Photographer Taylor Glenn ski-toured across Yellowstone’s southwestern corner.
Sitting in the snow on the bank of the Bechler River, I struggle to dry my feet and wriggle my ski boots back on. Groaning in frustration, my adventure partner Taylor Phillips, “TP,” fights with me for elbow room as he pulls on his wool socks. Minutes earlier we came to an impassable spot on the south side of the canyon that forced us to take off our skis, boots, and socks and ford the river. Barefoot on our snowy, awkward perch, we look at each other and burst into laughter; it’s a moment of clarity and pure joy, and we both know we will never forget this moment.
Between December and March, Yellowstone National Park gets only a fraction of the visitors (159,219 people this past winter) that it does between June and August (2.677 million in 2023). Nestled in the park’s southwest corner, the Bechler region is one of its most remote and least-visited areas. In summer, the Bechler Ranger Station is a 23 mile drive—about 10 miles of which are on dirt—from Ashton, Idaho. In winter, the only way to get to the ranger station, which was built by the U.S. Army as a guard station in 1911, four years before the National Park Service was established, is by snowmobile. Or, if you’re looking for a big adventure, skis.
One summer I had hiked the park’s Bechler River Trail to Mr. Bubbles, a thermal feature in the Ferris Fork Geyser Basin almost equidistant from Old Faithful (about 15 miles to the east) and the Bechler Ranger Station (about 15 miles to the west). I only recall small bits of that trip, but Mr. Bubbles is hard to forget; the pool gets its name from an air vent in the center that constantly bubbles air. TP was immediately sold on my idea for a 32-mile six-day ski tour from Old Faithful to the Bechler Ranger Station. We’d haul 80-pound sleds and camp each night in Yellowstone’s snow-covered backcounty as temperatures dipped well below zero.
At that time, I had never visited any part of Yellowstone in the winter—not even so much as a cross-country ski around Old Faithful Village. My thinking was that if I was finally going to experience Yellowstone in winter, then I wanted to really experience it in winter! We departed the Lone Star Geyser Trailhead near Old Faithful one day in February. Although we arrived at the Bechler Ranger Station as planned, most of the trip did not go as planned; we underestimated how difficult it would be. Still, it was a magical experience and stands as one of the greatest adventures I have ever done.
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