OLYMPIC NATIONAL PARK — Skiers, snowboarders and sledders are optimistic about a good snow year to come hit the slopes at Hurricane Ridge throughout the weekend for the first time this winter.
For many, including back country downhill skier Dustin Schmitt of Port Angeles, the 44 inches of snow at the Ridge on Sunday was a sign of good things to come.
The Olympic National Park reported having 45 inches of snow at Hurricane Ridge on Monday, including 7 inches of fresh snow.
“The snow is coming good and early and hopefully we’ll have another good December,” Schmitt said. “We’re always hopeful for a good winter, a good consistent snowpack.”
Hurricane Ridge is looking toward a full week of fairly steady snow showers, according to the National Weather Service.
Tonight the National Weather service is predicting 1 to 3 inches possible, with up to 2 inches of snow on Wednesday, with snow in the forecast through Sunday.
Though the lifts weren’t yet running over the weekend, Schmitt and other skiers and snowboarders hiked up to hit the slopes.
“Right now it’s just the back country skiers, the guys up here looking to work for turns,” he said. “When the lifts get going, the kids will come up and it will be a whole family affair.”
The Hurricane Ridge Winters Sports Club is hopeful to begin operations Sunday, about two weeks earlier than usual, said Frank Crippen, ski school instructor.
“Our first scheduled day of operation is Sunday,” he said. “As always, that’s weather and road dependent.”
He said there’s still plenty of work that needs to be done Friday and Saturday to get everything ready, though the goal is Sunday.
“The snow came a little earlier than we were expecting,” he said. “It’s not often we get the ski area open before Christmas break.”
The ski school will start the first week of January, he said.
For Colby Mackley, the early snow offered a chance for his family to hit the slopes for the first time this year. Mackley, a snowboarder, gave his 4-year-old daughter, Rio, a refresher course on skiing.
“She knows how to ski, but with this much powder snow, she’s just getting a little bit of a refresher,” he said.
All of Mackley’s family either skis or snowboards, so he’s looking forward to a great winter at the Ridge, he said.
“This is shaping up to be a good year so far,” he said. “It’s the most snow I’ve seen this early in a long time.
“It’s going to be great for the kids here in Port Angeles.”
Mackley said he is grateful the National Park Service keeps the road open and allows access to Hurricane Ridge during the winter, which requires constantly clearing the road of snow.
“This is awesome to have this much snow this early and it’s awesome the park has the road open,” he said. “It’s a greater challenge than one would think.”
During the winter season, the 17-mile Hurricane Ridge Road is open to uphill traffic from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday through Sunday and holiday Mondays, weather and road conditions permitting.
All vehicles are required to carry tire chains and must exit the Heart O’ the Hills entrance station by 5 p.m.
All vehicles, including four-wheel-drive, are required to carry tire chains when traveling above the Heart o’ the Hills entrance station between today and the last weekend of March.
Visitors can purchase a $50 annual pass into the park or pay $25 for a carload.
For updated information about Hurricane Ridge Road, call 360-565-3131 or follow @HRWinterAccess on Twitter.
Reporter Jesse Major can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56250, or at email@example.com.