Yellowstone boosts prices of private snowmobile trips

By The Associated Press | Posted - Sep. 7, 2015 at 9:00 a.m.



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JACKSON, Wyo. (AP) — People who want to ride a snowmobile into Yellowstone National Park for more than one day without a guide this winter will have to pay more.

Last winter, it cost a flat $40 for a one- to three-day permit that would allow private snowmobiles to travel in groups of up to five sleds and 10 people. This year the same trip will cost $40 a day, plus the cost of admission into the world's first national park.

A working group that's helping to craft a management plan for the park's winter-use regulations pushed for the change, said Alicia Murphy, coordinator of Yellowstone's noncommercial guided snowmobile access program.

"They were concerned that (snowmobilers) were reserving multiday trips and not actually using them, because there was no incentive to release those dates," Murphy said.

The park issues one permit per day for each of its four entrances.

People paying more are less likely to buy and not use multiday permits, Murphy said.

Yellowstone's private snowmobiling program also was costing more than it was generating, another factor that led to the change.

"The program is based on the final rule that was published in the Federal Register that is supposed to be cost-recoverable," Murphy told the Jackson Hole News & Guide (http://bit.ly/1La2Gzm).

Applications for unguided snowmobiling permits are being accepted through Sept. 30. Last year there was lots of competition for the permits, park officials reported. Demand was at its peak on Valentine's Day weekend.

The park received 374 applications last year for unguided permits; 22 percent were successful, Murphy said.

"Probably more important than the lottery is the first-come, first-served permits that are becoming available after Nov. 3," she said. "Any permits that aren't allocated through the lottery are available first-come, first-served. I know quite a few people personally that were not successful in the lottery and then picked up permits that way."

Another change is a tighter restriction on "best-available technology" standards that govern noise and emissions.

Beginning this winter, Murphy said, snowmobiles that enter the park must be no louder than 73 decibels. They must emit no more than 15 grams of hydrocarbons or 120 grams of carbon monoxide per kilowatt-hour.

Jack Welch, a longtime Yellowstone snowmobiling advocate, said that options will be few in terms of models that fit the higher standard.

Only one major snowmobile manufacturer makes a sled that meets the standard, although two others are working on new models, said Welch, who works for the Blue Ribbon Coalition.

"The only people that would own (best-available technology) machines probably don't live here because they are designed for trail riding at lower altitudes — not Wyoming, Colorado or Montana," he said.

Welch said he thinks Yellowstone has a "good program," but he's also pushing for more unguided snowmobiling permits.

"Ultimately we would like this program to grow," he said. "Right now it's one (trip) from each gate each day."

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Information from: Jackson Hole (Wyo.) News And Guide, http://www.jhnewsandguide.com

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The Associated Press

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