Ski to Sea

Here’s what’s new for the 2019 Ski to Sea race

Ski to Sea looks to future racers this year, and plans to give spectators at Hovander Homestead Park more to cheer for than their teams.

Ski to Sea is an annual relay race that starts at Mt. Baker Ski Area and ends at Marine Park, when competitors jump out of their kayaks on Bellingham Bay and run up the beach to the finish line.

Teams, made up of three to eight racers, compete in seven legs – cross-country ski, downhill ski/snowboard, run, road bike, canoe, cyclocross bike and sea kayak.

This year, organizers of the 93-mile race are letting the first 20 high school teams compete for free.

They had previously reduced the race fee for high school teams, but decided to give young racers an additional break starting in 2019.

“What we found was that a lot of the high school teams that compete, their parents also compete,” said Anna Rankin, Ski to Sea race director. “That’s a lot to put on parents to pay for their teams, the kids’ teams and equipment.”

Organizers also wanted to get more youths involved in Ski to Sea.

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Mountain runners start of the 2015 Ski to Sea Race at the White Salmon Lodge at the Mount Baker Ski Area east of Glacier. Staff The Bellingham Herald file

“They are the future of the race,” Rankin said.

Race fees cost $149 for high school teams up to $699 for corporate teams, for those paying after March 1.

Businesses that had sponsored high school teams in the past by paying for the fee to race are being told this year that they can help by covering equipment costs, food on race day or T-shirts, Rankin said.

Worth the wait

The canoe leg ends and the cyclocross leg starts at Hovander Homestead Park, which is a perfectly pretty place to wait.

But it can take a while for the canoeists to paddle 18.5 miles down the Nooksack River, so race organizers will bring in food vendors this year for the hundreds of spectators at the park. Insurance issues derailed an early plan to also host a beer garden at Hovander.

“We are hoping to put it in the center of the cyclocross course so people can watch the cyclists do the obstacles,” Rankin said, “but we don’t know until setup the day before the race if that is going to work out.”

The reason for the addition?

“Because the canoe leg is such a lengthy one, there are people hanging out literally for hours,” Rankin said of the Hovander Homestead Park site. “It will be a little more dynamic location.”

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Nolan Brady of “Aeromech/Sensible.Technology” competes in the mountain bike leg of the 2015 Ski to Sea Race. Staff The Bellingham Herald file

You want that race tee?

As for the number of competitors in this year’s race, Rankin hopes it will top 400 teams.

Last year, 361 teams competed.

Each racer gets a T-shirt, but not everyone wants one.

New this year, organizers are giving racers the chance to turn down the tee ahead of time.

The money that would have been spent on that shirt – an estimated $7 per tee – will instead be donated to Bellingham Youth Paddlesports.

“It’s a way for us to give back to the community a little bit,” she said.

As of mid-April 1,810 racers had registered and 103 of them selected the donate option, according to Rankin.

Main events for Ski to Sea

Ski to Sea Block Party

5-11 p.m. Friday, May 24, Boundary Bay Beer Garden, 1107 Railroad Ave. Garden bar and barbecue open. All ages welcome. Live music from 5:30 to 11 p.m.. Don’t forget to grab a pint of the Ski to Sea IPA, the official beer of the race. It is available on tap at Boundary Bay and to-go in growlers and cans. Details:, 360-647-5593.

Whatcom Memorial Day Parade

The parade begins at noon on Saturday, May 25. The route will start at Alabama Street and Cornwall Avenue and finish at North State and York streets. The parade’s recurring theme is “Celebrating Our Communities, Remembering Our Heroes.”

The parade is being put on by Marine Corps league based in Bellingham, which stepped in last year to save the parade after the Bellingham Regional Chamber of Commerce announced it would no longer put on what was then called the Blossomtime Parade.

More info is at the parade’s Facebook page and at, including additional details on the route.

Cyclocross Pre-Ride

Sections of the Ski to Sea cyclocross leg are on private property, with no trespassing allowed except for this practice and on race day. The course will be open from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, May 25, for the pre-ride and will be marked, but riders must obey all rules of the road, including stop signs and signals, because there won’t be flaggers or officers at intersections.

You really want to stick to those times.

“We had someone on airport property outside of those published times and it triggered a police unit,” said Anna Rankin, Ski to Sea race director, said of the Slater Road to Marine Drive section of the course.


Ski to Sea Race

The day is all about this community-wide competition. Start time: 7:30 a.m. Sunday, May 26, at the ski area. Top teams finish about six hours later. Finish line festivities at Marine Park include food vendors, beer garden, sponsor booths, spectator viewing and Ski to Sea merchandise. Details:

Historic Fairhaven Festival

The family friendly festival is 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday, May 26, between 10th and 11th streets and Mill and McKenzie avenues. The beer-and-wine garden (noon to 6:30 p.m.) and live music main stage are at 11th and McKenzie, with arts and craft vendors, exhibits from nonprofits and children’s activities on district streets and the Village Green. Variety of food booths on site. Free admission. Parking is difficult, so take a WTA bus.

From Fairhaven, walk to Marine Park to watch Ski to Sea kayakers arrive. Race information, photos and exhibitors will be at the park.

Fest Performers

Main stage at 11th Street and McKenzie Avenue:

  • Lost at Last at 12:30 p.m.
  • Space Band at 2:30 p.m.
  • Gin Gypsies at 4:30 p.m.


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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.