Ski to Sea

Cross-county skiing leg starts off Ski to Sea with a blast

Ski to Sea racers battle for position early in the 2014 Ski to Sea race following the mass start.
Ski to Sea racers battle for position early in the 2014 Ski to Sea race following the mass start. The Bellingham Herald

THE COURSE

Year leg added to the race: 1983.

Where: Mt. Baker Ski Area.

Course length: About four miles.

Approximate time to complete: About 20 minutes for top finishers and 30 to 50 minutes for everybody else.

Course description: After a blast sets a mass of up to 500 cross-country skiers in motion from the Ski Shop, competitors do three loops around various points of the ski area. The first goes near the top of Chair 2, while the second goes to the base of Chair 2. The final loop takes competitors beyond the Austin Pass Warming Hut before returning to the Heather Meadows Day Lodge for the first exchange.

Cross-country ski race chair: Jon Buettner.

Pre-race meeting: 7 a.m. at the Ski Shop.

Recommended departure time from Bellingham: 4:45 a.m.

Timing chip: The cross-country skier must remember to start with the timing chip. Cross-country skiers will ski their leg, swipe the timing chip to record their finish time and then pass the chip to the downhill skier/snowboarder.

622 Inches of snowfall this ski season reported at Mt. Baker Ski Area, as of April 25 — more than double the 287 1/2 reported last season, when Ski to Sea had to cancel the skiing legs of the race.

15 Minutes earlier start for Ski to Sea in 2016. The blast will now be at 7:30 a.m.

3 Loops make up the four-mile cross-country skiing leg of Ski to Sea.

What’s new in 2016

Early start: Set your alarm clocks 15 minutes earlier than usual, as Ski to Sea is set for a 7:30 a.m. start this year. This time matches last year, when race organizers moved up the blast because of all the unknowns of a very unpredictable year and wanted to make sure they got kayaks off Bellingham Bay as early as possible. There is similar reasoning for the early start this year, as the race committee attempts limit the number of boats on the water to face the usual afternoon winds, which can whip up waves on Bellingham Bay.

TRAVEL AND VIEWING ADVICE

Mount Baker Highway will be closed at 7:15 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 will be closed westbound at 7:15 a.m. at the Mt. Baker Ski Area Heather Meadows Day Lodge. No vehicles will be allowed to travel down the mountain before it reopens.

Best place to watch the leg: Heather Meadows Day Lodge at Mt. Baker Ski Area, where spectators can see the start of the race and the skiers make their loops around the course before handing off to the downhill skier/snowboarder.

TIPS FOR THE RACE

▪ The weather at Mt. Baker Ski Area 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 7:30 a.m. and there is a 7 a.m. pre-race meeting. Experienced competitors suggest leaving Bellingham no later than 4:15 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 approximately 500 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.

2014 Top Finishers

Men: Brian Gregg (Boundary Bay Brewery Men’s) 17:44

Women: Caitlin Gregg (Boundary Bay Brewery Women’s) 19:48

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