Written by: Taylor Bunn | Edited by: Dara Barney
We’re heading West. The furthest west in the contiguous United States that offers a place to ski. We’re heading to the Olympic Mountains of Washington, to one of only three remaining ski areas located inside of a National Park. Have you guessed it yet?
Just 17 miles south of Port Angeles, set at the very end of the road, is Hurricane Ridge.
About a mile up in the Olympic National Forest you can find a winter destination like no other. At the top of Hurricane Ridge, you’ll experience 360° views of the Olympic Mountains that will take your breath away. What else can you see atop this ridge? The surf. That’s right. You can see the nearest surfing access, or better yet you can ski within 20 miles of it. Which is exactly why Hurricane Ridge is home to a challenge called the Triple S.
Ski. Surf. And Single Track Mountain Biking.
All in one magnificent place, in just one day. Come spring, bring your A-game, or should we say your S-game?
Ski in the ‘Olympics’
Powder. Powder. Powder.
This snowy paradise is vastly underrated, which makes the powder all that more worth it for the visitors that DO make it up to the ridge. Though there are only three lifts, two rope tows, and a poma lift, this place is about quality, not quantity.
Hurricane Ridge is amply named for its hurricane-strength wind gusts. Traveling at more than 75 miles per hour, the wind is a force of nature up there like you wouldn’t believe. Mix that with the 30-35 feet of annual snowfall and you’ve got yourself the perfect place for a winter storm to produce a smooth, guided drop for your freshly-waxed board. Oh, and did we mention Hurricane Ridge is only open on the weekends? So, 400 beautiful fresh inches of powder fall on this Ridge throughout the winter and it’s only accessible Friday through Sunday. Fridays can’t come soon enough for the locals or other visitors.
So, when the roads are open, you have to be ready to embrace the adventure and GO. While the area has heavy foot traffic during the summer months, on a busy winter weekend, it sees only about 1,000 visitors. If you find yourself to be one of the lucky ones this season, you can choose from snowshoeing, cross-country and downhill skiing, snowboarding, tubing and more. Spend a weekend here and you’ll find yourself a catchy new slogan to tell your friends at home, “I have skied in the Olympics!” It isn’t too far of a stretch.
The Triple S Challenge
If, or when (because we know how bad you want to go) a trip to Hurricane Ridge emerges in your planner, you might be tempted to crush the Triple S Challenge. Ski the fresh powder in the morning, surf on Washington’s coast, and then hop on a single-track mountain bike path.
As previously mentioned, it would be best-attempted on a spring day. After a few hours of carving the untouched powder, head out about 17 miles towards Washington’s coast. There are plenty of surf spots near Port Angeles. One popular surf destination is La Push beach. Afterward, if you’re still feeling adventurous, it’s time to hit the bike trails.
If you make it through the entire challenge, go get yourself a cold one in the town of Port Angeles, because you definitely deserve to quench your thirst after a long day.
Get to the Ridge
Warm up in the visitor center before you head out on your excursions for the day. Fuel up with a coffee because you aren’t going to want to rest for a single second while you’re there.
This is a family-oriented ski area with only about ten trails, but the area promises awesome terrain that is perfect for all skill levels. If you’re looking to cruise, there are plenty of groomers with panoramic views that will show you the Pacific Northwest as far as your eyes can see. However, if you’re up for a bit more work, there are steeps, bowls, and glades in the area that pay off big time on the way down.
Hidden in the backcountry are runs with waist-deep fresh powder and lines so perfect you’ll run them in your sleep that night. Once the powder proves itself and you’re ready to shed a layer, hit the terrain park for a bit before heading to your car.
More Than Skiing
Alright, your quads are shot, your calves are done, now what? A weekend in the Olympic Peninsula is not wasted even if you’re not shredding the entire time. Bring your own sled or rent a tube and fly downhill in the tubing park for a feeling so good you’ll think you’re a kid again.
Later, if you’re not too tired to switch your gears, head to the car and put on your snowshoes! Grab your camera and fill a Thermos with some hot cocoa (and maybe a little whiskey), whatever you fancy. It’s time to catch more of those views that this place promises. Hurricane Ridge offers ranger-guided snowshoe walks. The guided hikes are around 1.5 hours and cover about two miles.
If you’re ready for a weekend of no lift lines, some of the most untouched, fresh powder, and breathtaking views every way you look, get to Hurricane Ridge.
Open year-round is a campground close by known as the Heart O’ the Hills Campground. This campground is engulfed in Old Growth forests. If you look closely while you’re there you may see banana slugs slugging around. Or, salamanders sneaking around in between rocks. You may even catch a glimpse of a rough-skinned newt running across the road.
Less than 40 minutes away, there are plenty of places to stay in Port Angeles. Relax and kick back with a happy hour menu of local beers. A few places to grab a bite and beverage are Barhop Brewing, San Juan Island Brewing, and Phillips Brewing Company.
Get stoked, and plan a trip to Hurricane Ridge. If you miss out, you will regret it. There aren’t any bad days spent skiing on the Ridge.