Yellowstone Winter Classes – 2015

YAI's Buffalo Ranch lodging in Lamar Valley, Yellowstone National Park

YAI’s Buffalo Ranch lodging in Lamar Valley, Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone Association Institute Opens Registration for Winter Programs, Including Three Holiday Adventures


YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK – The non-profit Yellowstone Association Institute (YAI) has opened registration for winter 2015 – 2016 Field Seminars, Private Tours, Lodging & Learning and Youth and College programs, including programs scheduled during the holiday season.

Elk are frequently seen within Yellowstone

Elk are frequently seen within Yellowstone

Although programs are available for visitors with varying interests and fitness levels, the common goal of each winter program is to showcase the magic of Yellowstone with its steamy geothermal features, world-renowned wildlife viewing and dramatic winter landscapes.

And as the world’s first national park, Yellowstone, gets ready to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service in 2016 YAI has developed new Field Seminar programs that explore the park’s rich heritage, including “Yellowstone’s Conservation Legacy” and “Yellowstone’s Wolves: A Century of Research and Management.”

“This coming winter season kicks off a year-long celebration of the establishment of the National Park Service, and it is a fitting time to recommit to the preservation of our national treasures,” said Wendie Carr, marketing manager for the Yellowstone Association. “We know that the more our visitors learn about the most precious features of Yellowstone, the more committed they’ll be to preserving Yellowstone and our public lands for future generations.”

YAI programs are rated according to an activity level scale from one (daily leisurely hikes up to one mile per day) to five (brisk aerobic snowshoeing or skiing up to 12 miles per day with climbs up to 1500 feet, or steep skiing our snowshoeing including breaking trail in variable snow conditions). Members of the Yellowstone Association receive a discount of $15 off the price of programs.

Field Seminars – Holidays in Yellowstone and more


A few fortunate travelers will be enjoying a potluck Thanksgiving or Christmas Day feast after a day of exploring, or ringing in the New Year under the starry skies of the Lamar Buffalo Ranch Field Campus, YAI’s remote and historic Lamar Valley home base for its three holiday Field Seminars. “Thanksgiving in Lamar” (Nov. 24-28, $390); “Christmas in Lamar” (Dec. 23 – 27, $390) and “New Year’s Wildlife Watching” (Dec. 28 – 31, $382) offer a memorable place to celebrate the holidays with a few kindred spirits.

Of the 32 Field Seminars offered during the winter season nine are new this year. The winter season kicks off with the new “Autumn Reflections: Nature Journaling” (Nov. 7-11; $608). Other new programs this year include “Wildlife Prepares for Winter” (Nov. 3-5, $353); “Yellowstone Wolves: A Century of Research and Management” (Dec. 7-10, $383); “Yellowstone’s Conservation Legacy” (Dec. 12-14, $353); and “In the Bear’s Den” (Feb. 6-7, $317).

All YAI Field Seminars include seminar leaders who are experts in their fields. These leaders help Field Seminar participants explore specific aspects of the park through a combination of field excursions and classroom presentations. Most Field Seminars are based at the Lamar Buffalo Ranch, where participants stay in the log cabins, each equipped with bunks and a propane heater. The campus also includes a community bathhouse with private showers and a common building with a fully equipped kitchen that serves as classroom, dining room and common gathering space for participants.

Prices quoted do not include taxes or gratuities. Seminars are limited to 13 or 24 participants, depending on the seminar. Buffalo Ranch cabins rent for $36 per person per night or $85 per night for a private cabin for one or two people. Participants can also rent sleeping bags and pillows for $20.

Youth and College Programs in Yellowstone


YAI offers a variety of experiences for students and teachers, including the new “Yellowstone Academy,” a three- to five-day program for high school-age groups. With lodging available at the Yellowstone Overlook Field Campus in Gardiner, Mont., just outside the north gate to the park, this program is designed for students to use scientific method and critical thinking skills to investigate Yellowstone in-depth through field research projects. Students meet with park staff and guest experts, and explore natural resource careers. YAI staff engage teachers in pre-curriculum planning and ensure that the experience meets national educational standards. YAI also offers programs for middle age groups and college students. Customized educational excursions are also available.

Rates vary. For more information, teachers and group leaders should visit or call YAI at 406-848-2400.

Private Yellowstone Tours in Winter


Yellowstone Association Institute offers three themed Private Tours for groups of up to 28 participants. The programs – “Wolves in Winter,” “Wildlife Watching on the Northern Range” and “Yellowstone by Ski or Snowshoe” – include a full day of activities with a YAI instructor, in-park transportation and use of high-power spotting scopes. Available through March 31, programs are priced at $560 for one to five participants, $765 for six to 14 participants and $1,515 for 15 to 28 participants.

Private Tour participants staying at the Yellowstone Overlook Field Campus receive a 25 percent discount. Prices do not include taxes or gratuities.

Lodging and Learning Programs in Yellowstone National Park


In partnership with park concessioner Yellowstone National Park Lodges, YAI also offers a selection of Lodging and Learning programs that combine daily in-park field experiences with a YAI instructor, in-park transportation, accommodations in one of the two winter-season park lodges — Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel (MHSH) and Old Faithful Snow Lodge (OFSL) — most meals and optional evening programs. Prices quoted include lodging for double and single occupancy and do not include taxes, utility fees or gratuities.

YAI classLodging and Learning programs include the three-day “Y Not Winter” (lodging at MHSH,  $999/$1,189); six-day “Winter in Wonderland (four nights at MHSH and two nights at OFSL, $1,799/2,275); four-day “Winter Wildlife Expedition” (four nights at MHSH, $845/$1,099); four-day “Winter Wolf Discovery” (four nights at MHSH, $845/$1,099); five-day “Old Faithful Winter Expedition” (two nights at MHSH, three nights at OFSL, $1,689/$2,155); and six-day “Yellowstone on Skis” (three nights at MHSH, three nights at OFSL, $2,045/$2,569 without ski rentals, and $2,119/$2,645 with ski rentals).

A complete winter 2015/2016 catalog is available online. Reservations can be made by calling 1-406-848-2400. For more information about any Institute program visit their website or

Who is the Yellowstone Association Institute?


YA is a membership-based organization. The Yellowstone Association Institute is a non-profit field school operated by the Yellowstone Association in partnership with the National Park Service.  The Institute was founded in 1976 and offers more than 500 courses each year on the park’s plants, animals, geology and history.  Courses are based at the organization’s Lamar Buffalo Ranch and Yellowstone Overlook field campuses, at park hotels, and in the backcountry.

The Yellowstone Association was founded in 1933 to foster the public’s understanding, appreciation, and enjoyment of Yellowstone National Park and its surrounding ecosystem. In addition to operating the Institute, the Association manages educational bookstores and a membership program that generate revenues for the National Park Service.  Since its inception, the organization has raised more than $59 million for Yellowstone. 

To receive a course catalog or for more information, go to, write to the Yellowstone Association at PO Box 117, Yellowstone National Park, WY 82190 or call 406-848-2400.

Note: Several winters ago, editor David Currier attended a winter class at the Buffalo Ranch. His story is here.