By Bret Wirta-The Incidental Explorer
Distance: various – Time out: All day
Degree of Difficulty: 2 – Elevation: 5,240
Pet Friendly: No
January 26th 2013
The morning was sunny in Sequim so Trish and I set off for a day of outdoor adventure with our good friends, Joel and Lynne. We carefully drove the winding road up Mt. Angeles and parked at The Hurricane Ridge Ski and Snowboard Area. The ticket seller told us the Poma Lift wasn’t running because it needed a new cable. Without the Poma Lift the diamond and double diamond trails were closed too. People were skiing at the rope tow, so Joel bought us four tickets and we carried our skis to the base of the slope.
The whirring rope had slipped through my hands and burned a hole in my leather gloves before I could grasp tightly enough. Next time I’ll wear work gloves. The rope was heavy and my body was heavy and I had felt all of that in my arms and back as I was pulled up the hill. I concentrated on keeping my toes pointed straight and letting go of the rope at just the right moment at the top of the hill. This old-fashioned rope tow was not easy, but it was an unpretentious way to ascend that hill, though not as unpretentious as hiking up with your skis over your shoulder, I suppose. A rope tow is not a chairlift.
Skiing up the hill, while holding the rope, was a continuation of skiing down the hill. That was different than being carried up the hill on a chairlift, which is a lazy break from skiing, and nowadays, a time to check Facebook on your phone. But a chairlift is easier on your back than a rope tow, and I should have thought of my wife’s back. A rope tow is not a place for those with back problems.
The slope was short, but the fluffy snow was well groomed, smooth down the middle, with plenty of moguls along the sides. Trish soldiered on for half dozen runs. Little kids squealed and teenagers jumped through the air, showing off to their friends. Families skied with tiny children and a snow patrol volunteer kept watch over all. The cold slapped your face all the way down the hill. In the thin air you didn’t feel tired.
In the basement of the Hurricane Ridge Visitor Center is a sincere little lunch counter, where you can order hot soup or a beer or even an aperitif. If you have lost a glove or need a scarf they have that too. We squeezed into an alcove and shared a table with an interesting couple who were just opening a tavern.
After lunch we traded our skis for snowshoes. With the Poma Lift out of order and the back country trails closed, the $24 ticket seemed a little steep for just the short rope tow run, but the price was right for snowshoeing – free!
We set out toward Hurricane Hill. The trail was well packed and there were plenty of other jolly snowshoers, enjoying the day too. We told old stories and laughed as we hiked. Wispy fog hid the coastline far below and thick grey clouds blotted out the sun above, but there on the Ridge all was fine. The dark green spruce boughs held puffs of fleecy snow. All was silent except for the swish of our snowshoes.
At the base of Hurricane Hill the trail turned steep and icy and the clouds were blacker. We decided to turn back. If it began to snow, we worried not about becoming lost along the broad snowshoe trail back to the lodge, but instead we worried about driving the slippery mile-long road down the mountain. I can’t emphasize enough to drive slowly down the mountain and shift to a low gear if it’s icy. Before you leave always check the road conditions. The Park requires each car to carry a set of tire chains. You can also check the weather by looking at the Hurricane Ridge webcams.
We had a fun day with Joel and Lynne on Hurricane Ridge! You can rent snowshoes at the Hurricane Ridge Visitor Center and even take a guided snowshoe hike with an ONP ranger. Whatever you choose, skiing, snowshoeing or both, arrive early because the parking lot fills early on sunny weekends and the Park Service doesn’t have shuttle service.
The Hurricane Ridge Ski and Snowboard Area is a non-profit organization. The dedicated volunteers are committed to preserving the ski area now, and for the future. (You can donate to the new Poma Lift cable like Joel and Lynne did!)
To get to the Hurricane Ridge Visitors Center from the Holiday Inn Express, Sequim where we were staying:
- Head west on Highway 101 toward Port Angeles
- Turn left at North Race Street
- Continue up the hill for 18 miles on Hurricane Ridge Road to the Visitors Center
- The entrance Fee to the Olympic National Park is $15.00 per auto, but a year-long pass is only $30.00
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