Kids N’ Snow
West Yellowstone has slowed down a bit. The chatter of tourists is hushed by a blanket of snow. Automobile traffic is replaced with snowmobiles whining around town. Some restaurants and shops close for the slower off season, but there is a certain vibrancy from the snowflake lights attached to lampposts and the colorful, painted bison poking through the whiteness.
In 2010, West Yellowstone started the Kids N’ Snow program to bring more Montana families to this winter wonderland. They hoped to take the “first-time fear” out of trying new winter sports by making them accessible and free or low cost.
“The program was started in 2010 by the West Yellowstone Chamber in coordination with other local organizations and businesses to provide local residents and visitors alike a chance to try winter activities in a safe and fun environment,” said Wendy Swenson, marketing director for the West Yellowstone Chamber/CVB. “The program encourages families to make West Yellowstone their winter vacation destination.”
The program runs one weekend each winter month.
In 2012, the program received the “Tourism Event of the Year” from the Montana Office of Tourism. In 2014, they were awarded an Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA)/Disney Nature Grant, recognizing them as an AZA Nature Play Site.
The Kids N’ Snow program gives kids the opportunity to try a variety of winter activities – cross-country skiing, ice fishing, snowshoeing, using GPS, mushing sled dogs, riding a snowmobile, and more.
Dorel Hoglund from Livingston took her daughters to West Yellowstone a few times for the Kids N’ Snow program. She goes with another family and says the kids all love playing together in the snow.
“My twins learned a lot at the Forest Service animal adaptation talk and loved nighttime ice skating with their friends and drinking hot cocoa,” Hoglund said. “The Kids N’ Snow program was a great excuse to visit West Yellowstone in winter. We took part in a lot of the activities, but also just loved getting outside and getting to know the area better.”
Each weekend has a few unique activities as well as some standards including a scavenger hunt around town, a Birds of Prey talk with a naturalist from the Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center, a snowshoe walk with a National Park Service Ranger and ice skating and sledding in the town park.
“I was shocked at all the fun, and free, activities for kids and the whole family,” said April Browning from Pray. “One of my son’s favorite activities was riding a kid-sized snowmobile through the course. His smile lasted for days. We look forward to Kids N’ Snow every winter.”
It isn’t possible to participate in all the activities on a given weekend, so check the schedule ahead of time and pick your favorites. Some of them require pre-registration and they do fill up. Most of the activities are free.
Kids N’ Snow 2016-2017 weekends
Dec. 17-18, 2016
9-11 a.m.: sled dog races
10 a.m.-noon: Snowshoe Walk with a National Parks Service ranger
11 a.m.: “Birds of Prey” presentation at Grizzly and Wolf Discover Center.
Noon: Sled dog races
12:30-1:30 p.m.: M120 kids snowmobile rides
1:30 p.m.: Snowshoe walk and games with U.S. Forest Service
2 p.m: Afternoon talk with a ranger
2:45 p.m.: Owl pellets talk, Grizzly and Wolf Discover Center
6 p.m: S’mores & Skatin’ and Sleddin’
6:30-8:30 p.m.: M120 kids snowmobile rides
7 p.m.: “Hollywood Feature,” Yellowstone giant screen
Sunday, Dec. 18
9-11 a.m.: Sled dog races
11 a.m.: “Scat and Animal Tracks,” Grizzly and Wolf Discover Center
Noon: Sled dog races
1-3 p.m.: Outdoor games at the ice rink
1-3 p.m.: Snow wall art/snow graffiti
1-2:30 p.m.: M120 kids snowmobile rides
1:30-2:30 p.m.: Learn to ski basics
1 p.m.: Snowshoe walk with a ranger
2 p.m.: Afternoon talk with a ranger
Jan. 14-15: Schedule and registration, Jan. 4
Feb. 4-5: Schedule and registration, Jan. 20
March 4-5 p.m.: Schedule and registration, Feb. 10
Check kidsnsnow.org for the latest schedule information.
This article first appeared in the Great Falls Tribune.
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