SEATTLE — For close-to-home winter fun it's hard to beat the views and abundant snow of mile-high Hurricane Ridge in Washington's Olympic National Park.
This winter, for the second year in a row, the area will be open daily for cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and sledding. Or simply enjoy the scenic drive — 17 miles from Port Angeles to road's end at Hurricane Ridge — with views from snowy peaks to the glittering Strait of Juan de Fuca. See http://www.nps.gov/olym. Most years the Hurricane Ridge road has been open on weekends only in winter, but a pilot project with federal and local funding has brought the everyday openings and boosted the number of winter visitors in local communities.
For skiers and boarders there's a small family-oriented downhill area at Hurricane Ridge (one of the few within a national park) with two rope tows and a Poma lift, run by the Hurricane Ridge Winter Sports Club: http://www.hurricaneridge.com.
—Snowmobiling around Washington
Snowmobilers can zip along more than 3,000 miles of trails groomed through Washington state's Winter Recreation Program. A Sno-Park permit is required for trailhead parking; see http://www.parks.wa.gov/winter/snowmobiling/ For tips on where to snowmobile — and efforts for more snowmobiling access — see the website of the Washington State Snowmobile Association, http://www.wssa.us.
—Quick links to Northwest ski resorts
For web links to Washington downhill ski areas — from the little Loup Loup in north-central Washington to big brother Crystal Mountain, see http://www.skiwashington.com (run by a nonprofit trade group).
Oregon has a similar ski-info site at http://www.skioregon.org. For British Columbia, see http://www.hellobc.com/ski. For Idaho resorts, go to http://www.visitidaho.org/winter.
—Vancouver ski area opens
—Finding ski-resort deals
With walk-up lift tickets easily topping $70 a day at some ski resorts, it's well worth searching for discounts:
—Check resort websites for deals, including early-bird ticket/hotel discounts.
—Ski midweek when lifts and hotels can cost less.
—Buy a cheaper half-day ticket available at some resorts — and ski without breaks.
—Search online for special discounts — Crystal Mountain, for example, offers military discounts including half-price tickets some days, and airline employees with valid identification get $7 off on Tuesdays. http://www.crystalmountainresort.com