Our History and Mission
(By Arden Bailey, Owner and Founder of Yellowstone Expeditions)
I started Yellowstone Expeditions back in 1983 in order to allow park guests to experience the backcountry of Yellowstone from a comfortable base camp. I felt that a trip to Yellowstone in the winter needed to be more than a bus ride to a distant hotel, I felt it needed to be a personal experience. With that goal in mind, I set up our trips to be small sized tours with plenty of guides. With our remote location in the heart of Yellowstone, the stillness of winter, and our knowledgeable guides, we can take you away from the crowds and deep into the wildness of Yellowstone. We cannot guarantee that on every trip we will see otters or wolves, but we can promise that you will experience Yellowstone as few people do.
Yellowstone was set aside as the worlds first national park in 1872, mostly because of it's scenic and geologic wonders. As a geologist myself, I find the geologic wonders amazing. But over the years, Yellowstone has become, I believe, even more important as a sanctuary for a wild and relatively intact ecosystem. It seems that there are fewer and fewer places left in the world where you can watch wild nature express itself as you can in Yellowstone. What is most important to my guides and to me is to protect, preserve, and yet share this very special place with our guests. We believe that Yellowstone is unique, as we all go about our busy lives, I think that it is important to remember, that up in the high country of Yellowstone...wildness is waiting for us.
People often ask me how and why I started Yellowstone Expeditions. The short answer that I often give is that I was working in the park and wanted to find my own way to share it with people and to help those people experience the park in a more personal way. I suppose like many answers, this answer has many deeper and convoluted parts. So here is a "short" description that I think helps explain "why".
I first came to Yellowstone when I was 9 years old, in August of 1964. Here is a photo of my older brother and me in an August snowstorm east of Old Faithful. After visiting Yellowstone, I went home and built a "model" of Yellowstone in the back garden. It had a buried garden hose that would squirt water up into the air when I turned it on (Old Faithful perhaps?) and a deep canyon. The water from the geyser flowed into a river which went over the "falls" and into the canyon. Of course, the canyon would fill up with water and I would have to wait until it evaporated or soaked in before I could start the process over. I brought the neighbor kids over to show them "Yellowstone". I guess even then, as a nine year old, I wanted to share what I had "discovered" with others.
I started to work in Yellowstone in the late 1970s, doing various jobs for the hotel company. I worked as a "snowcoach driver" during the winter seasons, driving tours based out of the Old Faithful Snowlodge. It seemed that on almost every tour to the Canyon Area someone would want to stop and ski because of the wonderful snow there. I remember thinking, "the best snow in the park, the greatest diversity of wildlife, and wonderful scenery to boot- how can I share this with guests?" I'm not sure exactly how or when I first had the idea, but I remember first sharing the idea with a couple of friends while on a backpacking trip during the fall of 1981. It would be two more years after that trip before I acquired the permits, saved enough money, and developed the courage to start Yellowstone Expeditions.
I somehow talked a friend of mine, Dale Fowler, into helping me with the business. He helped me for the first three years and now works as a "winter keeper" at Lake Hotel near Yellowstone Lake. I (and the bank) bought two bombardier snowcoaches from a fellow in Canada (he was known to many in the area as "Bombardier Sam"). We started with a single hexagonal dining tent and five (very small) sleeping huts. The sleeping huts were heated by "fish house heaters" that I got back in Minnesota (just like in the movie "Grumpy Old Men"). That first winter we had a total of 27 guests for the entire winter.
Our first guest was a wonderful fellow by the name of Gene Young. Gene had been a ranger in Yellowstone back in the 1930s. He had spent the winters in the Bechler Area of the park, where he chased poachers on skis. Gene made several more trips with us before his passing.
Erica started helping out with the business in 1989, which was also the year that we built our first "Snow-van" conversion- "The Tower of Power". Bruce (Buford) and Kari started with us in the mid 1990s with several other great guides to follow- Danny, Brett, David and Sarah, Jeremy and Soile, Corey, and Trevor. It has been an amazing 28 years since the day that I handed Bombardier Sam a check for those first Bombardiers. It's always funny when my guests ask why?... because there have been a few times over those 28 years that I have asked myself that very same question- but then I stand on the bank of the Yellowstone River at sunrise, with no other human beings within miles, and listen to the Hayden Wolf Pack howl at the morning mist, or gaze at the falls of the Yellowstone River under a full moon, or remember the guests that we have shared 28 years of experiences with- from Gene on, and I realize how special this place is- and how lucky I am to be here...