There might not be an event in Whatcom County that's more thoroughly planned than Ski to Sea. But the most important element of the race remains out of organizers' control: The weather.
This year, Mother Nature appears mostly willing to cooperate with the seven-leg race, to be held Sunday, May 27. There's plenty of snow on the mountain. The river is running fast - good fast, not dangerous fast - but a log fell into the canoe course on Friday, May 25, that might pose an additional challenge on that leg.
The wind on the bay is always on the minds of those who organize the kayak leg. The breeze probably will be manageable for most kayakers.
The wind will start blowing from the Pacific late Saturday and early Sunday; that could kick up some waves on the bay and bring light rain to some places. The cooler temperatures - the National Weather Service predicts a high of 60 degrees for Bellingham, mid-40s for the mountain - mean heat won't be a factor.
Larry Bussinger, chairman of the kayak leg, said he expects 10- to 15-knot winds from the south on the bay Sunday.
Because kayakers paddle into the prevailing wind, the leg can be challenging.
"It's always a concern for novices, but those are normal bay conditions," Bussinger said.
The wind is expected to settle down by the time the kayakers hit the water. But just how windy it will be at race time is hard to predict. Last year, the kayak leg had to be aborted for many racers because the wind came up suddenly, and several kayakers capsized.
Race organizers will monitor conditions up to the last minute.
"If it's really nasty, then we'll cancel the (kayak) race at that time," Bussinger said.
The Nooksack River can be unpredictable too, but after running high earlier this week it has receded to a level that should get experts and novices downstream quickly and safely.
There's one potential trouble spot, canoe chairman Thom Prichard said. A log fell across half the channel and can be avoided, but if it's still there on Sunday it will be a hazard. A swift-water search and rescue team will be stationed at this location, about 21/2 miles from the start of the canoe leg and just below the Mix Master rapids.
"The river is constantly changing. That's what we deal with," Prichard said.
Heavy rains brought the river up more than eight feet, to 16 feet, on Tuesday, May 22, but it has fallen steadily since.
"The water is on the higher end of our safety zone but well within that zone," Prichard said.
Cornices of snow hung over the runners' course at higher elevations earlier this week, but those hazards should be cleared away by Sunday, running-leg chairman Mike Green said. Any piles of snow on the race course will be marked by cones.
For the latest news on the race, information on each leg, race-day updates and more, go to BellinghamHerald.com/skitosea.
Twitter fans, get race updates at twitter.com/skitosea.
Pick up the Monday, May 28, edition of The Bellingham Herald for full coverage of the race plus a special section of photos from each leg.
SKI TO SEA APP
What: App provides leg-by-leg results of the Ski to Sea Race, along with overall results.
Platforms: iPhone, Android and Macintosh devices.
Available: iTunes App Store and the Android Market.
Upgrade required: For those who downloaded the app last year, they'll need to go back to the store to get the free updates for it to work.
Reach RALPH SCHWARTZ at email@example.com or call 360-715-2266.