What's different about the race this year?
Two new legs will replace the downhill and cross-country ski legs that traditionally start the race, and the kayak is no longer the last leg.
Instead, the first racer of each team will make a 3.3-mile alpine run, leaving from the White Salmon Lodge, running around Picture Lake, and ending at Heather Meadows.
Then, the last racer of each team will ride a 7.3-mile mountain bike leg. Bikers will run out of Marine Park (where the kayakers finish what was traditionally the last leg of the race), cross the railroad tracks, then get on their bikes and ride the Interurban Trail to Arroyo Park, They’ll climb the side of Chuckanut Mountain, descend to Chuckanut Drive and hop back on the Interurban to return to Fairhaven.
Why did they make the changes?
A poor snow season left the mountain without enough snow on the ground to ensure the two ski legs would be doable.
Will the cross-country and downhill skiing legs return for next year's race or will these new legs replace them?
It’s unlikely the new legs would replace the skiing legs next year, unless the mountain doesn’t get enough snow again.
With the kayak no longer the last leg, where is the finish line?
The finish line this year will be at Fourth Street and Harris Avenue, outside the Index Industries building, near the entrance to Marine Park.
Will the winners be ringing the finish line bell as in years past?
Yes, but this year, instead of the kayakers ringing the bell, it will be the mountain bikers who will celebrate their team’s finish. The official timing chips will be stopped at the finish line on Fourth Street and Harris Avenue, and the bikers will run to the ceremonial ringing of the Ski to Sea bell.
When do they expect the first teams to cross the finish line?
It’s hard to say, because the first and last legs are brand new.
Based on the top finishers’ times for all of the other legs, and the Ski to Sea planners’ estimates for the new portions, the first racers could reach the finish as early as 1:30 or 2 p.m. Sunday, May 24.
However, the low snowpack this year could also make for a slower canoe leg if the Nooksack River is running lower, so fans will likely need to wait and see how long this year’s version of the race takes.
What else is happening near the finish?
There is a finish line beer garden at Marine Park from 11 a.m. to around 6 or 7 p.m. the day of the race, along with a Kid’s Fun Zone with paintball and a bouncy castle, food vendors and more.
At the same time, the Fairhaven Festival, an all-day street fair for all ages and tastes, will take place at two locations: the Main Stage at 11th Street and McKenzie Avenue, and the Green Stage at the Village Green, 10th Street and Mill Avenue.
The festival will feature children’s activities, a beer garden, arts and craft vendors, nonprofit booths, ethnic foods and more.
Tell me more about the Fairhaven Festival.
The Main Stage will open with a flag raising and the national anthem at 11:30 a.m., followed at noon by music from Nashville Northwest. At 2:15 p.m. SpaceBand will take the stage, followed at 4:30 p.m. by Sunset Superman.
The Green Stage (also called the kid and family stage) will open at noon with the Bellingham Silk Road dancers. At 1:30 p.m. the Upfront Theatre will present improv, followed by Out of the Ashes at 3 p.m. and D’vas and Dudes at 4:30 p.m.
I’ve heard parking is difficult in Fairhaven on race day. Is there a bus I can take?
Yes. Whatcom Transportation authority offers extra service the day of Ski to Sea. Each ride is $1 and all WTA passes are accepted.
Free parking is available at Western Washington University’s C lots near Wade King Student Recreation Center for people who want to hop on Route 14 to Fairhaven, which will run every 15 to 30 minutes from 8:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. The last bus leaves at 6:44 p.m.
Route 401 leaves the downtown station and travels along State Street to Fairhaven (12th Street and McKenzie Avenue). Buses run every 15 to 30 minutes from 7:40 a.m. to 9:15 p.m. The last bus leaves Fairhaven at 7:55 p.m.
I've never been to the Ski to Sea parade. When is that and where should I go for a good seat?
The Blossomtime Parade is scheduled to start at noon Saturday, May 23. Judging starts at 10:30 a.m.
The route begins at Cornwall Avenue and Alabama Street and goes south on Cornwall, east on Champion Street, north on State Street, and ends at York and State streets. The sidewalks along the route are prime territory for parade-watching, but get there early if you want a curbside seat.