Rendezvous ski trails

The entrance to the Rendezvous Ski Trails in West Yellowstone are shown.

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The Forest Service plans to raise pass prices at West Yellowstone area Nordic ski trails next month, the first of several fee hikes staged to roll out this year.

Starting on Feb. 1, season pass prices at Rendezvous Ski Trails will more than double. Day pass prices will nearly double. The cross-country ski trails feature around 22 miles of groomed track, which criss-crosses the southwest corner of West Yellowstone.

The Forest Service charges visitors $75 for family season passes, $40 for individual season passes and $8 for day passes. On Feb. 1, those prices will increase to $190 per family season pass, $100 per individual season pass and $15 per day pass.

Also starting in February, children 12 and under will be able to ski for free. The Forest Service plans to offer a three-day pass for $30. People can buy passes at the Free Heel and Wheel Ski and Bike Shop or the West Yellowstone Chamber of Commerce at current rates through Jan. 31.

Kathryn Barker, a spokesperson for the Custer Gallatin National Forest, said the agency needs to raise more money so it can better contribute to the maintenance and operating costs of the trails. The agency recognizes the increase is steep, but it hopes the discounts for children and three-day passholders will help alleviate the financial burden on skiers.

“While the fee increase is a big change, through the work and contribution of our partners, we are able to provide an unparalleled skiing opportunity that is also of tremendous value,” said Jason Brey, Hebgen Lake District Ranger. “New revenue will give us a chance to address deferred maintenance while also turning an eye toward future trail enhancements.”

The Forest Service, the West Yellowstone Ski Education Foundation and the West Yellowstone Chamber of Commerce help fund the work, which occurs year-round. The trails are groomed two or three times a week — an expensive task, according to Barker.

Barker said pass prices at Rendezvous haven’t increased since 2011.

The Forest Service must put 95% of all fees collected from Rendezvous skiers back to the trail system, Barker said. The extra money will go toward winter grooming operations, trail maintenance and improvements, signs, summer maintenance and Forest Service administration of the site, according to officials.

Rendezvous isn’t the only Forest Service recreation site poised for a fee increase this year.

Reserving cabins and campgrounds across Gallatin County will become more expensive sometime in the summer, according to Barker. Those fee hikes will likely all go into effect at once.

Raising fees at Forest Service recreation sites involves a detailed and lengthy process, and the prices probably won’t increase again for a long time, Barker said.

The Gallatin Resource Advisory Committee approved raising reservation fees at 13 cabins, one lookout and one campground in Gallatin County at a Dec. 9 meeting. The Southern Resource Advisory Committee will consider more hikes in Stillwater, Sweetgrass, Park and Powder River counties at a future meeting, according to Barker.

It can cost anywhere from $20 to $30 per night to reserve a cabin around Bozeman, depending on the the amenities.

Once the changes go into effect, reserving a cabin will cost anywhere from $45 to $65 per night. The increased rates will apply to the Fox Creek, Yellow Mule, Windy Pass, Basin Station, Battle Ridge, Beaver Creek, Little Bear, Maxey, Mystic Lake, Spanish Creek, Wapiti and Window Rock cabins. It will also apply to the Garnet Mountain Lookout.

The daily fee for staying at the Tom Miner Campground is also set to increase from $7 to $10 per night. A $10 nightly fee will be established for the first time at the Blackmore Camp and Battle Ridge campgrounds.

A $75 rate will be introduced at the Eldridge Cabin in the Taylor Fork drainage south of Big Sky. That site is new to the Forest Service’s reservation system.

Money collected at recreational sites helps the Forest Service fund deferred maintenance, trail work, cabin improvements and education efforts, according to the Forest Service. The Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act mandates that 95% of the money collected from recreational fees go back to the forest.

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Helena Dore can be reached at hdore@dailychronicle.com or at 582-2628.

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