Ski to Sea

What’s the weather for Memorial Day weekend and the Ski to Sea race on Sunday?

Memorial Day weekend weather is going to be a mix of clouds and sun in Whatcom County, according to the National Weather Service.

From Saturday through Monday, the skies will range from mostly cloudy with a chance of showers to sunny with highs of 61 to nearly 73 in Bellingham, according to National Weather Service forecasts. Memorial Day on Monday will be sunny.

Inland, it will be up to 5 degrees warmer in Everson, Lynden and Sumas.

Ski to Sea race day on Sunday will be mostly cloudy at the start and partly sunny at the end.

Up at Mt. Baker Ski Area, temperatures will be about 48 degrees when the race kicks off at 7:30 a.m. Sunday.

It will be about 67 degrees around 1:30 p.m., when the first racers usually reach the finish line at Marine Park in Fairhaven.

Here are a few other things to keep in mind for the weekend:

Here comes the Ski to Sea racers

A total of 414 teams — that’s 3,322 racers — will compete in this year’s 93-mile relay race from Mt. Baker Ski Area to Marine Park.

That’s more than in recent years, and Race Director Anna Rankin is telling racers to be patient and to pay attention.

“We have 50 more teams than last year and 100 more than two years ago so have patience when traveling between transition spots,” Rankin said.

“Have some idea of when your previous leg racer is coming in and be near the transition area so you can hear their number called out,” she added. “Above all, be safe and have fun.”

In addition to the thousands of competitors, there are also about 800 volunteers helping out with the race.

The mountain, the river, the bay

Some parts of the seven-leg relay present challenges that are outside of race organizers’ control.

Take the ski/snowboard legs at Mt. Baker Ski Area, where there is less snow on the ground for this year’s race than there has been in the last couple of years, according to Aaron McKay-Thorpe, who is chair of the cross-country ski leg.

The ski area was grooming the course and moving snow around on Friday and Saturday, Rankin said, adding it should be about the same distance as in previous years.

“It’s just everything is going to be a little rougher around the edges,” McKay-Thorpe said. “It’s just the hand nature dealt us this year.”

He advised racers to keep their eyes open, given the thinner snowpack.

“There’s less snow. There’s going to be more happening with the terrain and to just be aware of it,” McKay-Thorpe said.

Canoeists can expect a slower paddle down the Nooksack River for their leg of the race, which stretches 18.5 miles from Everson’s Riverside Park to Hovander Homestead Park outside Ferndale.

In some years, hot weather coupled with snow melt, or heavy rain, can swell the Nooksack — and the rapidly rising river can pose a risk to novice canoeists.

Other years, the river has been low. That’s the case this year.

“There’s not as much water in the river but the water that’s in there should support the racers,” said David Schwab, chair of the canoe leg. “It may be a little bit slower time. But it looks safe. And everything looks like it’s in order for a good race.”

How much slower is the river?

“It will be slower than the past two years,” Ranking said, “but we are not sure by how much.”

Bellingham Bay can be a fickle spot on race day, when strong afternoon winds have forced race organizers to shorten the five-mile kayaking leg that rounds out Ski to Sea.

On Friday, Rankin said it was too soon to know exactly what to expect on race day.

“We never know until the afternoon of the race,” Rankin said.

Because conditions can change rapidly on this leg and others, it’s important for racers to be at the pre-race meetings for the latest information.

Ski to Sea park and ride

Fairhaven, where the race ends, will be packed with people for Ski to Sea, so do yourself and others a favor and leave your car at home.

Take the bus instead. Whatcom Transportation Authority will run extra buses on Route 14 between Western Washington University and the Historic Fairhaven Festival on Sunday.

First, park for free at WWU’s Lot C, located on Bill McDonald Parkway at West College Way.

Buses will leave from the bus shelter on the west side of Bill McDonald Parkway. The shelter is called Bill McDonald Parkway at WWU Rec Center. Buses will leave about every 15 minutes starting at 11:30 a.m.

The last extra departure to Fairhaven will be at 7:15 p.m., after which, Route 14 will return to its regular schedule.

You can leave Fairhaven by catching Route 14 to Lot C from the shelter at 12th and McKenzie (near Haggen).

Other options for getting to the festival on Sunday include Route 1 between downtown Bellingham and Fairhaven. The bus on this route leaves every 30 minutes on Sundays.

Each bus rides costs $1 in exact change, or pay with valid WTA bus passes. Kids younger than 8 years old ride for free.

Details: 360-676-7433 or

Travel tips

If you’re going north on Interstate 5, one of the region’s busiest stretches this Memorial Day weekend is between Bellingham and the Canadian Border, according to the Washington State Department of Transportation.

Check the agency’s travel charts for the Memorial Day weekend to find out when that stretch of road will be busiest.

You’ll also want to look at U.S.-to-Canada border wait times online at Coming back, check the border wait times on the BC Transportation website at

What about Artist Point? If you were hoping to get up to scenic Artist Point for a hike this weekend, that’s a no-go. Crews haven’t started clearing snow from the last 2.7-mile stretch of the Mount Baker Highway up to Artist Point.

Kie Relyea has been a reporter at The Bellingham Herald since 1997 and currently writes about social services and recreation in Whatcom County. She started her career in 1991 as a reporter and editor in Northern California.