Yellowstone's Winter Caretaker

Steve Fuller at Yellowstone National Park in winter

Steve Fuller uses a giant saw to clear ice from lodge roofs.

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As winter keeper at deserted Canyon Village in the heart of Yellowstone National Park (www.nps.gov/yell), Steven Fuller might seem to have one of the harshest jobs on the planet. Yet he delights in the snow and bitter cold, and thanks his 35 years of "fantastical isolation" for letting him pursue a passion for wildlife and landscape photography (www.stevenfuller.net).

Q Your daily duties?
A In 1872, when Congress created the park, winter keepers stayed behind to look after hotels and lodges. A prime duty was clearing several hundred inches of snow that collect on buildings, to keep their roofs from collapsing. The necessity of that job hasn't changed.

Q How does it feel to be so cut off?
A Wonderful. When I first came here, I stayed at Canyon from late autumn till the snowplows reached me in mid-April. The nearest store was a 50-mile snowmobile ride away. Civilization is closer now but the solitude and beauty remain. Every day the wind, moisture, and cold sculpt a spectacular new landscape.

Q Ever had any close calls?
A Riding my horse through Hayden Valley I came on a sleeping grizzly, and when it rose up and growled my horse reared and rolled over on top of me.

Q Photography tips?
A I love backlighting. With the geysers' and hot springs' mist rising into the sunlight, it makes great atmospheric effects.

Q Don't-miss sights?
A Old Faithful geyser in the glow of dusk. Wolves howling in the Lamar Valley. The lower waterfall thundering into the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone.

Q Can I reach those places in winter?
A Hop on a snow coach or snowmobile in West Yellowstone, Mont. (www.westyellowstonechamber.com).

Photography by Jeff Vanuga

This article was first published in January 2009. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.

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