When most people think of winter in the Pacific Northwest, they think of depressingly gray skies, constant rain, and not much else. The reputation of being the rain capitol of the world haunts the region, especially those living on the drenched Olympic Peninsula. It is true that clouds, more often than not, blanket the region, dumping 14 feet of rain a year in places. However, in the cold months, when most of the country assumes that clouds are sitting over the Olympic Peninsula like an umbrella, blocking the true beauty from escaping, the mountains become a winter wonderland.
High up in the Olympic Mountains, nearly a mile above sea level, Hurricane Ridge gives one of the nation’s best panoramic views. Just 17 miles away from the international port city of Port Angeles, “The Ridge”, is one of the more popular destinations in Olympic National Park. Open four days a week, this wintery wonderland offers the very best snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, and snowboarding environments in the Pacific Northwest. While there is a kid-friendly sledding area near the Hurricane Ridge Visitor Center, the main draw to the region is the nearly 400 inches of powder that fall on the snowy summit each winter.
Hurricane Ridge Ski and Snowboard Area is one of only three operating ski and snowboard areas in our National Parks. It has 10 trails, two rope tows, one lift, and views as far as the eye can see. While only officially sporting an elevation drop of 800 feet, there are a few backcountry areas where those looking for adventure can find waist deep powder and epic lines. Hurricane Ridge also has a terrain park with natural hits, jumps and rails, set against the glorious panorama of the Olympic Mountains.
Mitch Zenobi, a local to the northern Olympic Peninsula, has been enjoying the powder at Hurricane Ridge since 2009, when he first started snowboarding. On Christmas Eve, 2009, Mitch bought a cheap board at a pawn shop, rented a pair of boots, and hit the Olympic slopes for the first time. After his first run, he was hooked.
“Oh that’s a tough one, there are so many,” Mitch recalled when asked to share his best memory at Hurricane Ridge. “I think my best experience up there was the entire 12/13 season. I didn’t miss a single day of the lifts running, and the road didn’t close once due to bad weather, and there were more powder days than I can count.”
For locals like Mitch Zenobi, Hurricane Ridge helps define the region and the people, especially those looking for more extreme activities in the snowy months.
“It means everything to us.” Mitch shares, when asked about the local community’s relationship with Hurricane Ridge. “Riding snow is our passion, and Hurricane Ridge is our Valhalla. It’s our home away from home. The days we aren’t up there, we count the days until we can be. During the summer, we hope for early snowfall and a long season of good snow and clear roads.”
Recently, I sat down with Mitch to share his perspective of why Hurricane Ridge is so amazing and awesome. He is one of the 4,000 visitors to Hurricane Ridge each winter, and is one of the few that documents, records, and shares his experiences of this forgotten ski and snowboard area with the world. A longboarder during the summer months, and a snowboarder in the winter, Mitch embodies the outdoor passion that is shared by so many who live around Olympic National Park.
What makes you want to be on Hurricane Ridge with fresh powder?
Untracked pow lines! Since it’s a small mountain community, you can always find fresh lines to ride.
What are your favorite views?
My utmost favorite view is from the top of Sunrise Ridge where you can see the majestic Olympic Mountains, and overlook the Strait of Juan De Fuca and Canada.
What is the worst experience, aside from days where the road to The Ridge is closed?
I don’t have any. There isn’t a single day, in all the years I’ve been up there, that I’ve had a bad experience.
Is there a run/area that everyone needs to try?
Oh yes. It’s called the Face. You start from the top of Sunrise Ridge and drop the west side down into the poma bowl. I think its about a 1000 ft drop in elevation, and its pure awesome.
Why should people from around the country come to Hurricane Ridge in the winter?
If you were just coming for the sights, the views are breathtaking. Add snow on top of that and you have a playground worthy of the gods. There is endless opportunity for fresh tracks, no lift lines, friendly atmosphere, wonderful hiking trails, back country adventures, sledding/tubing, and it’s an all around great place to be.
Hurricane Ridge is truly a playground of the gods, even more so in the winter. As the trees become weighed down with snow and transform into images from a Dr. Seuss book, the already intoxicatingly beautiful region becomes indescribably perfect. A wintery wonderland, snowshoers and cross-country skiers have over 20 miles of trails to explore, each offering views more breaktaking every mile. High above the trails, daring backcountry skiers and snowboards weave through forests before bombing down bowls packed full of powdery goodness. If you are a lover of snow and want to get away from the more developed ski resorts in the Pacific Northwest, take a trip to Olympic National Park’s Hurricane Ridge Ski Area. Unrivaled views, fresh lines, and all the powder you could ask for are just some of the things waiting for you.
Read More about Winter Access to Hurricane Ridge in Olympic National Park at ExoticHikes.com.