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Courtesy of Xanterra Parks and Resorts
Courtesy of Xanterra Parks and Resorts

Start of Yellowstone’s Winter Season Approaches

Yellowstone National Park’s winter season is just a day away from opening.

The Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel opens Friday with newly remodeled public spaces, Xanterra Parks and Resorts spokesman Rick Hoeninghausen said recently. The hotel has undergone a major infrastructure upgrade and remodel that included adding on to the gift shop and extending public spaces on the second floor. The hotel was closed last winter to get the work done, and this winter will be the first with the new amenities.

Many park roads open to over-the-snow travel on Friday, December 15. Old Faithful Snow Lodge opens Dec. 16.

Courtesy of Xanterra Parks and Resorts
Courtesy of Xanterra Parks and Resorts

Also new this winter is off-peak pricing for lodging. Xanterra will begin offering lower room rates during the non-peak weeks of this winter season. The two hotels open in winter are Old Faithful Snow Lodge and Mammoth. Christmas week sells out, so the room rates remain the upper price. But in early January, demand drops, so the company is offering lower rates
The rates are reflected in real time on the online reservation web page at https://www.yellowstonenationalparklodges.com. For example, during Christmas week a standard room at Mammoth with a private bath and two queen beds is listed at $160 a night. But on Jan. 2, the price for the same type of room is listed for $144.

Prices won’t be lower during peak June, July and August dates, of course, but rooms could be a little less in the Old Faithful area in early May, for example, Hoeninghausen said.

The idea is to spread out demand and occupancy.

“We’ll be managing rates in an attempt to generate interest in those lower-demand times,” he said.

But back to Mammoth. The hotel was closed last winter to accommodate the construction schedule. The hotel will be closed again next winter for the final phase of the remodel, upgrading the hotel rooms. The rooms without bath are all going away, to be upgraded to rooms with bath.

Courtesy of Xanterra Parks and Resorts
Courtesy of Xanterra Parks and Resorts

This first phase included infrastructure and safety upgrades and a building extension. On the ground floor, the gift shop area was extended out and up, making for a larger gift shop on the lower level and an extended public meeting area on the second floor.

In the winter months, a portion of the gift shop will function as the ski shop. The ski shop for many decades was housed in a “temporary” trailer moved near the hotel each winter, Hoeninghausen said.

The second floor meeting space will be used for public events such as ranger programs that are held in the hotel in the winter evenings, while the Map Room will now function more like a lounge area. A small bar area was built in the room to serve drinks.

The Map Room is a large, public light-filled room just off the main lobby from the front desk. It’s named for the large wooden wall map that was designed by Old Faithful Inn architect Robert Reamer in the 1930s.

Hoeninghausen said the room, with its large, front-facing windows, will function something like the Sun Room that overlooks Yellowstone Lake at the historic Lake Yellowstone Hotel.

“It will be a good place to lounge and relax and have coffee or an adult beverage,” Hoeninghausen said. “There are also tables for games, and with the large windows, it can be a place to watch wildlife. I think it will be a very warm and welcoming place for our visitors.”

The hotel’s long term pianist, Randy Ingersoll, will be back on his bench this winter, Hoeninghausen said.

Courtesy of Xanterra Parks and Resorts
Courtesy of Xanterra Parks and Resorts

The Map Room and lobby will both have a new look in the furniture and decorations, Xanterra’s Lodging Director Victoria Chamberlain (pictured above) said, maintaining a reflection of the building’s 1930’s-era update.

The furniture of the era used a lot of cane and wicker, she said, which isn’t really practical for today, but a few pieces will give a nod toward the shape of those furniture styles.

Chamberlain said the style is Art Moderne, which she described as Art Deco moving into Mid-Century Modern.

The company spent about $200,000 on new furnishings, including wool rugs both domestic and imported.

“We did as much domestic shopping as we could,” she said.

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And as for in-park travel, this year is the second year Xanterra will operate its new “snow buses,” passenger buses that traverse the park’s snow-covered roads with large, under-inflated tires.

Hoeninghausen said there had been some warm weather until recently, which may mean a relatively thin layer of snow on the park roads. But the new vehicles are less snow-dependent than the snowcoaches of yesteryear, and can easily handle pavement.

“It’s not as big a deal now since there aren’t Bombardiers,” Hoeninghausen said, referring to the former, iconic coaches with skis on the front.

However, visitors planning to snowmobile could be affected by light snow cover. Hoeninghausen suggested those planning to snowmobile should check with the National Park Service online road report at https://www.nps.gov/yell/planyourvisit/parkroads.htm.

About Liz Kearney

Liz Kearney is a former Yellowstone tour guide and snowcoach driver. She lives in Livingston, Montana, where she covers the park and other news for the daily newspaper, the Livingston Enterprise.

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