This grueling 93 mile race in Washington isn't for the faint of heart

Jan 14 2020, 11:28 pm

You’ve heard of a triathlon, now get ready for a heptathlon: a continuous race with seven different sports.

Celebrate your Memorial Day by taking part in the Ski to Sky race, a grueling seven-part race covering 93 miles from Mt. Baker to Bellingham Way. Together with the Historic Fairhaven Festival, the race is the largest one-day event in Whatcom County and Bellingham.

The seven-part race course runs through the towns of Glacier, Maple Falls, Kendall, Everson, Lynden, and Ferndale, finishing at Marine Park in Bellingham.

Start by gathering three to eight of your friends and decide who’s taking which sport. You’ve got four months to prepare yourself for cross country skiing, downhill ski/snowboarding, running, road biking, canoeing, cyclocross biking, or sea kayaking. Racers are allowed to participate in up to three legs on race day, either for one team or for multiple teams.

Here is all of the leg information:

Leg 1: Cross country skiing

Ski to Sea Race

Ski to Sea

The intermediate to advanced cross country ski begins at Mr. Baker ski area at exactly 7:30 am. Skating is not allowed for the first 100 meters, and those who jump the starting gun may receive a five minute time penalty.

The four-mile course typically takes people around 41.5 minutes, going down through the Valley of No Return, around the chair lifts, and back up to the ski shop. The exact course will be decided on race day, due to snow conditions.

Leg 2: Downhill ski/snowboard

Ski to Sea race

Ski to Sea

The 2.5 mile downhill section on Mt. Baker is fit for both skiers and snowboarders alike. Downhill riders will receive the timing chip from their cross-country teammate in the staging area. Those waiting outside of the staging area will be penalized by the race committee.

The downhill riders must ski down to the bottom of Chair 2, hike up Lower North to North Face, and then to the top of Chair 1 where they can make the final descent.

Leg 3: Running

Ski to Sea

Ski to Sea

Runners will follow a well-defined eight-mile route along Mr. Baker Highway, with water stations set up near mile 3 and 6. Runners must be able to withstand a 2,200-foot drop in elevation and will be disqualified if they run over the double yellow line in the middle of the road.

Leg 4: Road bike

Ski to Sea

Ski to Sea

Those choosing to start the 41-mile road bike race will begin at the Shuksan DOT snow shed on the Mt. Baker highway. They will then pedal westbound towards the Canadian border through Nooksack and Everson. After Everson, cyclists will hand off their timing chips to canoeists on the left side of Riverside Park.

Cyclists must be capable of riding on public roads that are open to motor vehicles and are recommended to carry basic tools for on-course repairs. Helmets are mandatory for all racers, and MP3 players/iPods are not allowed during competition. There are no signs or mileage markers on the course, and no portable restrooms.

Leg 5: Canoe

Ski to Sea

Ski to Sea

The two-person canoe course from Everson to Hovander Park is approximately 18.5 miles and is considered a class 1 with deceptive hazards. Canoeists should wear the timing chip on the wrist to avoid losing it.

Canoeists must carry their canoe, paddles, and life jackets to the sand bar before passing on the timing chip to their cyclocross rider.

Leg 6: Cyclocross bike

Ski to Sea

Ski to Sea

Although it’s not the most technically challenging, even the most advanced cyclocross riders will face difficulties at the 13-mile trail. Much of the course takes place over spongy open fields, single track, double track, and urban elements.

Bikers may not follow closer than 50 feet from any motor vehicle at any time, and outside assistance along the course is not allowed. Volunteers will be stationed along the route to keep racers on course.

Leg 7: Sea Kayak

Ski to Sea

Ski to Sea

Most of the rules for ski kayaking refer to the type of kayaks ridden. Rules for the kayaks are laid out in full detail online.

If you would like to wrap up by 6 pm, opt to join in the early release and start kayaking by 3 pm. Your time will be recorded, but you won’t be eligible to win an award. Any racer that is not making forward progress, seems to be having difficulty paddling, or is still in the water by 5:45 pm may be disqualified and asked to leave the course.

Finish line

Ski to Sea

Ski to Sea / Flickr

Although not technically a leg of the Ski to Sea Race, it’s still an important celebration at the end of the Finish Line in Marine Park. Watch the kayakers hop out of their kayaks and run up the hill to the finish line.

Enjoy a beer in the Boundary Bay Beer Garden, Ski to Sea merchandise, as well as booths from sponsors.

Ski to Sea Race – Bellingham, Washington – Memorial Day Weekend

Registration is open for Ski to Sea 2020! From Mt. Baker to Bellingham Bay, the race covers 93 miles over seven different legs. Teams are made up of three to eight racers, so grab some friends and start planning for Race Day on May 24, 2020! Register on our website:

Posted by Ski to Sea on Friday, January 10, 2020

Ski to Sea 

When: May 24, 2020
Time: 7:30 am to 6 pm
Where: Mt. Baker to Bellingham Way
Admission: $599+; registration is available online

Alyssa TherrienAlyssa Therrien

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