The Hurricane Ridge Road is the primary access point for winter recreation in the Olympic Mountains. Currently the road is closed Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday in the months of December through March. Since 1958, the road has provided access to a variety of activities including downhill skiing and snowboarding at a small community run ski area, backcountry skiing and riding, cross country trails, family sledding, snowshoeing, sightseeing, and winter mountaineering. On a clear day, Hurricane Ridge offers breathtaking vistas of the surrounding Olympic Mountains, Mt. Olympus, the Strait of Juan de Fuca, and Vancouver Island.
Winter access to Hurricane Ridge brings vitality to the surrounding communities, providing a healthy, positive outlet for youth, families, and citizens of all ages. Winter recreation at Hurricane Ridge is arguably one of the area’s most valuable assets, attracting visitor and tourist dollars spent on food, lodging, gas, and other amenities, during the low season.
ACCESS: A BRIEF HISTORY
In the late 1990s, Olympic National Park began restricting midweek access to Hurricane Ridge, with the road open on an unreliable, “weather permitting” basis. This began the decline in visitor numbers. In 2005, access was officially limited to Friday through Sunday only, furthering the decline.
Many days each winter, the gate remains closed during high-pressure spells of warm, sunny weather, in which dry road conditions require no plowing. Prior to 2005, the park would often keep the road open on these midweek days.
In 2011 and 2012 the park agreed to a seven-day-access trial period. The local community raised $75,000 a year to bridge a gap in the park’s estimated budget for midweek operations, a testament to how strongly the local community values this resource.
During these two years, the road was late to open (it is supposed to open at 9:00 am) or closed 50% of the time. The average late opening was 10:15 am. Both years there were 70 days of no new precipitation, about the number of days the road opened on time.Despite this level of unreliability, the trial period still yielded a 35% increase in winter visits. Nevertheless, park officials declared the trial unsuccessful, and in the fall of 2012 announced a return to Friday through Sunday access, weather permitting.