With the shift in seasons, and much of the autumn road maintenance work completed, members of the Olympic National Park road crew are transitioning this week to winter plowing operations on the Hurricane Ridge Road.
“After an active fall repairing potholes, clearing culverts and preparing for winter storms, it’s time to focus on snow removal and providing weekend access to Hurricane Ridge,” said Olympic National Park Superintendent Sarah Creachbaum.
Three members of the park’s nine-person road crew will change their duty schedules this week and work full-time on maintaining weekend access to Hurricane Ridge.
Of the remaining six crew members, one is a mechanic, charged with servicing and maintaining the park’s fleet of trucks and heavy equipment and three are tasked with keeping roads cleared and maintained along the park’s northern and eastern edges including Sol Duc, Lake Crescent, Elwha and Staircase. The remaining two road crew members are stationed in Quinault to keep the Quinault, Queets and Hoh Rain Forest roads clear and passable.
Hurricane Ridge Road
Weather permitting; the Hurricane Ridge Road is scheduled to be open Friday through Sunday and Monday holidays from Nov. 23, 2012-March 31, 2013. The road is also scheduled to be open on Monday, Dec. 24, and daily from Wednesday, Dec. 26-Jan. 1.
Road and weather condition updates are posted on the Olympic National Park website (www.nps.gov/olym) or by calling the park’s Road and Weather Hotline at (360) 565-3131. People can also follow “HRWinterAccess” on Twitter to receive road condition updates.
All vehicles, including four wheel drive, must carry tire chains when traveling above the Heart O’the Hills entrance station between Nov. 15-April 1.
“Having a set of chains in every vehicle gives an extra safety margin when road conditions worsen during the day,” Creachbaum said.
Winter storms can close or delay opening of the Hurricane Ridge Road; high winds and blizzard conditions are not uncommon. Road and weather condition updates are posted on the Olympic National Park website (www.nps.gov/olym) or by calling the park’s Road and Weather Hotline at (360) 565-3131.
People can also follow “HRWinterAccess” on Twitter to receive road condition updates.
The Hurricane Ridge Road may also close temporarily if the parking lot becomes completely full. To make best use of the available parking spaces, park staff urges Hurricane Ridge visitors to carpool and pay extra attention to making the best possible use of the parking area.
Hurricane Ridge Visitor Center
The Hurricane Ridge Visitor Center is open when the road is open, with restrooms, exhibits, movie and a warming area. Beginning Dec. 15, the information desk will be staffed on weekends and Monday holidays through March 31, 2013. The information desk will also be open on Monday, Dec. 24, and daily from Dec. 26-Jan. 1.
Snack Bar and Ski Shop
The Hurricane Ridge snack bar and ski shop, with both ski and snowshoe rentals, is scheduled to be open from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. on weekends and holiday Mondays from Saturday, Dec. 15 through March 31; it will also be open daily from Dec. 26-Jan. 1.
Ranger-led snowshoe walks for individuals and families will be offered at 2 p.m. on Saturdays, Sundays and Monday holidays from Dec. 15-March 31. The walks last 90 minutes and are less than one mile in length. Space on the walks is limited, so people should sign up at the Hurricane Ridge Visitor Center information desk beginning 30 minutes before the scheduled walk.
A suggested $5 donation from each snowshoe walk participant helps the park provide snowshoe walks and repair and replace snowshoes.
Organized groups such as youth or school groups must make advance reservations for snowshoe walks. Group snowshoe walks are provided Saturdays, Sundays and Monday holidays at 10:30 a.m. for groups holding reservations. Space is limited, so group leaders should call Olympic National Park at 360-565-3136 for reservations and more information.
Downhill Ski and Snowboard Area
Weather permitting; the downhill ski and snowboard area will operate from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. on Saturdays, Sundays and Monday holidays from Dec. 1 through March 31, 2013. The area is also scheduled to be open on Dec. 21, and daily from Dec. 28-Jan. 1. More information about the Hurricane Ridge downhill ski and snowboard area is available at hurricaneridge.com.
Cross-country Skiing and Snowshoeing
Opportunities for cross-country skiers and snowshoe walkers range from open, level meadows near the visitor center to extreme terrain in the park’s wilderness backcountry. Anyone skiing or snowshoeing beyond the immediate Hurricane Ridge area should sign-in at the registration box in the Hurricane Ridge Visitor Center and be prepared for steep terrain and the possibility of avalanches. Although close to town, Hurricane Ridge is subject to extreme winter conditions, including sudden storms, white-outs and avalanche, making planning and preparation for winter conditions vitally important.
Information about ski and snowshoe routes and trails is available at park visitor centers, the Olympic National Park website or the park’s visitor newspaper, the Bugler.
Overnight Wilderness Camping
Overnight wilderness camping is permitted in the Hurricane Ridge area with advance registration. Winter camps must be at least one-half mile from the Hurricane Ridge parking area. Overnight parking is not permitted at Hurricane Ridge; parking and shuttle options are explained at the time of registration. More information is available by calling Olympic National Park Visitor Center & Wilderness Information Center at 360-565-3100 or 360-565-3130.
Up-to-date information about weather and avalanche risk is available from the Northwest Avalanche Center on the web at www.nwac.us/ or by calling 206-526-6677. Anyone planning to venture beyond the maintained downhill ski area or the immediate Hurricane Ridge area should always check with the Northwest Avalanche Center or a ranger for current conditions.
Hurricane Ridge Webcam and Weather Station
Hurricane Ridge weather conditions are available on the park’s website at www.nps.gov/olym and clicking first on “Photos & Multimedia” and then on “Webcams”. The webcam image is updated every 15 minutes (although severe weather can cause webcam outages); weather station information is provided hourly.
Tubing and Sliding
Tubing and sliding are permitted for children eight years of age and younger, at the Small Children’s Snowplay Area just west of the Hurricane Ridge Visitor Center. The Hurricane Ridge Ski and Snowboard area will also operate a tubing park; check hurricaneridge.com for updates and details.
If conditions become too dangerous for sliding, the Small Children’s Snowplay Area will be closed. Visitors should check at a park visitor center for current information.
Olympic National Park Visitor Center
The Olympic National Park Visitor Center & Wilderness Information Center at the base of Hurricane Ridge Road, is open daily throughout the winter from 9 a.m.-4 p.m. except for Thanksgiving (Nov. 22) and Christmas (Dec. 25.)
More information about visiting Hurricane Ridge and other areas of Olympic National Park is available at www.nps.gov/olym.
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