Ski to Sea

These might end up being the eight hardest miles you’ll ever run

Aven Construction runner Christy Fazio, left, Still Looking For A Sponsor's Trevor Davison and VanDammage's Anders Mavis run down the Mount Baker High way during the 2011 Ski to Sea Race.
Aven Construction runner Christy Fazio, left, Still Looking For A Sponsor's Trevor Davison and VanDammage's Anders Mavis run down the Mount Baker High way during the 2011 Ski to Sea Race. The Bellingham Herald file

THE COURSE

Year leg added to the race: 1975.

Where: From Mt. Baker Ski Area to the Shuksan Department of Transportation shed.

Course length: About eight miles.

Approximate time to complete: Less than 40 minutes for top finishers, a little less than an hour for everyone else. The average time in 2017 was 57 minutes, 30 seconds and the the first finisher completed the leg at 8:55 a.m.

Course description: While the key to the downhill skiing leg is the climb, the running leg is all about the descent. In all, the course drops nearly 2,200 feet (an average 5.2 percent grade). Considering all eight miles are on Mount Baker Highway, that’s a lot of pounding on competitors’ feet, ankles, shins, knees and hips.

Pre-race meeting: 7:45 a.m. at the Heather Meadows Day Lodge.

2020 RU map (2)

Recommended departure time from Bellingham: 4:45 a.m.

Timing chip: Receive the chip from the downhill skier/snowboarder, swipe the chip to record finish time of the downhill leg, complete the running leg, swipe the chip to record the finish time for the running leg and hand off to the road biker. The runner is responsible for swiping the chip twice (end of the downhill leg and end of the running leg).

TRAVEL AND VIEWING ADVICE

Mount Baker Highway will be closed at 7:15 a.m. at Canyon Creek Road in Glacier, going east toward the mountain. Any viewers, participants or additional support vehicles that want to go to the top of the mountain must pass Canyon Creek Road before then. The road will be closed westbound at 7:15 a.m. at the Mt. Baker Heather Ski Area Meadows Day Lodge. No vehicles will be allowed to travel down the mountain before it reopens.

Best place to watch the leg: Heather Meadows Day Lodge at Mt. Baker Ski Area, where spectators can see the handoff from the downhill skier and watch the runner start their way down the mountain. This year, spectators must stay on the mountain until the course is clear and the Mount Baker Highway is re-opened.

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EOD Warriors runner Chris Blount takes the handoff from downhill skier Courtney Razon during the 2014 Ski to Sea at Mt. Baker Ski Area. Evan Abell eabell@bhamherald.com

TIPS FOR THE RACE

▪ Be ready when your downhill skiing/snowboarding teammate approaches. Runners are responsible for recording the finish time for the downhill leg, so don’t get caught trying to keep warm indoors.

▪ Because you will be running mostly downhill, a good tip might be to take some Ibuprofen the day before and on the day of the race to help deal with any pain you might experience during and after the race.

▪ It’s best to wear traditional running garb (tank top, shorts or warmer running gear if the weather warrants). Remember the temperature will change as runners descend and the sun gets higher in the sky.

▪ You may want to put some cloth under the tongues of your shoes to help prevent blisters. Tie your shoes tightly.

▪ Some have raced in their running flats, which are lighter racing shoes. That might make them faster, but doing so will beat up a runner’s legs. Veteran competitors recommend regular running shoes.

▪ Many competitors dunk their legs in the cold water runoff in the canal by the Shuksan Department of Transportation shed or in the nearby river because they believe it helps them recover from the race quicker.

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The Woods Coffee’s Josh Struiksma makes his way down the Mount Baker Highway during the 2012 Ski to Sea. Kelly Robbins Courtesy to The Bellingham Herald

2017 Top finishers

Men: Juan Castillo (Boomer's Drive-In) 37:27

Women: Courtney Olsen (Brandon Nelson Partners) 40:05

Key numbers

5.2: Average percent downhill grade of the running course, as it descends 2,200 feet from Mt. Baker Ski Area to the Shuksan DOT shed. That makes for eight miles of pavement pounding along Mount Baker Highway.

40: Approximate temperature of spring runoff in creek near the Shuksan DOT shed that some runners take a dip in seeking relief for their aching hips, knees, ankles and feet after the downhill running torture test.

11 a.m.: Approximate time the Mount Baker Highway will open to allow cars off the mountain after all runners are off the course.

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