OLYMPIC NATIONAL PARK — Lift inspections set today for Hurricane Ridge’s ski and snowboard operations are the biggest hurdle left to one of the earliest openers in the ridge’s history, according to Hurricane Ridge Winter Sports Club officials.
Club officials also stressed that Olympic National Park officials have the final say on the opening of Hurricane Ridge Road and ski area operations.
An update on the status of Sunday’s scheduled opener is expected to be posted this evening at the Hurricane Ridge Ski and Snowboard Area Facebook page at facebook.com/HRWSC.
“We have to have our annual inspection for the lifts,” said Hurricane Ridge Winter Sports Club President Erik Widsteen. “And some more snow wouldn’t hurt. The forecast doesn’t show much for the next week. We are right around 34 inches and we usually get it started right around the 3-foot mark.”
Club member and ski lift ‘liftee’ scheduler Russ Morrison said Sunday’s targeted start date is ahead of Hurricane Ridge’s typical schedule.
“This is probably the earliest we have ever tried to open,” Morrison said. “That’s good because a lot of people are interested. Frank Crippen, who takes care of the website, said there’s been more interest and more views at this point than anytime he can remember.”
Weather and snow permitting, the Hurricane Ridge Ski, Snowboard and Tubing Area is scheduled to operate from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturdays, Sundays and holiday Mondays from Sunday through March 28.
The area is also scheduled to be open daily from Dec. 26 through Jan. 3.
Hurricane Ridge Road opens at 9 a.m., although times can vary according to road and weather conditions. The road closes to uphill traffic at 4 p.m., and all vehicles must exit the Heart O’ the Hills entrance station by 5 p.m.
Road and weather condition updates are available on the Road and Weather Hotline at 360-565-3131 or by following @HRWinterAccess on Twitter.
Morrison and Widsteen both advise arriving early.
“The parking lot only holds 158 to 160 cars, and it can be metered before 10 a.m.,” Morrison said. “That’s what happens to a lot of families; they dally, and they end up having to wait for an hour or two at the gate.”
“The big thing for the locals is to get up early,” Widsteen said. “Be at the [entrance] gate at 8 a.m. is what we tell people.”
COVID-19 precautions also are in place.
“In skiing and snowboarding, you can generally stay apart because of the equipment,” Morrison said. “If you are on the lifts, you need to be wearing a mask, in the ticket line you need to be wearing a mask and separating 6 feet.”
The ridge’s ticket shed will be unavailable for public use this season.
“You’ll have to use your car to get dressed and as your warming hub,” Widsteen said. “It’s definitely a different setup with the lodge [Hurricane Ridge Visitor’s Center] being closed as well.”
Only restroom facilities will be available in the visitor’s center this season.
Olympic National Park officials also ask that ridge visitors pack extra food, water, dry clothing and blankets and/or sleeping bags in your vehicle.
Despite losing out on annual club fundraisers such as Winterfest, the Outdoor Gear Swap and the Far West Beer Fest due to COVID-19 restrictions, Widsteen said funding for ski operations is stable.
“We are sitting in a good spot,” Widsteen said. “We had a good year last year. A lot of volunteer hours make that happen, and having people up there this ski season buying lift tickets will continue to help us out.
Widsteen hopes visitors enjoy their trip up the mountain.
“We want people to have a good time; we have such a unique attraction in our backyard. Lot of volunteer hours go into making it work, and the biggest reward is seeing people use and enjoy it.”
Sports reporter Michael Carman can be contacted at 360-406-0674 or [email protected].