MATT SCHUBERT’S OUTDOORS: Winterfest returns to the Vern Burton

DON’T BELABOR THAT blown-down fence.

Don’t fret over the days getting darker and darker.

Such wintry weather is but a mere signal for what lies ahead: Some serious shredding atop the isolated slopes of Hurricane Ridge.

The traditional kickoff to winter sports season at the Ridge arrives with the return of Winterfest to the Vern Burton Community Center, 308 E. Fourth St., in Port Angeles this Friday and Saturday.

The annual fundraiser, put on by the Hurricane Ridge Winter Sports Education Foundation, is vital to keeping organized skiing and snowboarding activities alive on the North Olympic Peninsula.

In the past 20 years it’s raised close to a half million dollars to pay for facilities equipment and scholarships, former Hurricane Ridge Winter Sports Club President Joe Gladfelter estimated.

“We don’t have a paid director. I don’t get paid, or [other club board members] don’t get paid,” Gladfelter said.

“We pay to be involved. We pay membership fees.

“So the money that is donated is put to use.”

The winter sports club runs organized skiing and snowboarding operations each winter weekend at Hurricane Ridge.

That will again be the case this winter, even with Hurricane Ridge Road scheduled to open seven days a week, weather permitting, beginning in December.

The club simply doesn’t have the money to operate every day the road will be open.

Board members are usually happy if the club simply breaks even every year.

Fundraisers like Winterfest are what help keep the whole operation afloat.

In past years, money raised has helped pay for things like the new ticket trailer, snowmobiles for ski patrol, a snow groomer and ski school scholarships.

There is talk that sometime in the near future the club might try to raise enough cash to replace the Poma lift on the north side of the mountain with a chair lift.

Plans for such an upgrade are permissible under Olympic National Park’s new general management plan.

“We’re still in planning process with the park,” Gladfelter said, referencing talks about a possible chair lift.

“It takes some time. If we’re solid financially when we’re ready to present our plan and go forward to the community, it’s going to help us have some validity.”

That, of course, starts with Winterfest.

The event begins with Friday night’s “Dinner and a Movie” extravaganza at 5 p.m.

There will be live and silent auctions, prime rib dinner with a no-host bar, an oyster bar and a showing of Teton Gravity Research’s movie “Light the Wick.”

In between the dinner and movie showing, winter sports club member Ken Simpson will give a presentation on the Hurricane Ridge Hall of Fame.

“There’s a lot of generational history in the club,” Gladfelter said.

“I’m kind of a newbie to it, but there are guys like Russ Morrison and George Lawrence, and they’ve been doing this since grade school . . . 50 years.”

More than 150 items will be up for bid in the silent auction, with another 16 on the docket for the live auction.

Among the items entered into the latter are a four-person ski trip to Steven’s Pass, a helicopter ski trip to the North Cascades and condominium time shares at locations like Maui, Lake Tahoe and Florida.

Tickets for Friday’s event cost $40 and are available at Swain’s General Store, Necessities and Temptations and Browns Outdoor Store.

A limited number of tickets will be available at the door for $45.

Winter sports fans can buy and sell used equipment at the ski swap in Vern Burton on Saturday.

Those looking to drop off gear can do so from 8:30 a.m. to 10 a.m.

Items will then be up for sale between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. Admission is $3 per person, or $7 for a family.

The ski swap will be followed by a second showing of “Light the Wick” at 7 p.m.

Tickets for the movie cost $10.

For more information on the event, visit www.hurricaneridge.com.

Clipped only

Anglers will have to wait a few more months to keep wild steelhead on Peninsula rivers.

Earlier this year, the state Department of Fish and Wildlife changed the annual wild steelhead retention opening date from Dec. 1 to Feb. 15 on eight area rivers.

The rivers affected are the Bogachiel, Calawah, Clearwater, Dickey, Hoh, Quillayute, Quinault and Sol Duc — the only ones in the state that allow native retention.

Three other rivers declared “healthy” one year ago — Pysht, Hoko and Green — were removed from the list of those open to native retention last February due to concerns about returns.

The change does not affect fisheries currently under way for hatchery-reared steelhead — identifiable by their missing adipose or ventral fin.

The Fish and Wildlife Commission moved the opener back in order to protect the early portion of the wild run, according to state steelhead program manager Bob Leland.

“Making this change will help to maintain the diversity of the run — including a range of late and early returning fish — that is important in preserving the wild steelhead population,” Leland said.

While the new opening might be later than some would like, it isn’t nearly late enough for many anglers who abhor the practice of keeping native steelhead.

Given the status of wild steelhead runs in the state — many are ESA listed — there’s quite a bit of debate on the subject.

Scan a few outdoor message boards and you’ll get the idea of how controversial the topic is.

As it stands right now, anglers are allowed to keep just one wild steelhead per license year.

Leland said the recent change is consistent with Fish and Wildlife’s Statewide Steelhead Management Plan, approved by the commission in 2008.

The statewide plan is available at http://wdfw.wa.gov/conservation/fisheries/steelhead.

It sets out a variety of conservation policies to guide fisheries management, hatchery operations and habitat-restoration programs.

________

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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