Welcome to the 2009 Yellowstone National Park season!

With the northwestern roads of Yellowstone National Park cleared of snow, we have the first time in the spring and summer season where the public can enter the Park — but they must be on a bike.

The Yellowstone winter season is officially over, which means the snowmobiles and snow coaches are not allowed in the Park. Despite a surfeit of snow in some parts of the region (the gauge at Big Moose Resort outside Cooke City measures at least eight feet of snow still on the ground) the highway between West Yellowstone and Mammoth Hot Springs is now open to bikers.

Now, there won’t be many bikers out there; there never are in late March. There’s still some snowpack on parts of the road, so we’re not talking about anything that’s totally cleared. You will be sharing the road with the occasional snowplow, ranger vehicle or research vehicle. And there are predictions of snow for West Yellowstone for the next five days, at least. The real time the bikers come out is April, when the weather warms and the roads are still closed to motorized traffic.

(The scheduled opening of much of the Park to motorized traffic: April 17. Some portions, such as the Dunraven Pass, probably won’t open until the end of May.)

If you’re thinking about biking in the Park, call the visitor’s services-center desk at 307-344-2109 from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. to check on current conditions. For instance, that’s where we learned about prediction of snow for the coming weekend. And beyond.

Still, there are signs of life in the Park. Despite the hotels being closed, you’ll find visitors at Mammoth Hot Springs, taking in the sights and largely having the place to themselves. The Mammoth campground is open, along with its heated restrooms. Work on opening the Park for 2009 will begin shortly. And that, of course, is the best sign of spring of all.

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