Bellingham software developer makes long haul for car-free Ski to Sea team

FOR THE BELLINGHAM HERALDMay 21, 2013 

S2S Valadez

Victor Valadez will be participating in the car-free division of Ski to Sea, where the teams will bike to their legs. Valadez will be doing the running leg of the race.

COLIN DILTZ — THE BELLINGHAM HERALD Buy Photo

Ski to Sea logistics are complicated for the Car Free and Care Free team, but co-founder Victor Valadez and his teammates look at it as a grand adventure involving sustainable living.

"We would just love to have our own division," said Valadez, a 34-year-old Bellingham software developer. "There are now about (12) teams that do not use cars in any way during the race."

With that many teams, they have been granted their wish this year, allowing them to compete against each other and police themselves for their own set of rules.

In fact, Ski to Sea is a two-day activity for Car Free and Care Free team members.

"The four of us on the mountain legs leave on bicycles the day before at 10 a.m. in a caravan," Valadez said in a phone interview. "We take all our equipment, food and gear and then we camp out in tents."

How hard does this make the challenge?

"It's definitely a long couple of days," he said.

Valadez said he and two others who helped start the team in 2011, Andrew Berg and Margaret Hall, were inspired by a similar team then known as the Star Speckled Banana Slugs.

"We provided support for them when we first met them in 2009," he said. "They were the first, or one of the first, car-free teams. We liked what we saw. It adds an element of adventure to the race and sustainable lifestyle. It's mostly for fun. We're all Whatcom County people."

Car Free and Care Free finished 354th overall and 38th in the Whatcom Open Division last year in its second race.

Tyler Berg opens with the cross-country skiing leg, and brother Andrew competes on the downhill leg. Valadez does the running leg and hands off to Hall for road biking. They are the four who leave early and try to get some sleep the night before the race.

One of the canoeists is newcomer Woody Shaufler; Andrew Berg was working on finding another member for the canoe leg. The mountain biker is another newcomer, Aaron Fitts, and the kayaker is Robert Hall.

"We're all in our late 20s and early 30s," Valadez said.

Since they all use bikes to get to the start of their legs, have they ever had any trouble with thievery?

"No, we work it out, since only one leg is competing at a time," Valadez said.

Valadez, a graduate of Olympia's Capital High, came to Bellingham to study at Western Washington University.

"I had always wanted to find a way to participate in Ski to Sea," he said.

Browse the Ski to Sea special section at BellinghamHerald.com/skitosea.

Michelle Nolan is a Bellingham freelance writer.

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