View Full Version : Yellowstone/Togwotee/Wyoming Range

03-22-2010, 01:13 PM
So... Our planned trip to Northern Ontario - scheduled for March 6 to 13, got cancelled at the last minute due to lack of snow and warm weather. Actually, the tour company/guide called us four days before we were scheduled to leave and offered to give us our money back. First time he's done that in 30 years! At the last minute, our organizer - Bob - put together a trip out west for about the same cost, including sled rentals and airfare! (Just goes to show you how hard the economy has hit the snow industry.) We stayed in downtown Jackson Hole at the 49er and took day trips each day for four days of riding. Guide picked us up at the motel each day and dropped us off in the evening. None of us had ever ridden the high back country before - we're long-time high mileage trail riders. We were determined to get a great trip in, so it was time to adapt. Day one, Yellowstone; day two, Togwotee, days three and four, Grey's River (Wyoming Range). We had serious issues with the rental sleds (only the Arctic Cats - the Polaris sleds never had a problem). We only got halfway through the Yellowstone tour and had a major issue on the first trip to the Grey's River area. The tour company made good on all accounts, but we really only got about 2.5 days of riding in. It was still awesome. The guide was a serious expert and one fo the best mountain riders in the area with over 30 years experience as a guide in the back country. He took us past tracked up areas, up horse trails and through narrow openings, into fresh untouched deep powder. He also kept us out of trouble.

I doubt we'll change from trail riding to boondocking, but we all had an amazing time. We'll defintely be going out there again.

Here are some Yellowstone shots:

03-22-2010, 01:16 PM
More Yellowstone shots:

03-22-2010, 01:22 PM
Pictures from Togwotee area: (Our Guide, Dave, is the guy in red in the first picture. He was a HOOT!)

03-22-2010, 01:25 PM
nice...are you addicted to the west now?

03-22-2010, 01:26 PM
More from the Togwotee area: (Sundown over the four Tetons.)

03-22-2010, 01:28 PM
nice...are you addicted to the west now?

You bet! I've loved skiing at Jackson Hole for many many years, but I can't wait to go back and sled there. (I still like trail riding in Wiconsin and the UP, though - and I hope we can get that Ontario trip in next year!)

03-22-2010, 01:31 PM
Saved the best for last - the mountains above the Grey's River in the Wyoming Range. Here, there was actually more snow and a lot of deep, untracked powder. We also encountered some hard wind-packed snow up very high.

03-22-2010, 01:44 PM
More from Grey's River area: (Third shot is our group organizer - Bob. Thanks, Bob, for all your hard work organizing TWO trips!)

03-22-2010, 01:46 PM
More from Grey's River:

03-22-2010, 01:51 PM
Lunch at the Box Y Ranch: (Its true, look at the brand over the fireplace/furnace!)

03-22-2010, 01:54 PM
All in all, what a way to save a snowmobile trip-gone-bust! Go West! I can't wait to go again. (By the way, the mechanics at the Togwotee Mountain Lodge saved the day for our us by having enough spare parts to fix our broken down kitty. We'll probably rent from them next time.)

03-22-2010, 05:20 PM
Marty, Looks like a great trip and lots of fun.

Was the Artic Cat kicked in the groin just before the pic?

03-22-2010, 06:15 PM
That was my third Arctic Cat for the trip. On that one, a bolt came out of the connecting assembly - a milled aluminum block. The thing was hel in there with lblue ock-tight. The result was a ski flopping around as I was trying to make a turn at a relatively low speed. Two minutes earlier, I was going about 60 mph down a straight-a-way. If I'd lost that ski then, I'd have lost control of the sled for sure and wrecked the sled - at which point everyone would have been blaming me for driving too fast (or DUI, or some other deal). Makes me wonder about some of those serious crashes we read about. As for the first AC - the higher mileage Yellowstone four strokers just kept overheating. The second AC was a nice mountain sled which looked to be in excellent working condition - until the recoil cheezed. That's the one the mechanic a TML fixed while we ate lunch. After the third one damn near wrecked me - our guide found us all some nice Polaris Shifts.

03-22-2010, 06:56 PM
Glad to here you made it off that one OK.
I can only imagine that letting loose at trail speeds!

This may be a testament to the "why we are loyal to a brand of sleds" thread...I keep riding things that don't mame!! (YET) Knockin' on some wood.

Looks like an awesome trip, especially on short notice. Some buddy's, who don't ride much, want to go out West next year on a fly in, rent, fly home deal. Was it as fun as the pix represent? Looks like with a little extra fresh snow it would have been even better!

Thats the beauty of this sport, memories are what we do it for!!


03-22-2010, 11:39 PM
great pics what was ur rental costs total costs

03-23-2010, 12:15 PM

Yes, it was an absolute gas. While none of us had much (if any) experience as boondockers, there are ways a really good guide can bring you along and get you far, far off-trail. We actually told our guide we wanted to favor riding some of the awesome trails - and his reply was: "that's what all first timers from the flat-land say." He also told us to trust him and if, at any time we wanted to head back to the groomed trail, he'd take us. That business lasted about one hour. With the right sled and a little practice, and a guide who keeps you away from avalanche risk (which was considerable), you can really get into some steep, deep powder. Ths photos don't really do justice to how deep the powder was near Togwotee and in the high bowls above Grey's River - and this was an off-year for snow out there! One of our guys literally buried his sled and it took six of us a half-hour to get it out.

As for brand loyalty, I'm actually a Ski-doo guy. Also, I really liked the Arctic Cat I was riding, right up to the point it almost wrecked me. The sled climbed several very steep ridges in deep snow and was very nimble for a long track. But, I was very surprised that the steerring arm didn't have a through bolt through the ball joint, but rather just a bolt going into a milled aluminum block - held there with lock-tight.

Your friends would probably have a great time riding out there. As long as you go into the trip with the thought that its a new adventure, you'll have a lot of fun. The mileage isn't high, but the terrain is just so awesome. You'll want to rent sleds unless you own top of the line long-track mountain sleds. I think its far more economical to fly out there, than to trailer your own machines. Our airfare was $285 round trip. Like I said in my original post, we're not about to give up great trail riding and become serious boondockers. However, in a year when the only snow was out West, we had to go for it or cancel the trip entirely.


03-23-2010, 12:39 PM

I'm not sure what the sled rental cost was because it was a package deal, but the airfare was $285 round trip to Jackson Hole from Chicago. The outbound flight was a direct flight and the return, while scheduled for a non-stop, had to divert to Denver for fuel due to delays in Chicago. The total trip cost was about $1400 for four days of riding. That price included airfare, shuttle bus service to/from the airport to the motel, rental sleds, a guide, a nice lunch daily, Yellowstone park permits and five nights of lodging at a nice motel in downtown Jackson Hole. Then, because we had out Yellowstone tour cut way short due to sleds breaking down and because we had to end one day at about 11:00am and drag a broken down sled 30 miles back to the trailhead, the tour/rental company gave us 75% off one day and then 100% off the next. So, in the end, then fixed cost for the trip was about $1100. Add to that some rather expensive dinners and drinking in Jackson Hole and misc. expenses and I'd say I spent about $1600. Another thing about renting is that the fuel/oil costs are included.

Now, I'm told that demand was exceptionally low this year due to the economy. I saw first hand how empty the town of Jackson was. I ski there frequently and I've never seen the town so empty. That's a combination of mediocre snow conditions at the ski resort and the economy. The point is that I doubt our trip would have been so cheap during a good year for snow and/or an improved economy. I've tried to get into Yellowstone on short notice before and been turned away (and that's when they allow hundreds more sleds in there per day). In contrast, we got a reservation for the Yellowstone tour with only three days notice.

Our initial source for putting the trip together was Jackson Hole Central Reservations. They turned us on to the motel, rental/tour company, etc... and they got us the package rates. Our group organizer also busted his but to pull the trip together on such short notice.

03-23-2010, 12:50 PM
As an aside, there are many ways to do a trip out West. You can go with day-tours as we did, you can stay at a lodge right on the trail (like Togwotee or Brooks Lake Lodge), you can trailer your own sleds or rent sleds, - there are lots of options. That's part of the beauty of the sport - there's something for everybody. Costs will probably go up next year(assuming the ecomony improves as we all hope it does), but this kind of a trip can be done very economically or very expensively, depending on your approach. I liked the way we did it, and I'm sure we'll do it again soon - just as soon as we get that Ontario trip under our belt!

03-23-2010, 01:11 PM
(By the way, the mechanics at the Togwotee Mountain Lodge saved the day for our us by having enough spare parts to fix our broken down kitty. We'll probably rent from them next time.)

Top notch dude's, 'eh! If you bring your own Poo or AC they have the expertise there to take care of you. Sold a couple of items to my group when we were out there this early March.

03-23-2010, 01:19 PM
Absolutely! How many outfitters have spare recoils on hand? (Unless they know they're prone to failure, I guess.) True mountain outfitters are just very resourceful folks - couple that with a good mechanic and you're covered!

03-24-2010, 01:02 AM
was it hard to get used to a different ride, or just planting into a seat and go? Did you guys all bring your own gear or did they supply that as well? did that include beacons?

03-24-2010, 01:13 AM
was it hard to get used to a different ride, or just planting into a seat and go? Did you guys all bring your own gear or did they supply that as well? did that include beacons?

You can rent everything you need. I have aquired my gear a pc. at a time. We actually had Tog. Mechanics replace a torn track on a sled last night while we ate dinner.

03-24-2010, 01:21 AM
marty so i asume to get the cheaper rates u went with cheap motel i know theirs a motel 6 there witch one did u stay at

03-26-2010, 12:01 PM
was it hard to get used to a different ride, or just planting into a seat and go? Did you guys all bring your own gear or did they supply that as well? did that include beacons?

It was relatively easy to adjust to the longer track for trail riding - you just have to go a lot slower. At 60 mph, I thought I was going to lose it. The long track really shimmys. It took more effort to learn how to handle the sled in deep snow or on steep grades. You get the hang of it and a good guide can help you a lot. Some things seem counter-intuitive and take practice, like side-hilling. It was a lot of fun and the ability to float through powder at the "top of the world" was spectacular.

We brought our own gear - which I would highly suggest. Your trail riding gear might be a little heavy, but you can strap a backpack to your sled with bungy cords to store any layers you take off during the day. You will defintely be working harder (and sweating more) than you're used to. The rental clothing is lame and their helmets are next to useless (we saw several groups "suiting up" at the rental shop).

As for beacons, at the risk of taking hits from every boondocker on this site, there are two schools of thought. Each one is valid. On the one hand, if you're going to use an avalanche beacon, you really need proper training in avalanche response. I'm not talking about some lame one or two hour session. Everyone who uses a beacon becomes a first responder. On the other hand, if you follow a guide who is committed to avoiding areas where there is a significant risk of avalanche, you won't need a beacon. Our guide was one of the most highly regarded backcountry guides operating out of Jackson. Everyone knew him. Watching him ride was as much fun as riding ourselves. His philosophy was simple. He'll study the terrain and the conditions, the looks of the cornices, the "feel" of the snow setting up, the exposure of the "faces", etc... and he'll keep us out of danger. Lets face it, the guide has your life in his hands in numerous ways - including the way he deals with avy risks. On several ascents into some fresh-looking bowls, our guide turned us around and headed back down, explaining that the avy risk was too high. You can certainly rent beacons, they don't cost a lot. But I thinks its a bad deal to have one on your body without knowing (really knowing) how to respond to others who are trapped in an avalanche. [Let the bashing begin .. I won't respond.]

03-26-2010, 12:03 PM
marty so i asume to get the cheaper rates u went with cheap motel i know theirs a motel 6 there witch one did u stay at

Yes, the 49er was an inexpensive motel. However, it was very nice. I wouldn't call it a cheap motel. Just compared to the resorts out there, it was inexpensive. I wish I knew the nightly rate, but I never found that out as the rate was included in the tour price.

03-26-2010, 12:18 PM
You can rent everything you need. I have aquired my gear a pc. at a time. We actually had Tog. Mechanics replace a torn track on a sled last night while we ate dinner.

Awesome. Hope you tipped him!

03-26-2010, 12:20 PM

I am not going to bash you, but I can not sit idle and let such poor advice be in this thread.

First off, an avalanche beacon should be REQUIRED gear for traveling in avalanche country. ANY avalanche expert will tell you that. Putting your entire safety in a guide who may or may not really know that much about avalanches is just not wise. Just because someone rides in avalanche country every day does not make them an expert in avalanches. Plus any real expert in avalanches will tell you that there is no real expert in them. Plenty of avalanche forecasters have themselves been caught in an avalanche.

Plus there were several persons caught in avalanches this year who were traveling with a guide, including at least one fatality (not necessarily a Togwotee Guide). There is proof right away that you should never put your life entirely in one safety measure, especially if it totally involves human interpretation of something.

I also think you have the wrong idea about how the new beacons work. They do not take hours and hours of training to understand how to use. Most simply work by giving you a stronger signal the closer you get to the buried beacon. Old ones were more complicated, but still were of much more use than nothing at all.

It would just make me sick to my stomach to think that someone would read your comments and decide to forgo a beacon and then get trapped. Once you are trapped, no one is going to find you in time without you wearing a beacon.


03-26-2010, 01:16 PM
I knew I shouldn't have said anything about the beacons.

You misunderstood me. I'm not saying don't use a beacon. I'm saying don't use a beacon unless you know how to respond to an avalanche. Operating the transponder is easy - responding to an avalanche requires training.

I know "experts" are killed on occasion - a ski-patroller was killed at Jackson Hole this year. He was in-bounds and had just dropped nine charges on a cornice. Also, look at what happened at Revelstoke. Hundreds of people were involved in an avalanche, but over a thousand heeded the warnings and stayed home. I'm sure avalanche beacons saved many lives there - because there were people there who knew how to respond. I'm also sure more people were saved because they heeded the warnings and stayed home.

What would make me sick would be for people who are inexperienced in the backcountry going out there and renting a beacon thinking that they are somehow now safe, without any knowledge about what to do in the event of an avalanche. And I don't mean just using the transponder. I think its better if they hire an experienced guide and avoid ANY area with a significant risk, following the warnings and advice. If they want to rent or buy the beacon, they should really invest in the backcountry training as well. I'm sure my views are in the minority.