Quarterly Y ELLOWSTONE
What Lies Beneath the Snow Yellowstone's National Historic Landmarks Winter in Yellowstone: Adapt or Die
DEAR YELLOWSTONE FOREVER SUPPORTERS, There’s something about being in Yellowstone in the wintertime that makes you feel like you’re in on a special secret. Landscapes transform, thermal features fill the air with steam, and animals change their behavior as the temperature drops. Even familiar trails seem different on skis or snowshoes than they do in hiking boots. In winter, you experience a magical side of Yellowstone that the vast majority of visitors never see. The Yellowstone Forever Institute offers an array of amazing programs that help visitors explore and connect with Yellowstone during this incredible season. If you haven’t already attended one, I encourage you to peruse the offerings on our website. In addition to perennial favorites, this year we have added several new wolf-related wildlife programs, plus an astronomy course, a yoga and skiing retreat, and more. If a visit to Yellowstone next summer is on your wish list, please watch for our summer 2020 programs to be announced in January. Make sure you are subscribed to our email list or follow us on Facebook so you don’t miss this exciting announcement! If you are shopping for friends and loved ones this holiday season, please remember to visit our online Park Store at shop.yellowstone.org. It carries a wide selection of educational products as well as unique gifts that celebrate the world’s first national park, from ornaments and toys to jewelry and fine art prints. You can also give back while you shop: proceeds from your purchase directly support Yellowstone National Park. Finally, as 2019 draws to a close, I hope you will consider making a year-end gift to Yellowstone. This past year, your generosity has supported many critical projects including bringing young people to Yellowstone to experience the park’s wonders, installing bear-proof food-storage boxes to help reduce human/bear conflicts, making crucial repairs to hiking trails, and much more. We hope to carry forward that momentum in the new year as we continue to meet the park’s most pressing needs. The holiday season is also a time to reflect on the past year, and I am filled with immense gratitude for your loyal support. Thank you for your partnership, and I look forward to continuing to share all the accomplishments you help make possible here in Yellowstone. Sincerely,
John Walda, President & CEO YELLOWSTONE FORE VER
Rainbow over Lion Geyser, near Old Faithful
What Lies Beneath the Snow
flora & fauna | Ruffed Grouse & Willow
yf family | Justin Barth
experience | Lamar Buffalo Ranch in Winter
naturalist notes | Rime Ice
nps interview | Dave Whaley
Executive Team & Board Members
04 Yellowstoneâ€™s National
Winter in Yellowstone: Adapt or Die
IMAGES | PAGES
Brad Bulin Wendie Carr Jenny Golding Barbara Lee Ruffin Prevost Michael Rosekrans Christine Gianas Weinheimer Kimberley Yablonski
Ann Skelton | cover, 9, back cover Matt Ludin | ii, 2, 3, 8, 11, 13, 14, 15 NPS/Jacob Frank | 4, 7, 16 Lauren Beltramo | 10, 18, 19, 20, 21 Maria Bisso | 11 Lindsey Aikman | 17
Lauren Beltramo Wendie Carr Paula Degen Erin Fitzgerald Matt Ludin Christine Gianas Weinheimer
Interim Chief Development Officer
President & CEO
Vice President of Retail Vice President of Operations
Chief Marketing Officer
Thomas Cluderay General Counsel
Chief of Staff
Vice President of Education Vice President of Finance & Chief Financial Officer
Kevin Butt John Costello Lisa Evia Annie Graham Carolyn Heppel Charles Kaufmann III Susan Roeder Jacqueline Rooney Bob Rowe Doug Spencer John Walda Elizabeth Webb
What Lies Beneath the Snow BY J EN N Y G O LD I N G
the snow to stay warm). Many other organisms—including microbes, fungi, algae, insects, and small mammals— depend on the subnivean environment to survive the coldest months. Under the snow, ground temperatures hover around 32 degrees, creating a protected winter landscape that maintains stable conditions relative to colder air temperatures above. This winter refuge protects plants and animals from freezing cold and wind, and forms the basis of a complex subnivean food web.
Have you ever spotted a weasel darting in and out of the snow in the middle of winter? Or a collection of “snow fleas” (springtails) on top of the snow in the spring? If so, then you’ve had a glimpse into a secret ecosystem that exists—under the snow. From November to April, snow covers much of the Yellowstone landscape, often persisting at higher elevations well into June. Yellowstone’s winter wonderland is a boon for visitors hoping to observe wolves, elk, bison, and other species in their winter habitat, or seeking to float across the winter landscape on skis, snowshoes, and over-snow vehicles. What at first seems a beautiful, yet barren, ocean of white is actually a huge thermal blanket protecting a fascinating ecosystem—the subnivean environment—that exists underneath the snow.
In this under-snow community, some small mammals— like voles, mice, and pika—feed on grasses and seeds they collected in the summer months or that they find under the snow. Others, like shrews, are predatory, chasing down insects. Winter active insects—including mites, spiders, springtails, beetles, flies, and wasps—in turn feed on fungi and algae. A teeming community of microbes helps plant communities survive until spring.
THE SUBNIVEAN WORLD For Yellowstone’s wildlife, the bitter temperatures, wind, and snow accumulation during winter make surviving to spring difficult. Animals living above the snow must migrate (elk move to lower elevation), adapt (bison grow thicker fur), or change their behavior (grouse burrow into
Halfpenny & Ozanne’s classic book Winter describes a matrix of conditions that affect the ability of plants and animals to survive in the subnivium. In the fall, as the daily temperature of the air falls below that of the ground, snow accumulates to a critical point—called the hiemal 2
threshold—when there is enough snow to take refuge underneath. Before this time, many plants and animals may die if the weather becomes too harsh too quickly. The relationship between snow thickness and density (how much water is in it) determines the thermal index: a measurement that indicates just how well the snow insulates. The snow must be thick enough to protect animals below from the effects of the cold air. The deeper, lighter, and fluffier the snow is—like a good down sleeping bag—the more insulating it becomes, keeping the conditions under the snow relatively stable. Wetter, heavier snow is not only less insulating, but more difficult for animals to move through in search of food. The snow density and depth also affect the amount of gases like CO2 trapped beneath and the amount of light that penetrates—both conditions that affect subnivean life. Just when resources are almost depleted at the end of winter, the rate at which the snow melts greatly affects the chances that an organism will make it to spring. Rapidly melting snowpack can result in flooding of small mammal burrows (hence the proliferation of foxes, coyotes, and wolves “mousing” pocket gophers in early spring), or snowpack that’s too dense to travel through to escape flooding. Heavy, wet snow, and ice that develops during freeze-thaw cycles can penetrate burrows or the roots of plants and prevent animal movement.
A REFUGE IN PERIL Warming temperatures from climate change are causing significant changes to the snowpack in Yellowstone, and current research predicts a sobering future. There is less snowfall overall, fewer days of snow on the ground, and snow is melting faster in the spring. “This isn’t something that’s just going to happen in the future,” says Ann Rodman, the park’s climate science program coordinator. “This is happening now.” Changes to the depth, duration, and insulation of the snowpack mean changes to the quality of the subnivium as a seasonal refuge, causing in turn a ripple effect through the complex web of other animals—like coyote, fox, and badger—who rely on subnivean species for food in spring and summer. For species like pika—who may not be able to migrate or hibernate—changes in the subnivium can be catastrophic, particularly at the edge of their range where the snow is changing most rapidly. Yellowstone Forever is helping to fund a series of seven climate change sites in Yellowstone, where the subnivean environment is one of the things the park is monitoring. The next time you’re in Yellowstone in the winter, imagine the hidden plants, animals, and insects underneath your skis or snowshoes. If you’re a participant in a Yellowstone Forever program, you may even be able to help the park with its climate research as a citizen scientist.
Warming temperatures from climate change are causing significant changes to the snowpack in Yellowstone, and current research predicts a sobering future.
LEFT A red fox pounces while hunting for small prey in Hayden Valley.
An ermine sporting its white winter coat is camouflaged against the snow near Fishing Bridge.
Jenny Golding is a former director of education for Yellowstone Forever. She currently runs the website A Yellowstone Life, and writes from her home in Gardiner, Montana, on the border of Yellowstone National Park. YQ | 3
Yellowstoneâ€™s National Historic Landmarks BY C H R IS TI N E G IANA S WEI N H EI M ER
The Norris Geyser Basin Museum stands as a grand portal to the hydrothermal wonders nearby.
“If you’re in Yellowstone National Park, chances are you are within a historic property,” says Zehra Osman. She explains that the majority of the park’s roads, hotels, cabins, general stores, quarters, and offices are listed on or eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places. Eight of these places are considered so important to the nation they have received an even higher honor: the designation of National Historic Landmark. Osman, a cultural resource specialist and landscape architect for Yellowstone, says that nominating these eight historic properties to National Historic Landmark status required a long and painstaking process on the road to achieving the prestigious designation. “Though it can take months, it usually takes years to do the required in-depth research and documentation, and to usher a nomination through the rigorous evaluation process.” Yellowstone National Park’s National Historic Landmarks include the Old Faithful Inn, Obsidian Cliff, Fort Yellowstone, Lake Hotel, the Northeast Entrance Station, and the trailside museums at Norris Geyser Basin, Fishing Bridge, and Madison. National Historic Landmarks are nationally significant historic places that possess exceptional value or quality in illustrating or commemorating US heritage. These properties constitute nearly 2,600 of the more than 90,000 entries in the broader National Register of Historic Places. Examples include Pearl Harbor, the Apollo Mission Control Center, and Martin Luther King Jr.'s Birthplace. The historic properties that make it through multiple layers of review at the national level have a chance to achieve recommendation to the Secretary of the Interior—the final step before designation. The Yellowstone National Historic Landmarks that eventually earned this honor, says Osman, are considered especially significant in American history and culture. So what types of characteristics make Yellowstone’s eight landmarks stand out?
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Extraordinary architecture is a common theme among many of the landmarks. Osman says that the trailside museums at Fishing Bridge, Norris Geyser Basin, and Madison, built between 1929 and 1931, are considered the best examples of National Park Service rustic style design in the country.
from 1886 to 1918. They erected many structures including a hospital, a chapel, housing, and horse stables; 40 of the original fort buildings remain, with a row of officers' quarters opposite an open parade ground to the west. “As a special subset of our 895 historic structures, most of our National Historic Landmark buildings, including dozens that are a part of the Fort Yellowstone district, continue to be used as they were historically,” says Osman.
“Their exaggerated architectural features, large scale timbers and boulders, and organic forms served as models for hundreds of other buildings constructed throughout the nation during the work relief programs of the 1930s,” explains Osman. “Architect Herbert Maier designed them in such a way that they appear to be growing out of the ground. The buildings are subordinate to and served as portals to the landscape.”
In contrast to the buildings comprising the other seven National Historic Landmarks in Yellowstone, Obsidian Cliff is a geologically distinctive, natural feature that also has great significance as a prehistoric quarry and tool workshop. For at least 11,000 years, people obtained obsidian—a shiny, black rock also known as “volcanic glass”—from the area for tool production and for use as trade materials. This site represents the most widely dispersed source of obsidian by hunter-gatherers in North America; artifacts from Obsidian Cliff have been found from western Canada to Ohio.
The Old Faithful Inn's influence on American architecture, particularly park architecture, was immeasurable.
While an entrance station may seem like an unusual choice for a National Historic Landmark, the rustic log Northeast Entrance Station built in 1935 is considered the best of its type remaining in the National Park Service. According to its listing as a National Historic Landmark, it “subconsciously reinforced the visitor’s sense of the western frontier and the wilderness he was about to enter.”
Osman says that although park staff serve as stewards for all historic properties, the National Historic Landmarks are treated with extra care. “We go to great lengths to make sure these treasured landmarks are protected for future generations.”
One of two hotels among the park’s National Historic Landmarks, the Lake Yellowstone Hotel opened in 1891 as a modest frame lodge with 51 rooms. In 1903–1904 it was reimagined and redesigned by celebrated architect Robert C. Reamer as an elegant, Colonial Revival-style hotel. “The Lake Hotel brought civilization to the wilderness and is one of few remaining representatives of the style and era,” says Osman.
Yellowstone Forever recently granted funds to the park to replace deteriorating exhibits and make other improvements at the Norris Geyser Basin Museum in 2020. New, colorful exhibits interpreting the geyser basin will be installed, historic windows that were previously covered will be revealed, and a new ADA ramp will be added to enhance accessibility for visitors of all ages.
The log-style Old Faithful Inn was completed in 1903 by the same architect. “A masterpiece of rustic architecture, it used natural materials such as gnarled log brackets, allusions to pioneer building techniques, and has a strong connection with its site—Old Faithful Geyser," reads the National Register nomination of the inn. "Its influence on American architecture, particularly park architecture, was immeasurable.”
Christine Gianas Weinheimer is the director of communications at Yellowstone Forever. She lives in Bozeman, Montana, and has been writing about Yellowstone for 18 years.
The final two landmarks played important roles in American history separated in time by thousands of years.
Fort Yellowstone, listed as a “district,” also includes Norris and Bechler River soldier stations and the Roosevelt Arch at the park’s North Entrance. Fort Yellowstone was built by the US Army in Mammoth Hot Springs to serve as their park headquarters when they administered Yellowstone 6
Evening in the lobby of the Old Faithful Inn
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Winter in Yellowstone: Adapt or Die BY RU FFI N PR E VOS T
Winter can be a harsh and unforgiving season in Yellowstone National Park. Heavy snow, brutal winds, and bitter cold often make the park a cruelly inhospitable place. So it’s no surprise that for wildlife like some bison and elk, or sandhill cranes and mountain bluebirds, the best option is to spend winter somewhere else.
Nature has devised an array of clever tricks for surviving the cold, and Yellowstone is full of wildlife that take advantage of a wide range of winter adaptions. Grizzly bears and black bears are famous for hibernating, while red squirrels and pika are known for caching food for winter. The most visible adaptation is the seasonal camouflage adopted by snowshoe hares and short- and long-tailed weasels. Those animals’ coats turn mostly white to help them hide against the snow, making it easier to evade predators and catch prey, said Rebecca Roland, a supervisory park ranger at the Old Faithful Visitor Education Center.
But for animals that can’t easily migrate from Yellowstone to friendlier habitats, the only winter survival strategy is to adapt or die. Those winter adaptations can be seasonal and readily apparent, like a white-tailed jackrabbit’s coat changing from grayish brown to nearly white. But they can also be tougher to spot, like the circulatory systems in duck feet or beaver tails.
The change in fur color may have first evolved primarily to enhance insulation, because hollow white hairs contain air instead of pigment. Regardless, the color change now 8
occurs in response to the changing hours of daylight in spring and fall. Because weasels are prey to raptors and other predators—but also prey on squirrels and gophers— the seasonal camouflage switch is critical. But climate change is bringing later snows and earlier spring melts, throwing the seasonal wardrobe change of weasels and snowshoe hares out of sync. Some research indicates hares are becoming more vulnerable to predation as a result of climate change, because they are turning white before full snow cover and remaining white after much snow has melted in the spring. Climate change may also be complicating winter for ruffed grouse, said Doug Smith, senior wildlife biologist for Yellowstone. The birds dive into soft, fluffy snow to insulate themselves and take cover from predators. But winter thaws and re-freezes can create thick crusts on snow fields, inhibiting their burrowing and leading to higher grouse mortality.
Beavers dig dens or build lodges along rivers, where they create pockets of relatively warmer air. And because their pelts are excellent at keeping them dry, beavers can swim comfortably in water that may be cold by our standards, but is still much warmer than below-freezing air temperatures.
Every night before dark, golden crown kinglets go into a feeding frenzy to put on fat that gives them energy to burn through the night.
Like beavers, wolves have winter coats that are amazingly well-adapted to the cold. Outer guard hairs shed water and protect against wind, while a thick, dense layer of underfur insulates amazingly well, he said.
Another bird that winters in Yellowstone seems unlikely to survive a single sub-zero day, but stays alive by employing multiple adaptations, Smith said. Golden crown kinglets are among the world’s smallest nesting birds, weighing about the same as two pennies. Such a small animal wouldn't seem to be able to retain enough body heat to survive sub-zero nights.
Smith recalls bringing in the first wolves from Canada for reintroduction to Yellowstone in 1995. They were held in metal shipping crates overnight at temperatures of –35 degrees Fahrenheit.
“But every night before dark, they go into a feeding frenzy to put on fat that gives them energy to burn through the night,” Smith said. Kinglets also cluster together at night to conserve body heat, and allow their body temperatures to drop several degrees, so they burn fewer calories. Finally, to avoid losing heat through their feet, they employ countercurrent heat exchange. It’s an adapted circulatory network that allows their feet to stay very cold, but just warm enough to avoid tissue damage. Ducks and geese use countercurrent heat exchange in their feet, and other animals also employ the adaptation, including beavers, who use it to keep their tails from freezing. “Beavers are masters at winter adaptation,” said Smith, who is best known for leading the reintroduction and management of gray wolves in the park, but who also studied beavers earlier in his career.
Beavers are also relatively safe from predators in their dens and beneath the ice. But wolves are known to find spots where ice is thin or gone, and wait for beavers to surface. So once again, climate change may be further altering the survival odds in Yellowstone, because “warming temperatures mid-winter mean more dead beavers,” Smith said.
“They showed no ill effects,” he said. “In fact they seem perfectly happy at –50. I don’t know if they’ve found a temperature yet where a wolf will shiver.” But like the color-changing weasels, wolves’ amazing coats undergo a seasonal change for warm weather that is surely familiar to most any dog owner. “Of course, they shed,” Smith said. “Quite a bit.” Ruffin Prevost is founding editor of Yellowstone Gate, an online publication offering community news and inside views about Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks. LEFT A white-tailed jackrabbit near the North Entrance of Yellowstone ABOVE RIGHT Beaver tracks crisscross the snow in the Lamar River Canyon.
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ALL YEAR LONG
Take a 12-month journey through Yellowstone with a stunning 2020 calendar by renowned photographer Tom Murphy when you make a gift of $50 (or more) to Yellowstone Foreverâ€™s Annual Fund this holiday season! Gifts to the Annual Fund support outstanding educational programs and visitor experiences and provide critical funding for park priority projects year-round. MAK E YOU R G IF T TO DAY AT
Minimum gift of $50 required for calendar offer. Offer valid until December 31, 2019, or while supplies last. Calendar offer is not available in Park Stores, and retail discounts do not apply. Please allow a minimum of four weeks for delivery.
Gifts to Yellowstone Forever are tax deductible to the full extent of the law, less the fair market value of any thank-you gift received. Based on the fair market value of Yellowstone Foreverâ€™s 2020 Tom Murphy Yellowstone Calendar, $14.95 of this donation is not tax deductible. Please consult with your tax advisor. 10
M Y Y E L L OW S T O N E A DV E N T U R E
TE AC H E R S : MAK E Y E LLOWSTO N E YO U R CL A SS ROO M ! Did you know that Yellowstone Forever offers programs developed especially for youth and college groups? Your students can spend several unforgettable days immersed in Yellowstone while engaging in activities such as hiking, hands-on citizen science projects, wildlife-watching, and interacting with park rangers. Lodging at our Overlook Field Campus, as well as financial aid, may be available for your group. S T E WA R D S H I P OF PUBLIC LANDS
LE AR N M O R E AT
YELLOWSTONE .ORG/ YOUTH YQ | 11
F L O R A & FAU N A
RUFFED GROUSE & WILLOW BY BARBARA LEE | ART LAUREN BELTRAMO
During Yellowstone’s long, harsh winters, numerous predators yearn to sink teeth or talons into a tasty, nearly chicken-sized bird called the ruffed grouse. “Ruffies” are superbly camouflaged, eat rapidly (reducing exposure to enemies and cold), grow extra layers of winter feathers, and by night, dive into snow to create an insulated hideout. Nevertheless, the majority don’t survive their first year. The species is credited, however, with aiding the survival of Yellowstone predators from the rare lynx to great horned owl.
Yellowstone’s more than 20 willow species benefit many animals, including ruffed grouse. The willow’s branch structure provides sheltered perches, and most importantly, in winter its buds are a vital food source. Ruffed grouse store and digest this woody material in internal pouches that elongate in the cold season, a remarkable evolutionary adaptation. During winter, look for leafless but subtly beautiful willows along the park’s waterways.
Y F FA M I LY
Justin Barth SENIOR MANAGER OF FOUNDATION RELATIONS When Justin Barth isn’t reaching out to connect foundations from across the country with Yellowstone Forever and Yellowstone National Park, you can probably find him hitting the trails at a quick pace.
Previously, Justin spent five years as director of education for Glacier Institute, where he would spend 100+ days in the field with students, many of them retirees and some of them with a passion for financially supporting our national parks.
Last year, Justin set out with a buddy on a multiday run from the Bozeman Public Library to Mammoth Hot Springs along the Gallatin Crest. They dubbed the run Books to Bubbles. Of the 100-mile trek, 99 of them were on trails. Injuries flared up on the final day, so they chose massive cinnamon rolls in Emigrant over pounding the trails, but he hopes to complete the run next summer as it showcases some of the most beautiful ridgelines in and around Yellowstone National Park. “Running in Yellowstone National Park and on trails throughout the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem is certainly my favorite way to connect with this place,” Justin says. Justin’s running prowess includes the Ridge Run, Rut Mountain Run (28K or 50K!) and Hootenanny— Montana’s only 100K trail race—below Lolo Peak in the Bitterroot Valley with about 12,000 feet of climbing. Justin brings this same determination and drive to his work with Yellowstone Forever. As senior manager of foundation relations, he connects foundations with priority projects in Yellowstone that need philanthropic support. “I’m part grant writer, part Yellowstone tour guide, and part project manager at times. We have a donor-centric approach that aims to connect donors with the projects they feel passionate about or their foundation mission aligns with. Ultimately, I want to see donors support whichever projects make them light up! For some that may be wolf recovery; for others that may be Native American outreach programs; for others, that may be microbe research or soil science.
“There are hundreds of ways to fall in love with Yellowstone National Park, and I enjoy helping supporters find their own connection to the park.”
“I found that my love of the park could be contagious, and if I was honest about our needs and vision, a course participant could become a donor by the end of the day. I loved seeing donors’ enthusiasm when they gave to something they cared deeply about.” Although he is no longer a full-time outdoor educator, Justin is grateful that this background plays into his job every day through writing and communicating with donors. In his role for the last three years, Justin notes we have many consistent and generous foundation supporters, all of whom deserve recognition. “I love being able to show foundations the return on their investments in the park. Ideally, this means I’ll take them on a site visit to the park to see the work in progress. Seeing donors take personal ownership in a project is always inspiring, and getting our supporters into the park always helps provide a level of context and understanding that simply cannot be explained in a grant application.” Justin draws motivation from seeing people connect to Yellowstone National Park. He had the privilege of attending the Yellowstone Youth Conservation Corps wrap-up banquet this summer and visiting one of the high-school youth crews in the field. “I was blown away with their dedication to restoring damaged trails, installing bear boxes, and taking on the less glamorous tasks like pulling invasive weeds. The dedication of the next generation to this special place certainly helped me renew my efforts to help protect it,” he said. Justin is passionate about his work and the long-term goals. “Yellowstone is an evolving place. Climate change, explosive visitation, and invasive species are all changing the park right in front of our own eyes, and the park doesn’t have the resources to tackle all these issues on its own. It’s up to us to protect and preserve the wild character of this remarkable place that helped launch the National Park System.”
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LAMAR BUFFALO RANCH IN WINTER BY CHRISTINE GIANAS WEINHEIMER
Imagine being serenaded to sleep by wolves howling in the distance as you snuggle up in your cozy log cabin. In the morning, you wake up to a fresh dusting of snow and a cluster of bison ambling past your window. This scenario is more than just a daydream for winter guests at the Lamar Buffalo Ranch.
“The winter is much quieter since there are significantly fewer people visiting the park, and in the winter only one program at a time uses the ranch. When you stay here you feel like your group has a special piece of paradise all to itself.”
The historic Lamar Buffalo Ranch Field Campus, located in the Lamar Valley surrounded by mountains and far from other development, serves as home base for the Yellowstone Forever Institute’s in-depth Field Seminars.
The location, of course, is the biggest draw. “People love waking up in this extraordinary setting and getting outside for early morning wildlife-watching or photography without having to get up really early to drive out to the Lamar Valley,” says Roloson.
Yellowstone Forever’s Field Campus Manager Katie Roloson, who lives at the ranch in the wintertime, says the facility is spectacular year-round but has some special qualities in the winter that enchant visitors.
Groups stay out for programs most of the day, then return to the ranch for dinner and an evening activity. “After that people tend to cozy up in their cabins for an early bedtime because most classes start early,” says Roloson.
To experience the Lamar Buffalo Ranch in the winter, check out our Field Seminar offerings at Yellowstone.org/experience
Program guests stay in cozy cabins at the Lamar Buffalo Ranch. RIGHT TOP
Corrals at Lamar Buffalo Ranch
Bison in snow, Lamar Valley
“The bunkhouse is open for anyone who wants to be social. You’ll usually find several people there sipping a beverage, chatting, or playing a board game. We go through a lot of hot chocolate in the winter.” While the ranch offers comfortable lodging in its wilderness setting, the “off-the-grid” facility offers a different experience than staying at a hotel. The buildings are heated by propane, but walks between the cabins, bunkhouse, and bathhouse require warm clothing and boots, as temperatures in the Lamar regularly drop below zero. Also, there's no Internet service; cabins have no electrical outlets; and there's no cell phone reception in the Lamar Valley. Guests at the ranch have the rare opportunity to leave their worries behind and unplug—literally. Humans aren’t the only species that visit the ranch. Roloson says one of the best aspects of staying there in winter is the variety of wildlife, which can frequently be observed right from the comfort of the bunkhouse. “Many animals move to lower elevations in the winter so we’ll see more wildlife near the ranch like elk, bison, wolves, coyotes, and foxes.” says Roloson. “It’s not unusual to hear wolves howling in the evening. We don’t often catch a glimpse of them right on the ranch property, but we will sometimes wake up in the morning and see wolf tracks through campus so we know they paid a visit.”
Christine Gianas Weinheimer is the director of communications at Yellowstone Forever. She lives in Bozeman, Montana, and has been writing about Yellowstone for 18 years. YQ | 15
N AT U R A L I S T N OT E S
Trees covered with rime ice on Palette Spring, Mammoth Hot Springs terraces
RIME ICE BY MICHAEL ROSEKRANS, NATURALIST II
As the days shorten and grow colder, Yellowstone begins to brace for winter. Natural processes unseen to the common visitor occur, transforming this dynamic ecosystem from a boisterous, bustling place of bugling elk to a seemingly frozen world sleeping underneath a blanket of snow. With close observation, those fortunate enough to spend winters here can see that every day the world of Yellowstone is still very much alive and in constant flux.
they appeared to be watching our approach. Everything was loaded down with the steam frozen as it had drifted from the geysers. There were fantastic forms of men and women looking into the pools…animals of all kinds and shapes, creatures that outside of the Park nothing but a disordered mind could conjure up.” Hofer was seeing our famous lodgepole pines covered in a phenomenon known as rime ice.
A fresh blanket of snow or a morning so cold you can see a bison’s breath suspended in mid-air is no doubt aesthetically pleasing. But in all that bison breath and in all that porous space between layers of snow pack are processes metamorphosing our most precious resource from a flowing agent of life to unimaginable frozen shapes and formations one might see in a fantasy movie.
Rime ice forms as wind carries supercooled cloud droplets that freeze upon impact with the cold surfaces of our lodgepole pine needles. Astoundingly intricate formations take shape on the branches of the trees. These ice formations that are so unique to Yellowstone are thanks to our hot and steamy thermal areas becoming supercooled in our winter atmosphere. If you happen to be visiting the park on a chilly winter morning, stop as you pass by one of our geyser basins and let your imagination take control. See what icy images your mind conjures up from our frozen forests.
When ski pioneer Billy Hofer came through during the harsh winter of 1886 he exclaimed, “I was startled by the resemblances to men and animals the ice-laden trees showed, as, standing sentinel duty on each side of the road, 16
NPS INTERVIE W
Dave Whaley MAINTENANCE SUPERVISOR There are only a few dozen people who live yearround in the interior of Yellowstone. Dave Whaley, the maintenance supervisor at Lake, is one of them. A Montana kid whose best days were always spent in the woods, he gives YQ a taste of what life is like on the “inside,” including firing Yellowstone’s big gun and the only thing that scares bison. What do you do in your position? I oversee all the day-to-day maintenance on buildings, roads, the water and sewer systems, and marine operations like maintaining docks, campsites, and all the buoy and safety/warning signs. My team also provides logistical support on the lake—shuttling trail crews by boat to eliminate 10 miles of hiking or supporting the ranger division in getting supplies into the cabins. I oversee 28 people in the summer and about eight in the winter. What’s the job like in winter? Most of the buildings are shut down so we can do bigger projects inside, like remodels or major repairs such as
master gunner. I started at a lower position on the crew and worked my way up. In 2001, I started on the gun program—the US Army has requirements, and the Avalanche Artillery Users of North America sets up all the training. It takes about 3-4 years to be a gunner and then you have to fire 300 rounds and attend an artillery school and pass a test to be considered to be a master. How did you end up in Yellowstone? I’m a late comer. I love snowmobiling and brought my kids into the park on snowmobiles, yet never thought of working here. I was a service manager at a major car dealership and knew I needed to make a change. I was offered a job in fleet maintenance at Lake, took a chance, and I’ve been here for the past 18 years. My family lived outside of the park in winter, but in the summer my three boys volunteered and then when they turned 18 they started as seasonals and worked their way through college working in the park.
One winter, I was in Hayden Valley and a herd of terrified bison—you never see terrified bison—came over a hill in the road. . . . I crested the hill and two otters were sliding on their bellies, chasing the bison. changing valves. Last winter we received about 70 inches of snow in five days so outside our job is dealing with the constant snow. We groom roads for over-snow travel using snow-cats to level it out and pull an attachment to pack it down for a smooth, hard surface. Once we get several feet of snow on the roofs, my crews shovel them off so they don’t collapse. Another part of our duties is to do avalanche control on Sylvan Pass. Wait, do you get to shoot the howitzer? I do. We use it to knock down unstable snow so it’s not hanging above the road and creating a hazard. I am a
What do you enjoy about working for the National Park Service? The variety. You really get to wear so many hats. With so few people, there are always needs and opportunities, so all you have to do is raise your hand. Because of that, I have also participated in structural firefighting and EMS as collateral duties. What’s some of the coolest stuff you’ve seen in the park?
Unique experiences happen all the time. One winter, I was in Hayden Valley and a herd of terrified bison—you never see terrified bison—came over a hill in the road. I knew something was scaring them, but I couldn’t see what. I crested the hill and two otters were sliding on their bellies, chasing the bison. In the spring, also in Hayden, before they opened the roads, I saw a grizzly sow and her cub up on a hill. She pushed the cub down the hill and then slid down after it. Then they climbed back up the hill and slid down again. Moments like these are why I live here.
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1 2020 Yellowstone Wall Calendar SALE PRICE $7.48 REGULAR $14.95
Caswell-Massey Old Faithful Fragrance Tonic SALE PRICE $36.00 REGULAR $48.00 #3897
Caswell-Massey Canyon Fragrance Tonic
Caswell-Massey Old Faithful Oil
Miir 12 oz. Vacuum Insulated Camp Cup
Miir 42 oz. Wide Mouth Bottle
SALE PRICE $36.00 REGULAR $48.00
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SHOP.YELLOWSTONE .ORG/ YQ
9 Scout Moore, Junior Ranger: Yellowstone SALE PRICE $11.96 REGULAR $15.95 #3860
The Rise of Wolf 8
SALE PRICE $20.21 REGULAR $26.95
SALE PRICE $16.50 REGULAR $22.00
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10 Carol Hagan Starry, Starry Night 12"x18" SALE PRICE $168.75 REGULAR $225.00 #3881
Order by December 20 to receive your gifts in time for Christmas! Please visit shop.yellowstone.org or call 406.848.2400 (M – F 8:00 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. MST). Sale valid November 29 through December 31, 2019. No further discounts apply.
11 Carol Hagan Chocolate Moose 8"x10" SALE PRICE $71.25 REGULAR $95.00 #3877
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16 Carol Hagan Grizzly Blues 12"x12" SALE PRICE $127.50 REGULAR $170.00 #4118
15 Heart Yellowstone Map Ornament SALE PRICE $11.99 REGULAR $15.99 #3331
14 Old Faithful Area Ornament SALE PRICE $13.49 REGULAR $17.99 #3150
13 Star Yellowstone Map Ornament SALE PRICE $11.99 REGULAR $15.99 #3330
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12 Bison Hand Pupppet SALE PRICE $13.49 REGULAR $17.99 #4168
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PO Box 1110, Gardiner, MT 59030 406 | 848 | 2400
Red squirrel near Lava Creek