From mountains to the ocean, watch the 2017 Ski to Sea Race
Memorial Day weekend promises to be full of sunshine without being full of heat, including for the Ski to Sea race on Sunday.
From Friday through Monday, the skies will be mostly sunny to sunny with highs in the mid-60s to nearly 69 in Bellingham, according to National Weather Service forecasts. Inland, it will be a few degrees hotter in Everson, Lynden and Sumas.
Up at Mt. Baker Ski Area, temperatures will be about 45 degrees when Ski to Sea starts at 7:30 a.m. Sunday. It's expected to be mostly sunny in the mountains that day, according to the National Weather Service.
Here are a few other things to keep in mind for the weekend:
Ski to Sea course, the tricky parts: The snow, the river and the bay all seem to be cooperating this year going into the race — a seven-leg relay that stretches 94 miles from the mountains to Bellingham Bay, off Marine Park.
In some years, having enough snow for the cross-country and downhill ski/snowboard legs, which start the race, was a problem.
Like in 2015, when the cross-country and downhill legs were canceled because of the dismal mountain snowpack.
Not this year. There's been plenty of snow — a total of 844 inches were recorded for the Mt. Baker Ski Area this past ski season ending in April — and it's sticking around.
"Despite the hot weather that we've had the last couple of days, the snow is still really good," Anna Rankin, Ski to Sea race director, said Wednesday.
In years past, high river levels on the Nooksack River have been a challenge for competitors in the canoe leg, which stretches about 18 1/2 miles from Everson’s Riverside Park to Hovander Homestead Park outside Ferndale.
Hot weather coupled with snow melt, or heavy rain, can swell the Nooksack.
In 2008, the leg was canceled over risks posed to novice canoeists by a rapidly rising river.
Other years, the Nooksack has flowed low and lazy.
Neither situation is expected this year, according to Thom Prichard, who advises Ski to Sea on the river's conditions.
"The water is high enough that everything flattens out and not too high that you get standing waves," Prichard said Wednesday of conditions. "It really makes for a safe journey down the river."
Still, keep an eye out for a 90-degree corner that shows up 10 to 15 minutes into the start of the leg. Be cautious and take your time working your way through that area, Prichard said.
Bellingham Bay can be a fickle spot on race day, when strong afternoon winds have forced race organizers to shorten the five-mile kayaking leg that rounds out Ski to Sea.
"We always have a long course and a short course planned," Rankin said.
But, for now, the bay is expected to be calm for the kayak leg.
With that said, conditions can change, sometimes rapidly, so it's important for racers to be at the pre-race meetings to get the latest information, organizers said.
Ski to Sea park and ride: Fairhaven, where the race ends, will be packed with people for Ski to Sea, so do yourself a favor and leave your car at home if possible.
If it's not, Whatcom Transportation Authority will run extra buses on Route 14 between Western Washington University and the Ski to Sea Festival on Sunday. First, park for free at WWU's Lot C, located on Bill McDonald Parkway at West College Way. Buses will leave from the bus shelter on the west side of Bill McDonald Parkway. The shelter is called Bill McDonald Parkway at WWU Rec Center.
Buses will leave about every 15 minutes beginning at 11:30 a.m. The last extra departure to Fairhaven will be at 7:15 p.m., after which, Route 14 will return to its regular schedule.
After that, you can leave Fairhaven by catching Route 14 to Lot C from the shelter at 12th and McKenzie (near Haggen), at 8:21 pm, 9:21 p.m. and 10:21 p.m.
Other options for getting to the festival on Sunday include Route 1 between downtown Bellingham and Fairhaven. The bus on this route leaves every 30 minutes, from 7:40 a.m. to 8:05 p.m.
Bus fare is $1 per trip, or pay with a valid WTA bus passes.
Don't forget: WTA will not have bus service on Monday, in observance of Memorial Day.
New roundabout: Crews are building a roundabout at the intersection of Valley Highway (State Route 9) and the Mount Baker Highway (State Route 542) near Deming. It's nearly ready, and the Washington State Department of Transportation plans to open it as a three-legged single-lane roundabout Friday, before Ski to Sea traffic heads through that intersection this weekend.
Travel tips: If you're going north on Interstate 5, one of the region's busiest stretches this Memorial Day weekend is between Bellingham and the Canadian Border, according to the Washington State Department of Transportation.
Check the agency's "Memorial Day Weekend 2018 travel charts" to find out when that stretch of road will be busiest.
You'll also want to look at U.S. to Canada border wait times online at wsdot.com/traffic/border. Coming back, check the border wait times on the BC Transportation website at www.th.gov.bc.ca/ATIS/Index.htm.
Before you ask: You'll have to wait a while longer if you were hoping to get up to scenic Artist Point this weekend. Crews haven't started clearing snow from the last 2.7-mile stretch of the Mount Baker Highway up to Artist Point.