Slednecking in West Yellowstone
West Yellowstone is always ranked in the top 5 snowmobile destinations in the U.S. so when my buddy, Mark, said he was going there with his brothers and nephews, I jumped at the opportunity. Mark’s brother’s, Glenn and Gary, flew in from Indiana along with Glenn’s three sons and I brought my youngest son, Fletcher, and another buddy, Scott, joined as well along with Mark’s son, Oliver. It was early in the snowmobiling season but Montana/Idaho had received some early snow and it had been cold so the conditions would be decent for mid-December.
I am a huge fan of road trips as they are usually to a fun destination and it is a great opportunity to see unique towns and people that you would otherwise miss if you took a plan. We departed on our 6 hour journey late in the afternoon so we didn’t arrive into West Yellowstone until late at night. We stayed at a cozy place called the Faithful Street Inn which is a collection of small cabins. The place was nothing fancy but who needs luxury on a boy’s snowmobile trip?
West Yellowstone is a quaint, funky town of about 2,000 people that survive on tourism from the adjacent park. I immediately fell in love with this town when I realized that you could snowmobile from your doorstep to anywhere in town. The town actually lifts their snowplows up an inch to allow snow to accumulate on the roads so that snowmobiles can zip around town. It felt like a throwback to the pioneer days of the late 1800s but instead of riding a horse – we saddled up on our snowmobiles.
The morning of the first day was quite cold with temps in the single digits so we took our time and went to an amazing diner called Running Bear Pancake House. Fletcher loved the pancakes and the low-key country vibe of this place. After breakfast, we put on our face masks and headed west towards Two Top. The Abbett brothers have been visiting West Yellowstone since they were young kids so they knew the trail system and the secret powder stashes like the back of their hands. On our way towards Two Top, we pulled off the trail and did some bushwacking before it opened up to a playful meadow with about a foot of untouched powder. We ripped through this field with many of us getting stuck but that is all part of snowmobiling. We then ventured up to Two Top which offered great views of Yellowstone and at the peak there were the most amazing collection of “snow ghost” (trees covered in snow).
From there, I have no idea where we were other than that we were in Idaho and after sledding around we stumbled upon a great restaurant which was packed with other snowmobilers. Post lunch, we found a long, straight stretch along Highway 20 and I thought I was drilling it by going 70 mph until I was passed by the Abbett posy going over 100 mph. We had now been sledding for about 5 or 6 hours so I assumed we would be heading home but that is not how the Abbetts role. It was getting close to dark but Glenn was still leading us through the trees searching for open pow fields and we found a gem hat was well worth the exploration. Once we got back on the trails, we flipped on our headlights and made our way home. In total, we rode in excess of 100 miles over 8 hours.
The next day started out again at the Running Bear dinner to Fletcher’s delight. We rode out on the Two Top loop trail and found an awesome zone of open space with undulating hills and ravines. Our group was a mixed bag of beginners (that being me) and experts so this playground proved to be an exercise in digging out sleds but it was super fun to push our limits. The Park City crew and Gary headed back to town after a few hours of sledding as we had to hit the road but not before going to a quintessential western saloon, the Buffalo Bar. There are not many places in the U.S. that you can pull a slot machine, shoot a game of pull and have a great burger under one roof. I kept expecting “Wild Bill” Hickok or “Billy the Kid” to walk through the door and ask for a shot of whiskey.
If you like to snowmobile, then West Yellowstone is a must visit not only for great sledding but to visit one of the last old, iconic western towns.