It’s been another scorching summer here in West Yellowstone. Like much of the US, we had a low snow winter and we are following that up with a super dry summer — the ground here is parched and many of us are looking forward to the return of winter and a giant accumulation of snow. Just thinking about the possibilities makes it feel cooler here. One thing is for sure; when the snow does start to fly we’ll be ready to kick off the season with the Yellowstone Ski Festival. This year the Yellowstone Ski Festival dates are November 20, 21, 22, 23 and 24, 2007.
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 10th! 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 SuperTour races.
Attendance at the 2006 Yellowstone Ski Festival was up over 2005. We estimate that close to 3200 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 and, thankfully, during the Ski Festival and everyone had a great time.
So what can you expect for the 2007 Yellowstone Ski Festival? Let’s start with the mainstay aspects of the week:
The Fall Camp Clinics: The 2007 Yellowstone Ski Festival Fall Camp Nordic ski clinics will be conducted during Thanksgiving week from November 20th through 24th. 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 5 different clinics to choose from:
1. The traditional three day clinic will take place from November 22nd — 24th. The fee is $250.00
2. The three day women's clinic will take place from November 22nd — 24th. 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 $250.00
3. The five day clinic will take place from November 20th — 24th. The fee is $350.00
4. The one day skate clinics will take place on November 23rd or 24th. The fee is $75.00. This clinic is also limited to 8 people per clinic per day – sign up now!
5. The two day Junior Racer's clinic for ages 11 to 15 will take place on November 23rd and 24th. The fee is $140. We need a minimum of 8 participants to conduct this clinic. The clinic is full when we reach 16 participants.
Five 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 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 SuperTour? 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 SuperTour is the icing on the Yellowstone Ski Festival cake. This year the Sprint races will be held on November 23rd and the Classic races will held on November 24th.
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.
Thanksgiving Day Turkey Trot: Last year’s Turkey Trot was cancelled after 6 inches of snow fell on a solid layer of ice that coated all the streets in town. We didn’t feel that running the event was worth the risk. My guess is that we will try again this year. 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.
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 2007 Yellowstone Ski Festival. It’s only 112 days away! 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!