Ski to Sea

Veteran Ski to Sea racers pass along these tips

For first-time competitors in the Ski to Sea relay race, we asked some veterans to provde advice for each leg.

Cross-country ski

The weather on Mount Baker is unpredictable. Bring clothing for any occasion, including sunglasses in case the sun is out and is reflecting off the snow.

Get to bed early the night before. The race starts at 8:30 a.m. and there is a 7:45 a.m. pre-race meeting. Experienced competitors suggest leaving Bellingham no later than 5:30 a.m.

If you aren’t one of the best skiers in the race, don’t try to snatch a starting spot at the front of the pack.

The race is a mass start, which means up to 425 racers will be trying to elbow their way to the front. Watch out for competitors’ ski poles and be prepared to get knocked around a little, and even possibly take a spill.

Remember cross-country skiers are responsible for swiping the time chip to get their own finish time after completing their leg of the race.

Downhill ski/snowboard

It might be a good idea to scout out the relay point with your cross-country skier and plan on meeting there.

Dress comfortably. Avoid cotton. More than likely, you will slip during the climb.

You are climbing in snow, and thus, you will be sinking as you step. Make sure to pace yourself.

The snow in May is different from the snow the rest of the winter, so make sure that skis or snowboards are tuned for the current conditions.


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. This might 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. Some veteran competitors recommend regular running shoes.

Many competitors dunk their legs in the cold water run-off in the canal by the Shuksan Department of Transportation shed because they believe it helps them recover from the race quicker.

Runners will swipe the chip at the completion of their leg before handing off to the road biker.

Road bike

Road bikers have the longest wait before their leg. Runners on the best teams start arriving about 11 a.m., so the majority of people will have a three-hour wait before they actually race.

A helmet is required. Other than that, clothing varies. Keep it loose, though. Weather usually changes during the ride as the day progresses.

Bikes should be cleaned, lubed and otherwise readied for the race. Tires should be inflated to the correct pressure. Bike inspections will be available on race day.

Bring Gu Energy Gel or other packets of energy food to eat two or three times during the ride. One to two water bottles should provide enough hydration.

If it is raining on race day, be cautious on slippery pavement. Also make sure to follow all traffic rules.


Be ready as your teammate approaches. The canoeist is responsible for swiping the timing chip to record the finish time of the road biker’s leg.

Racers should remember that they must haul their canoes down the dirt path to the launching area. Boy Scouts also will be available to help hauling the canoes.

Loose fitting clothes are best. Keep in mind you'll have to wear a life vest.

You can tip over. Be ready for this. Wear clothes that air-dry fast.

Stay in the middle of the river. Paddling from side to side won’t give racers an advantage.

The course is considered class 1, (on a 1 to 6 scale) but represents deceptive hazards due to log jams, submerged logs, undercut trees and other obstructions. It is a potentially dangerous course.

Coast Guard-approved life jackets must be worn at all times during the leg.

Mountain bike

Be ready as your teammate approaches. Mountain bikers are responsible for swiping the timing chip to record the finish time for the canoeing leg.

Mountain bikers may help canoeists carry the canoe from the river to the finish line.

Riders are responsible for knowing the course, which will be marked on race day. The course is on private property. Pre-runs only will be allowed on Saturday from noon to 4 p.m.

Helmets are mandatory.

Depending on weather, semi-slick tires are best because they provide plenty of traction on flat land.

Ride low on the bike, much like a road biker, to help increase speed.

Sea kayak

Be ready as your teammate approaches. Kayakers are responsible for swiping the timing chip to record the finish time for the mountain biking leg.

Racers can take kayaks to the park on Saturday and Boy Scouts will watch them overnight.

By this time of day you won’t be dealing with changing weather, so clothing choices should be easier. Remember it is likely to be breezy on Bellingham Bay and there could be splash from waves.

Any water kayakers bring should be easy to access without using your hands; CamelBaks or something similar would be ideal.

Coast Guard-approved life jackets must be worn at all times during the leg.