Ski to Sea

Just can’t get enough Ski to Sea? Here’s your chance to get even more

Boomer's Drive-In team kayaker Austin Kieffer, center, crosses the finish line in first place accompanied by friends and teammates, from left to right, Juan Castillo, Michael Molnar, Mischa Burnett and Michael Finley at the 2017 Ski to Sea.
Boomer's Drive-In team kayaker Austin Kieffer, center, crosses the finish line in first place accompanied by friends and teammates, from left to right, Juan Castillo, Michael Molnar, Mischa Burnett and Michael Finley at the 2017 Ski to Sea.

It’s not going to change your life, like the microwave, Teflon and Velcro have, and it won’t create any childhood memories, like the Slinky and Play-Doh did. But like those five discoveries, it was stumbled upon almost by accident.

While trying to solve one issue of helping Ski to Sea teams fill out their rosters, the Whatcom Events board not only may have found a solution for that problem, but also added a new twist that might entice others to register for years to come.

“We were concentrating on those teams where they just have six or seven racers and can’t find that eighth person to complete their team or have an injury at the last minute,” said Anna Rankin, who is in her second year as Ski to Sea race director and her first as executive director of Whatcom Events. “What do they do?”

The solution seemed simple enough – allow racers to compete in more than one leg.

But for the first 45 years of its existence, Ski to Sea operated by the the one-competitor, one-leg rule, except for the canoe leg, which required two competitors to navigate the Nooksack River between Everson and Ferndale as part of Whatcom County’s annual seven-leg, 94-mile adventure sport relay the day before Memorial Day.

“We’ve heard people asking about competing in more than one event for years,” Rankin said. “Some people wanted more of a challenge.”

And now they’ll have it.

As of early May, Rankin estimated approximately 40 people had signed up to race more than one leg in 2018, though nobody had yet signed up to compete in three legs – the most that the new rules allow.

“I don’t think it’s coincidental that our numbers are up about 40 teams,” Rankin said. “To me, that math works out. By allowing that new rule, we’re seeing more teams being able to compete.”

Rankin said she’s expecting registration to top out at about 360 teams this year – up substantially from the 316 that registered last year.

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Andrew Ross with Cordata Dental climbs the hill at the intersection of Slater Road and Rural Avenue during the cyclecross leg of the 2017 Ski to Sea. Paul Conrad For The Bellingham Herald

Of the 345 that had already completed registration in early May, only one of them had four racers each competing in two legs and no three-person teams, but Rankin said she expects to see more of that in future years once competitors get to see what racing in multiple legs looks like.

“There are a lot of logistical issues with doing multiple legs,” Rankin said. “I just contacted eight teams where somebody signed up to do a mountain leg and the canoe leg, and that just won’t work unless you’re also riding the bike to the canoe leg because of the highway closure. So there are a lot of logistical challenges.”

Those challenges – transportation of racers and gear – are for the team to figure out, not the race, Rankin said. But when race officials see a potential problem, such as getting from the mountain to the start of the canoe leg, Rankin said they alert teams that “they might want to rethink things.”

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Downhill skiers and snowboarders climb the hill at Mt. Baker Ski Area to ski back down during the 2017 Ski to Sea. Philip A. Dwyer

The other option to shuffling people around to various parts of Whatcom County is for racers to do consecutive legs. For teams that chose to go that route, their timing chip will continue to run while racers change equipment, much like it does in a triathlon.

“Mostly what we’re seeing is someone doing two legs in a row or someone doing a mountain leg and then either the cyclocross or kayaking legs,” Rankin said. “The most popular combination so far is people doing the road biking and then they cyclocross or people doing the canoeing and then the kayak, which I think is kind of crazy – I just think how bad your arms would hurt after two and a half hours canoeing and then an hour kayaking. But I guess if you’re into paddling sports, you can do it.”

And still fits within Ski to Sea’s race values.

“Everything I’ve heard about the rule change has been positive,” Rankin said. “It’s still a team thing – a team competition with camaraderie among your team. I think people are doing this for the personal challenge They’re not doing it to get on the podium. They’re doing it to push themselves and push their teams. That’s what Ski to Sea is all about.”

Here are a few other changes this year you might want to be aware of:

Cyclocross leaves the beach

Ski to Sea made a slight modification to the cyclocross course for 2018, Rankin said, moving it off the beach once it comes off Marine Drive and into Squalicum Park before it finishes, as usual, with a handoff to kayakers in Zuanich Poit Park.

“There are going to be some obstacles and a staircase there, and then they’ll come off Squalicum into Zuanich,” Rankin said. “There’s no change to the mileage, but it will change the course a bit. ... I think with the unevenness of the beach, a number of riders said they didn’t like that part of the course.”

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Eric Cockrell, left, of Neiner Neiner Weiner and Theo Floor, right, of Inn at Lynden compete in the road bike leg of the 2017 Ski to Sea. Evan Abell

Canoe deadline

Ski to Sea’s pre-race safety meetings are important for all seven legs, but even more so for the canoe and kayak legs. Those races cover critical, sometimes variable safety issues about the conditions racers will face on the Nooksack River and Bellingham Bay.

“It’s absolutely imperative that racers be at the meeting, because things can change so quickly,” Rankin said.

To help ensure competitors get to Riverside Park in Everson in time for the 9:30 a.m. safety meeting, the race has instituted a new rule – any team that does not show up by 9:15 a.m. to present its canoe for inspection will be penalized 20 minutes.

“This is just a way we are trying to make it clear to racers that it’s imperative that they get to the safety meeting,” Rankin said. “We’re hoping it will motivate people to get there early and be prepared for the meeting.”

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Runners make their way down the course at Mt. Baker Ski Area during the 2017 Ski to Sea. Philip A. Dwyer

Still no Boundary Bay women’s team

For the second straight year, Boundary Bay Brewing will not enter a team in 2018. Before last year, Boundary Bay had fielded the team that won 17 straight Competitive Women Division titles.

But last year, the brewery did not field a team because of a personal commitment. Jack’s Bicycle Center ended up claiming the division crown without Boundary Bay, though Whatcom County Women Division entry Brandon Nelson Partners had the fastest time for an all-female team.

There will be no Boundary Bay entry for 2018, but the brewery definitely will have a presence on race day, even if it’s not out on the race course. Boundary Bay produced the office beer of Ski to Sea – an IPA this year – and will continue to host the block party and the finish line beer garden.

“We still have connections, not only with the race, but also the celebration that is Ski to Sea,” Boundary Bay Brewery general manager Janet Lightner said. “When I put together a team, it becomes what I wake up in the morning to do and what I go asleep thinking about. We don’t just put together a team – it’s relationships and a deep connection.”

Those deep connections will be difficult this year, Lightner said, as this is the first time in the past 20 years she will be in Bellingham for Ski to Sea weekend and not have a team, and she expects to see a number of racers she’s worked with in the pas competing for other teams. Last year she was out of town for a wedding.

“I’m excited to see the community engaged with this race in a way I haven’t seen before,” Lightner said. “I don’t know what it will be like. ... I think next year we’ll be back and try something different and come back with a surprise team or category. It’s going to be a lot of fun, but it takes a while to plan.”

2017 Division champions



Team members


Competitive Open

Boomer's Drive-In

XC: Brad Bauer; DH: Calvin Collander; RU: Juan Castillo; RB: Michael Finley; CA: Eric Gerstl/Michael Hammer; CX: Steve Dempsey; KA: Austin Kieffer


Whatcom County Open

Beavers Tree Service

XC: Jacob Hartsoch; DH: Brent Molsberry; RU: Derek Thornton; RB: Ben Shaklee; CA: Brian Boatman/Michael Lee; CX: Brian Ecker; KA: Brandon Nelson



Boomer's Drive-In Veterans

XC: Kent Murdoch; DH: Mike Gifford; RU: Michael Molnar; RB: Mischa Burnett; CA: Ron Williams/Jim Charlie; CX: Roy Colven; KA: Nicholas Cryder



Schmidt Orthodontics Greatest American Heroes

XC: Andy Schmidt; DH: Martin Ayling; RU: Brent Detta; RB: Stuart Ayling; CA: Rob Rogers/Carter Kiesau; CX: Rob Campbell; KA: Tom Swetish



Bellingham Firefighters

XC: Mark Brennan; DH: Cody Shepherd; RU: Jake Jarvis; RB: Willy Spaulding; CA: Christian Carson/Brian Flannelly; CX: Matt Davis; KA: Beau Whitehead


Whatcom County Women

Brandon Nelson Partners

XC: Elizabeth Hartsoch; DH: Amber Morrison; RU: Courtney Olsen; RB: Carolyn Eller; CA: Veronica Wisniewski/Gwyn Howat; CX: Kristen Mckenzie; KA: Heather Nelson


Competitive Women

Jack's Bicycle Center

XC: Avery Shinneman; DH: Courtney McBean; RU: Claire Ralston; RB: Kari Wright; CA: Kimberly Reeves/Charlotte Waller; CX: Kirsten Jensen; KA: Sally Wallick


Recreational Open

Northwest Indian College Eagles

XC: Zach Brown; DH: Justin Iwasaki; RU: Victor Pena; RB: Cooper Rombold; CA: Jacob Roberts/Jeremy Roberts; CX: Chris Hawk; KA: David Oreiro


Competitive Mixed

Stones Throw Brewery Hustlers

XC: Laura Mccabe; DH: Natasha Brodie; RU: Emily Uhlig; RB: Tim Reinholtz; CA: Bruce Biddle/Steve Lindsey; CX: Tom Fryer; KA: Danielle Burnett




XC: Jeremy Hensley; DH: Madison Miner; RU: Solom Bill; RB: Corbin Hudacek; CA: Dan S/Joe White; CX: Josh Parrish; KA: Jerimiah Welch


Whatcom County Mixed


XC: Andrea Lubeck; DH: Mikhaila Thornton; RU: Leah Veldhuisen; RB: Daniel Milner; CA: David Scherrer/Susan Bennerstrom; CX: John Clark; KA: Gerardo Andalux


High School


XC: Logan Franey; DH: Bryce Johnson; RU: Wyatt Brugge; RB: Soren Sandenk; CA: Kavish Chandra/Eric Newcomer; CX: Jesse Selch; KA: Wilson Reavley


Recreational Women

The Real Housewives of Whatcom County

XC: Chelsey Caraco; DH: Karin Ayling; RU: Renata Detta; RB: Jessica Rogers; CA: Brandi Brady/Margaret Langford; CX: Marie Beaver; KA: Sharon Scoggins



Cordata Dental

XC: Nicole Koshure; DH: Chris Rosinski; RU: Ashlea Shepherd Rosinski; RB: Richard Schmon; CA: Matt Shepherd/Andrew Shepherd; CX: Andrew Ross; KA: James Adams


Recreational Mixed


XC: Brynne Dykes; DH: Shawna Troupe; RU: Sofia Marikis; RB: Abbi Milner; CA: Emily Herde/Megan Troupe; CX: Colin Middleton; KA: Kegan Mulholland


XC: Cross-country ski; DH: Downhill ski/snowboard; RU: Run; RB: Road bike; CA: Canoe; CX: Cyclocross; KA: Kayak

SOURCE: Ski to