MATT SCHUBERT’S OUTDOORS COLUMN: Hurricane Ridge getting ready for snow, ski lovers

THE STREETS ARE safe once again.

And now that Snowmageddon 2010 has come and gone, it’s time to start thinking about Hurricane Ridge.

After all, that was a whole bunch of snow that was dumped on the North Olympic Peninsula’s winter wonderland last week.

One has to start wondering: When are we going to start re-aggravating our carpal tunnel injuries on some operational rope tows this winter?

Unfortunately, the answer isn’t set in snow.

Nearly three feet of powder sat atop the Ridge as of Wednesday afternoon.

A few more inches, and mountain manager Craig Hofer’s crew can get to the nitty gritty of putting together the intermediate and bunny rope tows.

“Hopefully we’re going to be up there by Saturday and start charging after it,” said Hofer, who as worked for more than 30 years on the Ridge.

“We’ve done pretty much everything we can do . . . and I think we’re pretty much on schedule. We’ll get the [snowcat] up there this weekend and start picking away at it.”

Olympic National Park set the season for organized ski activities for Saturdays and Sundays from Dec. 11 through March 27.

Since Hofer’s crew still has a lot of work ahead of it — stringing ropes, setting up gates, etc. — the wait on the rope tows will likely be longer than the schedule start date.

Hofer wouldn’t put a timetable on when the tows would be up and running, but if recent history is any indicator, it probably won’t be until sometime around Christmas.

As for the Poma lift on the north side of the hill, that usually doesn’t get going until sometime in January.

Snowshoeing

As most of you know already, Hurricane Ridge Road is scheduled to open to seven-day-a-week access this winter.

With the road open as much as it is, Olympic National Park plans to offer more ranger-led snowshoe walks on the mountain.

The one-mile walks last 90 minutes and will be offered for individuals and families at 2 p.m. on Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays and Monday holidays starting Dec. 10.

Space on the walks is limited, so those interested are asked to register at the Hurricane Ridge Visitor Center information desk 30 minutes in advance.

While the walks are technically free, a $5 donation is suggested.

In this case, “donation” loosely translates to “fee freely paid by anyone who isn’t a cheapskate.”

Organized groups can make advanced reservations for ranger-led snowshoe walks on Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays and Monday holidays at 10:30 a.m.

Group leaders should call Olympic National Park at 360-565-3136 for reservations.

Unlike the organized ski activities, the snowshoe walks will most assuredly begin Dec. 10.

Snow bus?

It might not be the snow bus, but at least Ridge fans can count on some transportation up the hill this winter.

All Points Charters and Tours will offer rides twice daily from downtown Port Angeles to the top of the Ridge on Wednesdays through Sundays starting Dec. 17.

Vans will pick up passengers at Vern Burton Community Center, 308 E. Fourth St., in Port Angeles at 9:05 a.m. and 1:05 p.m. for the 45-minute drive.

Return trips will leave the Ridge at 11 a.m. and 3:30 p.m.

Advance reservations are recommended and can be made by calling All Points Charters and Tours at 360-565-1139 or 360-460-7131.

Round-trip tickets cost $10 per person, although rates for special circumstances are under consideration.

That does not include park entrance fees ($5 for those without a park pass).

Road access

Daily access to the Ridge is set to begin Dec. 17.

After that, Hurricane Ridge Road will be open daily 9 a.m. to dusk through the winter season, except for Christmas.

All vehicles are required to carry tire chains when traveling above the Heart O’ the Hills entrance station.

Obviously, all road openings are weather permitting.

Parking is always limited, so travelers are encouraged to car pool if possible.

As someone who’s waited in line 30-plus minutes for a parking spot to open on the Ridge, I strongly encourage it as well.

Road and weather condition updates are posted on the Olympic National Park website (www.nps.gov/olym).

Those are also available by calling the park’s Road and Weather Hotline at 360-565-3131.

For more information on winter activities at the Ridge, visit www.nps.gov/olym.

________

Matt Schubert is the outdoors and sports columnist for the Peninsula Daily News. His column regularly appears on Thursdays and Fridays. He can be reached at matt.schubert@peninsuladailynews.com.

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