The Yellowstone Ski Festival

FasterSkierNovember 7, 2007

It’s Saturday night in West Yellowstone and the Yellowstone Ski Festival is less than three weeks away! I split the day between walking the ski trails with my dogs and watching 6 man football. The trails have been mowed, rolled and buffed out for the winter. One good snow storm and we’ll be skiing. We live for winter here in West Yellowstone, and our winter begins with the Yellowstone Ski Festival. This year the dates for the Yellowstone Ski Festival are November 20, 21, 22, 23, and 24, 2007.

By now, most of you are familiar with the Yellowstone Ski Festival but for those of you that aren’t here’s a super abbreviated history: 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, the major ski manufacturers started to attend and allow the public to demo the latest in Nordic equipment. And five years ago, the SuperTour races were added to the mix. 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.

A couple of years ago at this time, Bruce Adelsman suggested that I write a story that detailed special events, places to eat, and things to do during the Ski Festival. The piece went over very well, and I think that it helped folks plan their visit to West Yellowstone. Rather than reinvent the wheel, I thought I would update last year’s article with information for this year’s event…

Special Events and Highlights

Murray Banks to speak Friday night: If you are coming to West Yellowstone for the Yellowstone Ski Festival, you either love to ski, want to go fast this winter, or both! Our featured speaker this year is Murray Banks and his presentation will inspire and challenge us to get the most out of our training and racing and still love it when we finally pack it in! Murray is a two-time masters skiing world champion, a triathlon national champion and has been one of the top finishers in the Ironman Triathlon in Hawaii. And, like many of us, he struggles with balancing training time with the rest of his life and making sure his focus on performance doesn’t reduce his joy for skiing. His presentation will give us several tips for going fast while keeping it satisfying. Best of all, this presentation will be a blend of wonderful skiing stories, incredible humor, and the inspiration we need to get our ski season off to a great start!

Thanksgiving Day Turkey Trot: This will be a free fun run at 3:00 PM on Thanksgiving Day. It will start at the Rendezvous Trailhead Building and wind through the streets of West Yellowstone — even more exercise to help work up an appetite before Thanksgiving Dinner! Imagining Yellowstone Avenue full of Nordic skiers makes us smile. Look for details at Freeheel and Wheel once you get to town.

Stone Grinding by Boulder Nordic Sport: Boulder Nordic Sport will be back in West Yellowstone with a full-service stone-grinding ski shop again this year. BNS will travel to the event with two Tazzari stone grinding machines (skis that are stone ground generally absorb more wax and perform better) and staff to provide professional ski service at the season-opening event.

Daily Yoga and Pilates Classes: Yoga is back! This year, Robin Mochi and Katie Holtzman will be conducting 6:30 AM classes at the Holiday Inn for $10. It’s a great way to warm up before a day of skiing. Body Dynamics will also offer a series of $10 Pilates classes at 12 noon at the Holiday Inn.

Free Heel and Wheel Celebrates another Year in Business: Melissa Alder and Kelli Sanders opened Free Heel and Wheel eleven years ago. Since then, West Yellowstone’s favorite Nordic ski and bike shop has become a regional favorite. Free Heel and Wheel, located at 40 Yellowstone Avenue, is Nordic ski headquarters for the Yellowstone Ski Festival. Need skis? Coffee? Boots? Lunch? Gloves? Clothing? They’ve got it all. Free Heel and Wheel is the place to be during the Ski Festival (if you can get in the door). Stop in and say hi to Melissa, Kelli, Rachel, Sara, Brenda and Thor!

Restaurant Review

There are quite a few restaurants in West Yellowstone and we have worked hard to make sure that most of them are open during the Yellowstone Ski Festival. Here’s a brief review of most of the places that have committed to being open during this year’s event:

Bullwinkle’s Saloon and Retaurant – 19 Madison Avenue: Bullwinkle’s is a West Yellowstone landmark. With a wide selection of different entrees ranging from sandwiches to seafood, there is something for everyone at Bullwinkle’s. Beware Vikings fans — once you set foot in the door you are in Packer country. Jackie and Dennis also have a full bar with a great selection of beer and wine. Phone: 406-646-7974

The Canyon Street Grill — 22 N. Canyon Street: This place just feels good. It’s decorated like a 1950’s diner but it’s brightly lit, super clean and just, well, cool. The food’s great and the Turemans and their staff are friendly. Phone: 406-646-7548

Wild West Pizzeria — 14 Madison Avenue: Wild West has always been a big supporter of the Ski Festival and Aaron Hecht and his crew gets overrun during the event. Their pizza is incredible and, in case you didn’t know, Wild West is the source of the famous lasagna that Freeheel and Wheel serves every year. Strozzi’s Bar and the Red Door Lounge are right next door if you need a cold beer. Phone: 406-646-4400

TJ’s Bettola at the Airport: First, yes, the restaurant is really at the airport. And you’ll find the entrance to the airport a little over a mile north of town on the west side of the highway. TJ has been a Yellowstone Ski Festival supporter for the last several years and she does a wonderful job in the kitchen. She specializes in fine Italian cuisine and has a terrific selection of wines. Dinner reservations are highly recommended! TJ’s will be closed between now and November 17 so to make reservations (and, yes, some folks have already beat you to the punch) call 406-646-4700 and leave a message or call TJ directly on her cell phone at 406-799-6448.

Uncle Laurie’s Riverside Café — 237 Firehole Avenue: It’s tough to find a better breakfast and lunch spot in town. Another big Ski Festival supporter, Laurie serves everything from breakfast burritos to turkey sandwiches to Mexican dishes. She’s also got an espresso machine and she knows how to use it. This one’s a no-brainer. Laurie has extended her hours during the Ski Festival and will be open from 7:00 AM — 4:00 PM on Tuesday and Wednesday, closed Thanksgiving Day and open from 6:30 — 4:00 PM on Friday and Saturday. Phone: 406-646-7040

Bar-N-Ranch — west of town off Highway 20: This is where the restaurant owners go to eat on their night off. Enough said? Mike and Gayle Gavagan took on the Bar N Ranch a couple of years ago and they have turned it into a delight for in house guests and visitors alike. They have a totally new menu this year and you’ll definitely want to get reservations. Open every day and serving Thanksgiving dinner from 4:00 — 9:00 PM. Phone: 406-646-0300

Beartooth Barbecue — 111 N. Canyon Street: Beartooth is one of West Yellowstone’s most popular restaurants. Now in his fourth year of business, Eric Tipps serves up the real deal and he is serves it several ways: ribs, sandwiches and even salads. A great selection of beers makes Beartooth Barbecue a good call. Phone: 406-646-0227

Sydney’s Mountain Bistro — 38 Canyon Street: Sydney’s is a relatively new restaurant in West Yellowstone. Located at the intersection of Canyon Street and Madison Avenue (on the southwest corner), this small place serves lunch and dinner and opens at 11:00 AM. The menu includes wild salmon, Panang chicken and great steaks. Phone: 406-646-7660.

New York Diner — 215 N. Canyon Street: Yet another new restaurant! This one is owned and operated by Gail and Derek Auclair, the folks that run Yellowstone Lodge. If you’ve ever talked to either one of them, you’ve heard their accents and know darn well that they ought to know what a New Your Diner serves. The Diner menu includes grinders, chowder and pizza — and a glossary of “lingo” that includes terms like “pete-sir” (usually ordered with pepperoni and cheese) and “grinduh” (a submarine sandwich). Free delivery! Phone: 406-646-7375 or 406-646-7380.

Oregon Short Line — 315 Yellowstone Avenue: Speaking of the Holiday Inn, this is their restaurant. Meal packages will be available for guests but the restaurant is also open to the public. This is the most conveniently located restaurant for those of you that want to stay close to the action of the clinics and the Indoor Ski Show. Phone: 406-646-7365

Three Bear Lodge and Restaurant — 217 Yellowstone: The Three Bear Restaurant is only open to guests of the Lodge during the Ski Festival. They do have a great meal package, though, and are a big part of Ski Festival tradition. Phone: 406-646-7353

Things to Do

Cross country skiing: Of course, most of you will be here to ski so we ought to touch on that. The Rendezvous Ski Trails are at the south end of Geyser Street and can be reached by a short walk from any hotel in town. Look for the distinctive archway that marks the entrance to the trail system. In a good snow year, you can expect to find up to 25 kilometers of groomed trails. We don’t need too much snow to start grooming here — Doug Edgerton can begin work once 4 to 6 inches of snow have accumulated. This would be a good time to point out that West Yellowstone has a back-up trail system that we use in years when winter gets a late start. We call this area “the plateau” and some of you may have skied there on the first day of the 2004 Yellowstone Ski Festival. The plateau is 7 miles south of town, 1000′ higher in elevation and includes about 20 kilometers of trail — and we are already skiing there on ungroomed snow.

So, you are done skiing for the day and you’ve had your dinner. What to do? Well for starters, there are the evening wax clinics and seminars that place in conjunction with (and, in some cases, separately from) the Indoor Ski Show. All of those seminars are free and, with the exception of a few Fall Camp Clinic sessions, open to the public. But you say you’ve had your fill of wax tips, training information and talk about racing? Here are some other options:

Bear’s Den Cinema: Our little movie theatre does a great job of bringing in the latest and greatest films. They are usually open during the Ski Festival and the movie starts each night at 7:30 PM.

The Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center: There is a lot to be learned at the Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center. There is no finer place to see two of Yellowstone’s most incredible animals. There is a lot to be learned here — don’t miss it. For more info visit: .

Yellowstone IMAX: The IMAX is currently showing “Yellowstone”, “Bears”, Hurricane on the Bayou” and “Wolves”. This lineup may change a little before the Ski Festival starts but, regardless, if you’ve never seen an IMAX film, you should try to work an evening here into your plans. For more info visit: .

The Book Peddler: The Book Peddler, located on Canyon Street, not only serves up a killer latte; it is also a great place to shop for books about Yellowstone National Park and Western History.

Morning Glory Coffee and Tea: Morning Glory Coffee and Tea, located on Dunraven Avenue, is West Yellowstone’s brand new coffee roaster. Their spacious shop is perfect for relaxing and catching up on your reading while you sample the terrific, locally roasted coffee. For more info visit: .

I think that’s enough information for now. The main thing I’d like you to remember about the Yellowstone Ski Festival is that in addition to getting on the snow for some early season skiing, it’s about having fun, relaxing and reuniting with friends during the holidays. West Yellowstone is looking forward to your arrival, and we will do our best to ensure that you have a great visit. Think snow!

If you have any questions or if you would like more information about the Yellowstone Ski Festival, visit or email