycling – but it’s not too early to start thinking about the 2006 Yellowstone Ski Festival. It’s a great place to start the season, learn new techniques, refine your skills and become a better skier. It’s a great place to shop for your next pair of skis. It’s a great place to watch expert skiers in action. And it’s a great place to spend Thanksgiving with 3000 other Nordic skiers. Make your plans now!