Yellowstone, located northeast of the Tetons and Jackson Hole, is one of the last remaining intact ecosystem in the northern temperates. Wolves, foxes, free-ranging herds of bison and elk live there. During winter season the park remains inaccessible, in early May however, the National Park Service plow the roads and you can access some mountains near the roads much more easily.
The area east of Yellowstone lake has some interesting peaks such as Mount Doane or Top Notch Peak that are close enough to be reached from the road within a longer day tour.
We talked with Sean Black from Arbor Snowboards who went on some splitboard missions together with Bryan Iguchi.
A lot of Yellowstone is inaccessible to snowboarding, primarily in winter because of its wilderness. So the NPS closes off the gates at certain areas and you cannot ride with snowmobiles into. This means in winter you can only drive to a certain point to the park gates and you would have to splitboard 15 miles in flat terrain before you get to the starting point. This can be done on multi-day trips with tents and all the camping gear.
However, when the gates are opened this area at the east-side of Yellowstone lake becomes much easier accessible. We drove Highway 14/20 from the east entrance of the park to Sylvan Pass. To summit Mount Doane it is still a 10 mile round trip, which means that we left at 9 am and got back to the car at midnight, Sean explains.
Left: a springy skin track next to a Grizzley bear track. Right: Chutes at Mount Doane
From the top of Mount Doane you have a pretty remarkable view, you can see Yellowstone lake and even the Tetons. There is only one slightly drawback: Grizzly bears are coming out of their winter rest in spring time. On the way up to the summit we set our skin track next to a grizzly track. Each paw is 12 inches wide. We actually never saw a bear but when you see the fresh tracks everywhere you know that bears were here in the same zone some hours ago. So after summiting Mount Doane and leaving at twilight, all you can think about are the bears.
In the upper section there are some couloir that can be ridden. On the first trip the Arbor crew rode down the mellow slope from the top because it was the safest option. On their second trip they finally managed to ride one of the chutes.
You want to explore the area around Yellowstone Lake?
Here some hints
- Top Notch Peak would be the first interesting destination. From Sylvan Pass it's less than 2000 feet in elevation and the distance from the road is less than 2 miles
- Carry bear spray on your hip. Grizzly bears avoid contact to humans but when it comes to protecting their cubs or prey, encounters can happen
- Camping is possible at many campgrounds but mostly with vans or RVs. Soft camping spots are very limited
Mount Doane: The 10,551 feet peak was named for Lt. Gustavus C. Doane, a US cavalry Lieutenant and explorer who was involved in a massacre where around 175 Blackfeet people were killed in January 1870. Native Americans seek to rename the peak to First Peoples Mountain.