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Exploring Snowy Yellowstone in Comfort

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A Snowcoach tour is the easiest and warmest way to tour Yellowstone National Park in the winter. Simply sit back and relax with your group in a heated cab. Your knowledgeable guide cruises along scenic routes while enlightening guests on the history, wildlife and geological features of the park. There are more than 12 Snowcoach tours serving all three Yellowstone Park entrances. Many tours offer multiple day vacation packages, which include snowmobiling and snowshoeing.

A tour will unlock the park's secrets for you, while a naturalist guides you through the splendors of the first national park. Snowcoach tours are available at Mammouth, Old Faithful, and at the south and west park entrances. Imagine a large van with an extended high top, tank treads for tires and skis extending at the front of the vehicle. The unique vehicles accommodate large groups of people in toasty interiors. Yellowstone Snowcoaches is the authorized Yellowstone Park Concessionaire, located close to the west gate. It offers a daily Old Faithful Tour and a Grand Canyon Tour four days per week. Both full-day tours begin at 8:30 a.m. and last until 5:00 p.m. Reservations are required with an arrival 30 minutes before the tour starts. For visitors staying in Jackson Hole, Llama Lou's Snowcoach Tours in Teton Village, Wyoming, offers daily tours in a 15-passenger Snowcoach van with an interpretive introduction and guide. For a group of friends or a family, a 7-passenger over-snow Ford Excursion SUV provides a more comfortable ride with an expert guide.

Three Bear Lodge is another authorized Yellowstone concessionaire. Located at the park's west gate, its tours start for the season in mid-December until mid-March. Many of the local Snowcoach guides also serve as snowmobile guides, and it's not uncommon for you to hear them say, "If you haven't seen Yellowstone in the winter, you haven't seen Yellowstone." Snowcoach and snowmobile tours run daily to both Old Faithful and the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone.

Black bears and Grizzlies live in Yellowstone, where they have been protected by the park for more than a century. For city slickers visiting the wild west, a few bear clues to look for are overturned or torn apart logs, excavated mammal burrows and claw marks on trees. Track sightings are distinguished by their size with Grizzly tracks more than 10 inches long. (If you're hiking, carry bear pepper spray.) Most importantly, don't feed the bears. As they say, a fed bear is a dead bear. When bears become accustomed to eating human food, their natural role in the environment is forever altered. They become aggressive intruders posing a threat to humans. Male Grizzlies weigh an average of 500 pounds, but can weigh up to 900 pounds; if the below zero temperature doesn't freeze you, a Grizzly sighting undoubtedly will. Male black bears weigh in at 210 to 315 pounds, and they're frequently seen in the park. At Yellowstone, depending on the weather, Grizzly and Black bears go into hybernation in October and November. The majority reappear by mid-March.

Where to Stay:
Yellowstone's Mammouth Hot Springs Hotel is the only winter lodging facility accessible by car. For skiers, there is a ski shop with supplies, rentals and lessons. Guided snowmobile tours are offered, and ice skating is available with gratis skate rentals. It won't be long before you glide across the ice to seek out the warming fire. Old Faithful Snow Lodge is only accessible by snow vehicles. The hotel's Bear Den's ski shop rents ski equipment and snowshoes. Snowcoach excursions run daily throughout the winter. For visitors choosing to stay outside of the park, Jackson Hole's romantic Rustic Inn touts the Iditarod Sled Dog Tour led by award winning veteran musher, Frank Teasley. A full or half-day tour will provide an exhilarating and memorable experience. Tailored tours for social and corporate groups can be arranged.

Arrival:
Many Yellowstone Park visitors fly into Jackson Hole Airport, which is located in Grand Teton National Park on Highway 89. Reserve a window seat on your flight for amazing scenery. The town of Jackson is eight miles south of the airport. The valley is 55 miles long and 13 miles wide, and Jackson is the major town in the valley. The south entrance of Yellowstone Park is 60 miles north on Highway 89. Travel another 40 miles to reach Old Faithful, which erupts every 90 minutes. Upscale Teton Village is another Jackson Hole community 12 miles northwest of Jackson. Home to the well-known Jackson Hole Mountain Resort and Skiing, the village includes the Aerial Tram, luxury hotels, ski and specialty shops, and restaurants.

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Jackson Hole Art:
Driving from the Jackson Hole Airport to Jackson, you will pass the National Elk Refuge (take a sleigh ride here). It's the largest established elk preserve in North America. With over 9,000 elk spending their winters on the refuge, visitors can take daily horse-drawn sleigh rides to view herds up close. The refuge's neighbor is the National Museum of Wildlife Art. With 14 galleries and over 5,000 works of art, the museum includes the largest public collection of the artwork of wildlife painter Carl Rungius. All of the exhibits focus on wildlife, making it unique among American art museums.