Ski to Sea

Ski to Sea: Downhill running leg breakdown


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, and a little less than an hour for everyone else

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

Running race chair: Tyler Mitchell.

Pre-race meeting: 7:30 a.m. at the Mt. Baker Ski Area ski shop.

Timing chip: Receive the chip from the alpine runner, swipe the chip to complete the time of that leg, complete the running leg, swipe the chip to record the finish time for the downhill running leg, and then hand off to the road biker. The downhill runner will be swiping the chip twice — once at the start of their leg and once at the finish.

2014 Top finishers

Men: Connor Whan (Boomer’s Drive-In) 36:22

Women: Courtney Olsen (CorePhysio) 39:52


Pack running: With the elimination of the two skiing legs this year, downhill runners this year probably won’t be as spread out as they’re used to by the time they receive the handoff. Downhill runners on faster teams also will pass slower alpine runners going the other direction, as that leg completes a clockwise loop around Picture Lake.



Mount Baker Highway will be closed at 7:30 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 also will be closed westbound at 7:30 a.m. at Mt. Baker Ski Area’s Heather Meadows Day Lodge. No vehicles will be allowed to travel down the mountain before it reopens, which is expected to be around 9:30 a.m. this year with one fewer leg.

Suggested departure time: 4:45 a.m.

Best place to watch the leg: Heather Meadows Day Lodge is where spectators can see the handoff from the alpine runners and watch the downhill runners start down the mountain. This year, spectators should be able to get off the mountain earlier, without the skiing legs.


• Because the course is 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 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 rises higher in the sky.

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

• Some people have raced in their lighter racing flats. 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. They say it helps them recover from the race quicker.