Click on the image below to launch a slideshow of the Olympic Peninsula.
I grew up here, and a lot of what I know about the mountains I learned in this range. They're not tall—Mount Olympus, the highest in the range, is under 8,000 feet—but they're remote, rugged, wild peaks that hold a special place in my heart.
What advantages do the Olympics have over, for example, the Cascades?
Access here is some of the best in the state for backcountry skiing. The Hurricane Ridge Road, rises 5,000 vertical feet in 17 miles. The terrain is also remarkably diverse. If you know where to look there are steep chutes, narrow couloirs, tree skiing, and open bowls.
What have the conditions been like this year?
We got off to a slow start, but that changed in January. We're currently in a mid-winter stabilization cycle, which has allowed for skiing some bigger lines. It will make for an interesting layer in the snowpack in the future, though, so we'll be keeping an eye on it in our upcoming avalanche courses.
What's your favorite place to tour?
I love the Klahane Ridge area, because it's one of the few places in the Northwest where there's no approach: You park on the road and climb straight up for 1,400 feet. It's big terrain, though, and definitely a tour for when the avalanche danger is low.
Do you have any tips for planning backcountry travel in this part of the country?
Like most places it's wise to get acquainted with a map or explore the area on Google Earth—just find Port Angeles and follow the squiggly road south into the mountains. Then you've got to piece together what's happening out there with the weather and the snowpack. (We put all our favorite weather resources on our website.) Be prepared for a full range of conditions. And give us a call for local beta—there's no guidebook to skiing in the Olympics, but we're happy to point you in the right direction. —Charlotte Austin
Pacific Alpine Guides offers backcountry ski excursions in the Olympic Mountains, the North Cascades, and Roger's Pass, ranging from a day tours to full backcountry skiing skills courses. They also run American Insitute for Avalanche Research & Education (AIARE) courses in the winter and spring. Learn more at pacificalpineguides.com.