Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow.
A flurry of skiers and snowboarders followed the snow flurries that helped open the Hurricane Ridge Winter Sports Area on Dec. 22, highlighting the unofficial opening of winter sports activities in Olympic National Park.
Operated by the Hurricane Ridge Winter Sports Club, the area offers activities 10 a.m.-4 p.m. and is open weekends and President’s Day (Feb. 18) through March.
The area has two rope tows and a Poma lift for beginner to advanced skiers.
For fees, the club’s ski school offers three-week and drop-in ski/snowboard lessons, plus toddler-age lessons and private lessons for one person or more (six maximum).
There is also a dedicated tubing run, with one-hour passes ($14 general, free for 8 and younger) available.
Passes — both season passes and reduced cost tickets for just the bunny lift, the intermediate and bunny lifts or the Poma and all lifts, plus tubing fees — are outlined on the club’s website at www.hurricaneridge.com.
The club is offering free lift tickets to fourth- and fifth-graders for the 2019-2020 season. Parents/guardians should bring proof of enrollment to the ticket window to receive a free ticket. Homeschoolers can bring proof of age. Youths must be between age 9-11 as of Dec. 31, 2019, to qualify for the program.
For more information about the ski school, call 848-667-7669 or email to ski email@example.com.
Opportunities for cross-country skiers and snowshoers range from open, level meadows near the visitor center to extreme terrain in the wilderness backcountry. Those skiing or snowshoeing beyond the immediate Hurricane Ridge area are encouraged to sign in at the registration box in foyer of the Hurricane Ridge Visitor Center and be prepared for steep terrain and the possibility of avalanches.
There’s more to do up on the ridge than skiing and tubing, however. Snow permitting, families can join a ranger-guided snowshoe walk. Walks are offered at 2 p.m. weekends and holiday Mondays (Jan. 1, Jan. 20, Feb. 17). They last 1.5 hours and cover less than a mile; snowshoes and instructions are provided.
Cost for snowshoe walks is $7 for adults, $3 for youth 6-15 years old, and free for children 5 years old and younger. Group size is limited to 25 people. Sign-up begins at the Hurricane Ridge information desk 30 minutes before the walk.
Reservations for a morning walk for school or community groups must be made in advance by calling 360-565-3136.
There are also 10 dedicated trails at Hurricane Ridge, from the popular 3.2-mile (round-trip) Hurricane Hill to the 3.8-mile (one-way) Klahhane Ridge to more easy-going, one-mile-or-less routes such as Cirque Rim, Big Meadow and High Ridge; see www.nps.gov/olym/planyourvisit/hurricane-ridge-area-brochure.htm for more trail details.
Note: None of the ski area passes or tickets includes entrance to Olympic National Park. Fees are $30 per car, or an annual pass for $55.
Overnight wilderness camping is allowed in the Hurricane Ridge area with advance registration. Winter camps must be at least one-half mile from the Hurricane Ridge parking area. Overnight parking, however, is not permitted at Hurricane Ridge; parking and shuttle options are explained at the time of registration.
Visitor center, gift shop
Food, beverages and restrooms are available at the Hurricane Ridge Visitor Center, where ridge users can enjoy a picnic at more than 5,000 feet above sea level.
The Hurricane Ridge Visitor Center is scheduled to be open from 10 a.m.-4 p.m., Friday through Sunday, plus some holidays (Jan. 1, Jan. 20 and Feb. 17) through March 31.
The same days and hours hold true for the Hurricane Ridge Mountain View Café, Gift Shop and Rental Shop, with both ski and snowshoe rentals.
Eye on road, weather
According to the National Park Service, Hurricane Ridge Road opens at 9 a.m. but times might vary depending on weather and road conditions.
Weather dependent, the road generally closes to uphill traffic at 4 p.m., Friday through Sunday, and all vehicles must exit the Heart of the Hills entrance station by 5 p.m.
All vehicles, including those equipped with four-wheel drive, must carry snow chains to proceed up Hurricane Ridge Road beyond the Heart o’ the Hills toll station.
Olympic National Park advises Hurricane Ridge visitors to carpool and park close to other vehicles in available parking. The ridge’s parking lot fills early, causing long delays at the Heart o’ the Hills entrance station.
To that end, the Hurricane Ridge Ski and Snowboard Area recently posted an item to help ridge users: Bus service up to the Ridge will begin Saturday, Jan. 4. Trips will depart Civic Field at 9 a.m. and return at 4 p.m.
“For the time being it will only be on Saturdays and will run till the end of March,” the post said. “For this year the service will be free. You will however need a pass into the park. Anyone with a Park pass can bring themselves and three others thru the gate without a fee. Kids 15 and under have no entrance fee and those over 16 without a pass are $15. You must be 13 or over unless accompanied by a guardian.”
The National Park Service encourages visitors to call 360-565-3131 for a 24-hour recording of current road and weather conditions.
After March 29, the road may be open as weather, staffing and road conditions allow. By early May the road is usually open 24 hours a day.