The Big Picture

March 4, 2009
Dear Superintendent Gustin,
We would like to schedule a follow-up meeting with you and staff regarding winter access to Hurricane Ridge. Please examine the attached documents summarized below:
                    I.      Excerpts from Olympic National Park management documents.  Winter recreation is now and always has been a primary reason for Olympic National Park’s existence.
                  II.      Importance of Hurricane Ridge winter access.
               III.      A historic timeline of winter recreation before Hurricane Ridge Parkway opened
                IV.      A modern timeline detailing decreased access, increased fees, and decreased visitation.
                  V.      Summary of visitation statistics
                VI.      An examination of Olympic winter road operations
             VII.      An overview of winter opportunities, visitation, and plowing operations at other National Parks and Federal land in the west.
           VIII.      Questions arising from earlier dialogue with Park personnel.
                IX.      Petition signatures
Management of the Hurricane Ride winter recreation area has changed considerably over the last 20 years, with an overall trend of decreased access opportunities.  Management decisions have been made in an ad hoc manner, primarily in reaction to budget cuts. 
It benefits the Park and winter recreation stakeholders if decisions are made in the context of an overall vision not only of Hurricane Ridge and Olympic National Park, but also winter recreation on a regional level.  The vision should include awareness of trends in winter recreation; increased public input; outreach to user groups and concessionaires; coordination and cooperation with local, state, and regional agencies; increased understanding of the requirements of winter visitors; increased outreach to volunteers; and awareness of the impacts of winter visitation to the Olympic Peninsula tourism industry. 
Thank you for your continued attention to this matter.  Please contact Greg Halberg at 504-3654 or to arrange a meeting at your convenience.


I. Excerpts from Olympic National Park management documents. 

Access to winter recreation is a fundamental mission of Olympic National Park. 

·         The purpose of Olympic National Park is …to conserve and render available to the people, for recreational use, this outstanding mountainous country, containing numerous glaciers and perpetual snow fields. 

·         The mission of Olympic National Park is to …provide for the enjoyment, education, and inspiration of present and future generations.

·         Winter recreation predates the creation of Olympic and was one of the primary reasons for creating the Park in 1938.  Rep. Mon C. Wallgren of Everett, the author of the founding legislation was of the opinion that the first addition to the park would be the Deer Park area. "He pointed out this area is particularly adaptable to winter sports and would make a 'skiing paradise.'"

·         The 1996 Olympic National Park Statement for Management and other Park management documents reaffirmed the importance and significance of recreational values.

·         The 2008 General Management plan states cross country and snowshoe use will be encouraged.


II. The importance of Hurricane Ridge winter access.

The reasons for maintaining winter access are many and diverse.

1.       Hurricane Ridge is an important regional recreational asset for the 5.6 million human powered winter recreation visits in the western snow belt.

2.       Hurricane Ridge winter access is an important draw for winter visits for the Olympic Peninsula tourism industry.  Current winter hotel occupation rates are less than 35%.  Annual occupation rates are at 55%.  Increasing winter visits will stabilize tourism revenue.

3.       Hurricane Ridge winter access is an important tool for recruitment of businesses and workers to the area.

4.       Hurricane Ridge winter access is an important tool for recruitment of retirees to the area, a major part of the Peninsula economy.

5.       Hurricane Ridge winter access is an important facility to encourage health and wellness for the local population, providing important health care benefits and savings.

6.       Hurricane Ridge winter access is an important educational asset for area youth to provide opportunities for self-esteem enhancement, drug prevention, and team building activities.  Access also provides exposure to real life science, including biology, meteorology, geology, and other sciences.

7.       Hurricane Ridge winter access is an important cultural resource, with winter recreation predating the creation of the National Park.

8.       Hurricane Ridge winter access is an important asset for inspiration.  Current management creates chronic overcrowding and diminishes the opportunity for solitude and a wilderness experience.



III. Historical time line of winter recreation.

Winter recreation in the Olympics has a long historical precedent and predates the creation of Olympic National Park. 

Information has been gathered from ONP press releases, ONP visitor statistics, Peninsula Daily News articles, Seattle Times online archives, Tacoma Tribune, and online archives dating to 1938. 1934 -1935

  • Construction of the Deer Park road from Danz's ranch has now been completed and the road is open to traffic every day of the week.
  • The Idaho Camp road is scheduled to open on Saturday afternoons and Sundays.
  • "According to unofficial word from Olympia today, the forestry service plans construction of a lodge, individual cabins, a ski-way and general recreational features at Deer Park, terminus of one of the new CCC roads in Clallam County."
  • The Deer Park road has been graded in hope of keeping it open throughout the winter. "Snags are to be cleared out at Deer Park for a toboggan slide and ski run about 500 or 600 feet in length."


  • "Skiers should be gladdened by news that there is three feet of snow on the ski runs at Deer Park and that the U.S. forest service announces it will keep the road to that point open during the winter. Twenty intrepid winter sportsmen registered at Deer Park last Sunday and enjoyed a day of skiing."
  • Improvments underway include a "mile-long ski-way," widening the roadways, a community center to accommodate at least 32 people overnight, a Boy Scout council fireplace, and camp grounds.
  • As many as 500 skiers in one day
  • 100 Seattle Mountaineers visited. Parking was congested, a problem to be worked out as soon as possible
  • 2,500 skiers in winter season


  • Skiing at Deer Park, Flapjack Lakes
  • As many as 800 daily skiers, including 150 Seattle Mountaineers.
  • The Olympic Ski Club now is the second largest organization in PNSA, with 230 members
  • Ski expedition for Deer Park to Elwha over the connecting ridges to survey the cross country skiing possibilities and likely sites for ski huts. "We're taking some movie cameras along and will make a pictorial record of the trip to show skiers and other interested persons on the Peninsula just what the lay of the land is in this mountain country."
  • The skiers were enthusiastic about the ski terrain they crossed, but returned "thoroughly convinced" of the need for huts along the way.


  • Olympic Park Created.  Does not include Deer Park. Rep. Mon C. Wallgren of Everett, the bill's author said the first addition to the park, would be the Deer Park area. "He pointed out this area is particularly adaptable to winter sports and would make a 'skiing paradise.'"
  • A ski tow has begun operation for the first time at Deer Park. "The tow consists of an endless line powered by a small gas engine." The tow is presently 675 feet long but will be increased to 900 feet. The motor will be upgraded to pull four persons at a time up the hill. Rates range from four rides for 25 cents to an all-day fee of 75 cents.
  • The area includes practice slopes, "a downhill run of about one mile," and a class B jump (nearly completed). A 1000-foot rope tow pulls skiers up 300 feet in elevation. The tow operates on Sundays and holidays. The lodge facilities are detailed. Uphill traffic on the road is not allowed after 2 p.m. and downhill travel starts at 3 p.m.

1940-Park expansion by Presidential Proclamation includes Deer Park.

1940’s -Crisler’s overwinter at Hurricane Hill, invite friends for skiing.

1957 -Last year of Deer Park ski area. Two rope tows are in operation. The last nine miles of the road are one-way and by customary practice, down-mountain traffic doesn't start until 3 p.m.

The construction of the Hurricane Ridge Lodge and Parkway was intended to be an improvement for winter recreation.  This vision was curtailed early by Park officials.  For a period access was improved, and visitation rivaled any winter access point in the National Park System.  Recent trends are for decreased access, increased fees, and decreased visitation.


·         1952 Senator Henry M. Jackson dedicated the new lodge on Hurricane Ridge.  When the new road is open, the Hurricane Ridge lodge will operate for skiers in winter, instead of Deer Park.

·         "New Winter Playground for the Northwest" Skiing on Hurricane Ridge is in its "Experimental Year" in 1957-58. The ski area was opened in 1957 with completion of the "Heart-of-the-Hills" road from Port Angeles. In the first three weeks of January 1958, the ridge saw 8,297 visitors, including 1,631 skiers. 33,000 visitors enjoy Hurricane Ridge during the winter season.

  • Hurricane Ridge ran its tows for the first time this season and attracted enough skiers to encourage a summertime improvement program.

·         Assistant Superintendent's Report, July 24, 1959 "Report of Activities at Hurricane Ridge for the 1958-1959 Winter Season"

    • This report describes the second winter of operation.
    • Three rope tows in operation, a beginner and intermediate tow just off the parking area, and a third on the north slope, on the opposite side of Hurricane Ridge from the visitor center.
    • Winter use at Hurricane Ridge is "definitely local and probably does not contribute to the economy of Port Angeles as much as had been expected."
    • The author feels that winter use at Hurricane Ridge has been overemphasized. "From what we know now, we are going to oppose any extension of winter used such as additional ski tows or new slopes. We do not think it advisable to expand anything at the Ridge."
  • Hood Canal Bridge opens 1961.

1976 - "Jackson statements give skiers boost"

  • U.S. Senator Henry M. Jackson says flat out he is in favor of a modern skiing facility in the ridge area." This article (and previous ones) makes it clear that Jackson was a key player in the development of winter facilities on Hurricane Ridge and remained a strong supporter for many years. "At the time the lodge was built, he favored overnight facilities and still does."


Before 1992

  • Open every day.
  • May be closed weekdays at gates 9, 12, or 14 miles from the top.
  • Clallam Transit Bus takes one trip up and one trip down and costs $5
  • 1992 trial shuttle bus run on Presidents Day, running every half hour
  • Deer Park Road is open to snow level.



  • 12/31/92 Budget cuts mean the road to won't be open as much this winter.
  • The budget ax has all but eliminated winter road-maintenance money.
  • Road open Saturdays through Mondays barring heavy storms.
  • Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays if sufficient patrol and no plowing is needed
  • While road maintenance decreases, road use appears to be increasing.
  • 2/11/92 Hoffman said the first bus will leave the Olympic National Park Visitor Center at 9:30 a.m. Buses will leave Heart O' the Hills, about six miles up the Hurricane Ridge Road, every 30 minutes from 11 a.m. until 3:30 p.m. Parking will be provided at a campground there.
  • The Ridge sees 52,398 January through April visits with 60 inches of snow at the snow stake.


·         12/19/93 Road open Sunday through Monday. Road crews will work each Friday to prepare for the scheduled Saturday openings.  On Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays the road will be open if sufficient patrol personnel are available and no plowing or sanding is needed.  With continuing budget shortfalls, staffing for ridge plowing and patrol remains limited.

·         2/20/94 During the heaviest snows of the season last week, three pieces of snow removal equipment broke down, closing road over the holiday weekend.

·         Clallam Transit Bus $8, one trip up and one down

·         4/94 70,366 visits, 84 inches of snow


·         11/11/94 The Park wants to put more emphasis on keeping the road open on Fridays and Mondays, along with the usual Saturdays and Sundays during the ski season.

  • 12/2/94 Maynes said the Park road crews started their winter schedule a month early, working four 10 hour days to keep the road open from 9 am to dusk Friday through Monday.  The road will be open the rest of the week if it can be done with minimal effort. 
  • $5 Entrance fee implemented for first time in winter.  The fee is good for 7 days, although the road to Hurricane Ridge is only open on Saturdays and Sundays and on weekdays when snow removal is not necessary.

·         The Sol Duc Road, which has been closed during several past winters, will be open this winter as road and weather conditions permit.

·         Deer Park Road will be open to within 2.6 miles of the end of the road. It is not likely this road will be maintained by the park, however, so the snow level will probably determine how far up you can drive.

·         1/25/95 Visitors will wait at Heart o’ the Hills when parking lots are full.  The road will be closed in that event, and the only way to get to the ridge will be aboard the Hurricane Ridge Snow Bus.  In the past Rangers stopped cars 14 miles up the road, but that system created a long line of cars on icy spots and visitors walk along the edge of the snow packed parking lot and children run across the road to the tubing area.

·         Clallam Transit Bus costs $8, runs up at 9 am and down at 4 pm.

·         55,776 visits, 113 inches of snow.



  • 2/26/1996 Hurricane Ridge Road is open Fridays through Tuesdays "weather permitting." Generally, park crews plow the road and open the gate at 9 a.m. Friday through Tuesday. The road usually is closed Wednesdays and Thursdays. During periods of heavy snow or avalanche danger, the road might not be open on weekends.

·         No Clallam Transit Bus.

·         Shuttle reinstated on Feb 18, running every half hour.  Cost $3 

  • 48,893 visits, 62 inches of snow.



·         1/5/97 Hurricane Ridge Road will be open from 9 a.m. to dusk, Fridays to Sundays, throughout the winter season, barring heavy snows or winter storms. The road will also be open Mondays to Wednesdays if no plowing or sanding is needed.

·         No Bus announced.

·         Shuttle reinstated on an hourly schedule Jan 13- Feb 18.  Cost $4

·         Entrance fee increases to $10

·         54,351 visits, 135 inches of snow.



          Open and plowed Fridays to Sundays. 

          Open Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays conditionally.

          Deer Park open to 2.6 miles from end

          Closure at gates

          No Bus

          53,210 visits

          108 inches of snow


·         12/2/98 Hurricane Ridge road open Fridays through Sundays, barring heavy snows. 

·         Road may be closed at Heart O' the Hills or at the tunnels.  It helps to have an alternate plan.  

  • 12/6/98 Ten to 12 foot drifts, over last half mile of road, which are higher than any since 1981.
  • 1/19/99 Blizzard causes evacuation in convoys.
  • 5/3/99 Road open after record snowfall.
  • 4/99 48,134 visits, 256+ inches of snow



·         11/7/99 The Hurricane Ridge Road in Olympic National Park will be closed 5 miles from the top for the next two weeks to finish renovations to the Hurricane Ridge Visitor Center before winter arrives.

·         12/17/99 Park officials look to keep the road open as much as possible this year.

·         Winter sports bus leaves Vern Burton at 9 am and HR at 4 pm weekends.

·         Another road crew will be available to open the road throughout the week as snowfall allows.

·         1/9/00 Avalanche buries skier on “Sunrise”- unhurt.

·         1/22/00 Hurricane Ridge road has been open all week, with just a dusting of snow since Sunday, when the snowpack measured 111 inches

·         2/22/00.  There is no set time when the road is sure to be open, but Fridays through Sundays are the snow removal crew’s biggest priority.  Weekdays are a hit and miss situation.

·         3/7/00 Three avalanches in a week bury 4, all unhurt.

  • 58,311 visits, 111 inches of snow


·         December 2000 PDA created.

·         Search crews rescue teen lost on ridge.

·         Bus $5, two trips up 1 trip down

  • 67,727 visits, 68 inches of snow.


·         Road open Thursdays-Sundays.

·         Ski area has best year to date.

·         Bus leaves at 9 and 11:30 a.m. The bus returns at 4:15 p.m. Cost is $5.

·         Entrance Fee increases to $15

·         62,898 visits, $5.52/ visitor 147 inches of snow.


·         David Morris: $347,000 for winter operations. $232,224 maintenance, $94,500 on law enforcement, and $20,325 on education services.

·         11/20/02 Improved and expanded bus service announced by PDA. Three buses to leave as often as 45 minutes.  Park entrance fees are waived for paying shuttle passengers, and a round trip will cost $5, the same as the snow bus.

·         11/20/02 Open Friday through Sunday.

·         May be open Mondays and Thursdays when weather is not a factor

·         12/29/02 Road closes for full parking lot at 1:30. 

·         1/10/03 PDA operates shuttle $5 leaves PA at 9:00 and 11:30

·         1/24/03 Closed Thursday 56 inches at stake 2.5 inches new. Parking Full Sunday.

·         1/30/03 Closed Thursday 61 inches at stake

·         2/7/03 50 inch snow pack, Continued warm weather

·         2/21/03 Closed last Saturday but open on Sunday and Monday

·         2/28/03 Due to low skier numbers, snow bus has been halted.

·         3/7/03 Don’t expect the Ridge road to open this weekend.  Road was closed Thursday due to high avalanche danger and winter storm warning.

·         3/21/03 80 inches of snow after storms.  Road was closed Thursday.  Snow bus is back online for expected crowd.

·         3/28/03.  Road was closed Thursday.

·         Beginning April 12 road will be open based on weather and road conditions.

·         Hurricane Ridge field trips for 5th graders delivers anti-drug message

·         Estimate $1.71m collected from visitor fees Park wide

·         40,115 visits, ($8.65/visitor) 95 inches of snow


·         11/20/03 Park tries to keep the road open Friday through Sunday.

·         No more gates?

·         Road open as weather allows except Tuesday and Wednesday

·         $133 million total direct travel spending in Clallam County, $60 million on accommodations, $2.5 million tax revenue-Dean Runyon 12/12/03 Road was closed Thursday due to snow and ice

·         12/19/03 Ridge was closed Thursday due to 8 foot drifts

·         1/2/03 Open Thursday

·         1/16/04 Ridge was open Thursday 95 people took the snow bus last weekend.

·         1/23/04 55 people took the bus on Saturday

·         1/30/04 record 60 bus riders on Saturday and 51 Sunday.  “It’s a wonderful thing that the service is there.  It helps reduce congestion at the parking lot.  It’s good for the Park.  It’s good for people who get stuck at the entrance station.  It’s a good deal all the way around,” said Janis Burger.  Barb Maynes: “It’s very positive.  It’s really a great benefit.”  Road was closed Thursday as crews plowed for the weekend.

·         2/5/04 Ridge was close Thursday for staff training.  Closed early last Saturday for weather conditions.

·         2/13/04 Road open Thursday

·         3/4/04 HR Ridge road to be closed in April.

·         3/10/04 Agreement with city keeps road open in April Thursdays-Sundays as all season.

·         3/16/04 “As long as I can I will try to keep as many places of Olympic National Park open forever,” Bill Laitner

  • 12,758 visits in April or $1,046,156 @ $82 per visitor.

·         40,812 visits, 96 inches of snow


  • Road open Friday through Sunday.

·         ONP gets 5% funding increase

·         No snow year.

·         Bus operates 9:00 and 11:30 $5.

·         1/18/05 PT teenager survives avalanche slide at Hurricane Ridge 120x200 8”-40” crown.

·         Total Park visitor fees total $1.8m from Jan-Sept

·         29,142 visits, 0 inches of snow on March 15, then 40” of snow fell


·         Road open Fridays through Sundays.

·         Total Park visitor fees total $2.3m from Jan-Sept

·         Bus operates 9:00 and 11:30 $5.

·         35,947 visits, 124 inches of snow


  • 10/23/06 Park officials lament declining visitation               
  • 11/20/06 Road open Fridays through Sundays.
  • Parking no longer allowed along roadside east of parking lot.
  • 12/5/06 $97 million Alternative Transportation in the Parks and Public Lands Bill passed
  • “Ski bus is a great value and I urge all Hurricane Ridge visitors to consider using it.  Not only will you avoid the challenge of driving on snow and ice, you’ll eliminate the bother of looking for a parking space”- Bill Laitner
  • Snow bus in question, but finally implemented with city gas money and volunteer drivers for ski school weekends only.
  • 1/8/07 Avalanche blocks road 9.5 miles from visitor center
  • 32,525 visits, 180” of snow.

  • 11/22/07 Fridays through Sundays. 
  • No snow bus. 
  • Lost skier survives Ridge blizzard
  • Four feet of snow fell on Hurricane Ridge over the weekend. Although much plowing was done, road was unable to open.  
  • 29,575 visits.
  • 140” of snow






V. Summary of visitation statistics

Analyses of visitation statistics show winter visits are sensitive to access opportunities.  There is a statistically significant difference between 1988-2002 visits and 2003-2008.  Using Paradise on Mount Rainier as a 7 day a week access control, visits have dropped significantly more at Hurricane Ridge 2003-2008.  Increased visits 2000-2002 correspond to increased access opportunities.  Finally, there is no correlation between visits and snowfall.  Taken together, these analyses indicate that the single most important factor in winter visitation is access. Each additional open day per week yields approximately 10,000 more visits over the January through April winter season.  Due to limited parking, visits cannot increase substantially without additional scheduled open days.

Using the Park’s own 2000 study, the average visitor spends $82 in direct spending.  Restoring winter visitation to pre 2003 levels, averaging 55,978 visits from January through April would bring in nearly $2 million in additional direct spending. 

Changes in access policy have directly impacted visits. 

  • Pre 1992 the road was open every day, with three gates located below the visitor center.
  • From 1993-1999, the road was plowed for three days, but open as weather and staffing permitted at least three other days.  The gates were in effect. Visits averaged 54,733.
  • Record snowfall in 1999 closed the road for most of the winter.  For 2000-2002 was a re-emphasis on keeping the road open throughout the week, with a second road crew available.  Those years recorded the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th highest visitation numbers averaging 62,979.
  • For 2003 and 2004 the road was open Friday and Monday if conditions allowed and visits fell to an average of 36,690.
  • 2005 to the present the road is only open Friday through Sunday with the gate locked at Heart o’ the Hills regardless of weather or road conditions.  This period has seen the fewest visits yet, averaging only 32,682, despite excellent snow conditions.
  • While not able to confirm this, it appears that reduced access during the week contributes to delayed openings on the scheduled open days, which further discourages visitation.


VI. Olympic National Park Winter Road Maintenance

A south to north survey of Park access roads indicate that very few are maintained during winter.

Staircase –closed Forest Service

Dose- closed Forest Service

Dungeness area- Forest Service

Deer Park-closed

Hurricane Ridge- 12 miles- county plows 5 miles 4 days a week.

Hurricane Hill, Obstruction Point -closed

Elwha- open 5 miles to dam, 10 if Whiskey Bend is plowed.  Snowfall 2-3 weeks at most.

Lake Crescent- DOT and county.

Sol Duc- closed

Ozette- county. 1 mile inside Park. Snowfall 2-3 weeks at most.

Mora- 2 miles inside Park. Snowfall 2-3 weeks at most.

La Push- county

Hoh- closed past three years, 6 miles at most when open. Snowfall 2-3 weeks at most.

Quinault- 5 miles of North Shore. Snowfall 2-3 weeks at most.


VII. National Park Winter Recreation Fact Sheet

The total miles of maintained in winter roads in ONP is not appreciably more than other National Parks.  Mount Rainer, Glacier, Yosemite, Lassen, North Cascades, Yellowstone spend large amounts of money plowing roads for spring openings.  The argument that Olympic winter maintenance costs are higher than other Parks does not hold water.

Paradise, MRNP, WA:  5,400’ 177” average snow. Open 7 days a week.  18 miles of road from Nisqually Entrance (2023’) to Paradise.  May open late due to plowing. 2.5 hours from Seattle. 2009 weekday closure if bad weather due to landslide.  70,000 Jan-April Visits.

Yellowstone NP, WY:  7,000’ 29 miles of road plowed in winter from Cooke City to North Entrance for 56,398 Jan-April visits. $3.5 million for helicopter dispensed avalanche control to serve 463 oversnow vehicle visitors at Sylvan Pass.  150” snow per year. Some of the worst winter weather in North America. 104,000 total winter visits.

Yosemite NP, CA:  7,200’, Badger Pass ski area. 50+ miles of plowed road. Tioga Pass and Glacier Point huts. 90 miles of marked trails, with 25 miles of groomed track.  44,283 Badger/Glacier visitors YTD April 2008+ 36,000 bus passengers.

Crater Lake NP, OR: 6,400’ 121” average snow.  7.1 mile road open 7 days a week to crater rim. 52,000 Jan-April visits.

Glacier NP, MT  3,200’ elevation.  10 miles of dead end road from West Entrance to Lake McDonald Lodge.  $1.5 million est. annual cost for GTTS clearing and repair.  43,726 visits Jan-April

Lassen NP, CA: 6,700’ 105” average snow.  New $8.5m Kohn Yoh Mah Nee visitor center open 7 days a week year round.  Lassen tracks visits by weekend/weekday and gets more weekday visits in the months of January to April.  GMP- winterization of facilities to allow day use in winter. 30,000 Jan-April visits.

Sequoia NP, CA:  7,200 feet. 160” snow. General’s Highway between SNP and KCNP 26 miles open 7 days a week.  Increased funding in 1984 allowed for 7 day a week access.  Road may close between Wuksachi Village (6700’) and General Grove (6500’) for plowing after storms.  Pear Lake Ski Hut accessed from Wolverton Meadow. Heated restrooms at Lodgepole Campground. 25,832 vehicles Jan-April visits.

Teton NP WY  6,300’ elevation.  29 miles of dead end road from Moran to Flagg Ranch to service 12,931 visitors to south YNP.  13,023 xc skiers in NP

North Cascades NP, WA:  Open 7 days a week.  WA DOT plows Hwy 20 to MP 135.  Five miles of Hwy 20 is closed for the winter. 170 visits

Mount Saint Helens NM, WA:  Open to climbing in winter to SnoPark operated by Washington Winter recreation program.

Mount Adams, WA:  Open to climbing in winter to SnoPark operated by Washington Winter recreation program.

Teton Pass WY The pass parking lot holds an average of 60 vehicles. Each space turns over an average of three times, meaning several hundred skiers are visiting the pass each day.

VII.  Meetings with Park personnel have raised questions. 

General Questions

  • How does Hurricane Ridge fit into international, national, regional, and local winter recreation opportunities?  What is the National Park vision of Hurricane Ridge? 
  • The Management Plan for Hurricane Ridge says crosscountry and snowshoe use will be encouraged.  What does that mean?
  • Why is Olympic the only western high elevation park with weekend only access?
  • Why isn’t visitor access a first level priority for the estimated $2.5 million collected in entrance fees?
  • Why is reducing the deferred maintenance backlog incompatible with increased winter access?
  • To what degree has the public been invited to provide input on Hurricane Ridge winter management?  Could a Hurricane Ridge management plan be prepared similar to Lake Crescent? Could a survey of winter visitors help develop policy? 
  • What efforts have been made to work cooperatively with other local governments (City, County, and State)?
  • What promotional efforts are made to attract outside visitors?  Is it appropriate to partner with local groups such as the PA Regional Chamber of Commerce to promote winter activities in the Park?


Safety questions

  • What are the risk factors at Hurricane Ridge? Are there ways to mitigate risk and still maintain access?
  • Is there a best practice manual for the National Park system law enforcement?  How does this relate to other similar law enforcement agencies?  For example, what are the law enforcement criteria for National Forest lands?  Why are they different?
  • What does the staff do on scheduled open days that get closed due to unsafe conditions?  Can those days be put in a "bank" and used later in the season?
  • What is the minimum number of patrol personnel required to safely operate Hurricane Ridge Road?  The most dangerous portion of any visitor’s trip to Olympic National Park is the stretch between the Hood Canal Bridge and Lairds corner.  Another example of a windy, dangerous road prone to closure by weather events is SR 112 to Neah Bay.  These roads are patrolled less than Hurricane Ridge road.  Why is it different than other roads?
  • What happens in the event of a law enforcement or search and rescue incident in the Hurricane Ridge ranger district or elsewhere in the Park during the week?
  • With avalanches over the road one of the known risks, what records are taken of avalanche conditions and reports to better predict avalanche behavior?
  • Could volunteers perform many of the duties that are currently performed by Rangers?  Specifically parking, snow play area patrol, interpretive, snow shoe walks, possibly others?
  • Is intermittent use safer?
  • What level of risk is acceptable to provide access to wilderness?  The National Park system is one of the last defenders of wilderness.  Risk is implied in the various definitions of wilderness.  Why is the level of acceptable risk at Hurricane Ridge different than Mount Rainier, for example?  Is the level of acceptable risk different between summer and winter? If yes, why?


Road Clearing

  • Drifting snow is one threat to keeping the road clear.  The worst area of drifting occurs at the “Slot” and above. Is it possible to close the road at one or more points below that see limited drifting?
  •  Does intermittent operation save money?  If so how much?
  • How much winter maintenance does the road crew do on other park roads? How does this mileage compare to other western high elevation parks?
  • Who plows the south shore Quinault road?  Could Jefferson County or State resources perform this more efficiently?
  • What happens when a weather event closes another park road during the week?
  • How can it be illegal for the county to cooperate with plowing when they already plow up to Lake Dawn and occasionally the entire Hurricane Ridge Road?  If it is illegal, why?  Would combining resources increase efficiency?
  • How often per year does an avalanche run to the road?
  • How often per year does a tree fall across other Park roads?
  • Does the above picture show an effective use of resources?  If that were a Wal-mart parking lot in the Midwest snow belt it would be cleared in thirty minutes with a front loader with a plow attachment.
  • Why is there such a difference between acceptable levels of maintenance between National Park and National Forest?  From Forest Service website:

“Roads to Sno-Parks and other winter destinations may be plowed periodically. The typical standard for higher elevation, unpaved roads is single-lane with turnouts and a 2-inch cushion of snow/ice on the roadway to protect the gravel surface. Most Roads are not patrolled, so be careful so you do not become stuck.”

  • Is it possible to have a weekday standard that is different than a weekend standard?
  • Is it possible to develop standards so that the road is open unless more than 6 inches of snow accumulated, avalanche hazard is HIGH, or winds above 20 mph as an example?
  • Last fall there were discussions of expanding the parking by plowing further west.  Why isn’t that implemented?
  • What about using snow to create a snowfence to keep that area clear?


Public Transportation

  • Over the past 20 years public transportation to Hurricane Ridge has undergone several iterations and false starts.  Why hasn’t there been a consistent effort to promote public transportation?
  • Why did ONP not apply for $100m in federal transportation grant money when it was announced in 2006?
  • What happened after 2004, when the PDA operated bus was receiving record ridership?
  • What is the current status of Public Transportation grants?

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