Ridge ski season short-lived

Snow or no, last day is March 31

PORT ANGELES — Even with a late start and a hard deadline at the end of the month, the Hurricane Ridge Winter Sports Education Foundation is trying to squeeze the most out of this year’s ski season.

“We have every expectation of operating through the end of the month,” said Danielle Lawrence, a volunteer with the foundation. “Fortunately, we have five weekends in the month of March.”

The foundation needs at least three feet of snow before it can start operations and this winter that didn’t arrive until the start of this month. Washington is experiencing a particularly dry winter and all of the snow regions monitored by the U.S. Department of Agriculture are well below the 30-year average, with the Olympic region being lowest in the state.

But even with enough snow, the season will come to an end April 1, as that’s when Olympic National Park closes Hurricane Ridge Road in preparation for the upcoming tourist season.

“The last day of operations is March 31,” Lawrence said. “It has nothing to do with the snow. It’s what the park needs to do.”

According to USDA’s March-7 SNOTEL report, the Olympic Region was 49 percent of the 1991-2020 median snowfall. The region with the highest snowfall — the Lower Snake, Walla Walla region — was at 88 percent as of Thursday.

The National Weather Service is forecasting additional snow at the ridge into next week and Lawrence said the foundation’s crews were able to use a groomer on the slope, compacting the snow and making it more resistant to melting.

Opening weekend had about 300 people using the slope, Lawrence said, a good turnout for March but below what the foundation would typically see on an opening day.

The foundation has sold fewer season passes this year, but Lawrence said that won’t impact the group’s future operations or programs.

“A lot of people were holding off because there were a lot of other factors that were undecided,” Lawrence said.

Most of the season pass buyers are locals, Lawrence said, and have been keeping an eye on the local forecast since November, and with the loss of the Hurricane Ridge Day Lodge to a fire last spring, there was a lot of uncertainty with the season.

“Obviously, this year is a wash financially,” Lawrence said. “Fortunately, we have funds set aside that should we will be able to move forward next year with offering (the) same programs.”

The foundation has several programs aimed at kids, including free season passes and free lessons for fourth graders. Luckily, the foundation’s lessons program is three weeks long, so even with the late start this year’s class of 30 will still get all the full program.

Lawrence noted the foundation also holds other fundraisers throughout the year.

“We’re a scrappy group, we have other fundraisers,” she said. “We have upcoming Winterfest in November and (next) Saturday we have the Shamrock Shuffle, which is a pub crawl.”

The foundation is hosting a fundraiser on March 16 from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. with prizes for the best St. Patrick’s Day attire. Participants will get six tasting tokens redeemable at the six participating venues including 48 Degrees North, The Roosevelt, Barhop, Bar N9NEm Next Door Gastropub and Angeles Brewing.

Pre-purchase tickets are $45, day of, $50; proceeds to benefit the foundation.

Lawrence said she’s still expecting a good turnout at the ridge for the rest of the month, even if many people have already moved on to spring hobbies. Weather permitting, Hurricane Ridge Road is open Friday through Sunday but the foundation operates only on the weekend.

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Reporter Peter Segall can be reached at peter.segall@peninsulanews.us.

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