Ski to Sea

Ski to Sea’s downhill skiing/snowboarding leg all about the climb

Cheri Austin of There Better Be Beer at the Bottom! snowboards during the 2013 Ski to Sea. Snowboarding was added as an option to the leg in 2004.
Cheri Austin of There Better Be Beer at the Bottom! snowboards during the 2013 Ski to Sea. Snowboarding was added as an option to the leg in 2004. The Bellingham Herald

THE COURSE

Year leg added to the race: 1973 (one of original three); snowboarding added as an option in 2004.

Where: Mt. Baker Ski Area.

Course length: Approximately 2½ miles.

Approximate time to complete: 20 minutes for top finishers, 25 to 45 minutes for everyone else.

Course description: This leg is not so much about skiing or snowboarding as it is about the climb up the mountain before competitors can ski or snowboard back down. After a quick ski to the bottom of Chair 2, competitors begin a 1,000-foot climb to the top of Chair 1. They then put their skis or snowboards back on to speed down Gunner’s Ridge, Blueberry Cat Track, Home Run and 7-Hills to the exchange point beside the Ski Shop.

Downhill skiing/snowboarding race chair: Adam Morvee.

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

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

Timing chip: Receive the chip from the cross-country skier, ski the leg and pass the chip off to the runner. The runner will swipe the chip to get the finish time for the downhill skiing/snowboarding leg. The downhill skier/snowboarder does not swipe the chip at either end of the leg.

1 Time since Ski to Sea started in 1973 that there hasn’t been a downhill skiing leg — last year. The leg was one of the three original disciplines in the race.

5 Designated gates competitors must go through during the leg — Lower North, Hoofers Corner, Pan Dome Warming Hut, Gunner’s Ridge Corner and Blueberry Corner.

1,000 Feet skiers and snowboarders have to climb before starting their much quicker decent — approximately 400 feet more climbing than the alpine running leg had in 2015.

What’s new in 2016

Snow’s back: After a ski season that saw less than half the average annual snowfall at Mt. Baker Ski Area in 2014-15, Mother Nature cooperated this year, dropping 622 inches of snow. The increased white stuff also means the return of the “Ski” in Ski to Sea. There wasn’t enough snow to even think about staging a cross country skiing or downhill skiing/snowboarding leg in 2015, as they were replaced by alpine running and a mountain biking legs. Ski to Sea returns to its classic format this year, with the skiing legs kicking off the annual event.

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 handoff from the cross country skiers, a long line of climbers heading up the mountain and then a few minutes later see them come screaming off the slopes to hand off to the runners.

TIPS FOR THE RACE

▪ It might be a good idea to scout out the relay point with your cross-country skier and plan on meeting there.

▪ Dress comfortably. Avoid cotton. More than likely, you will slip during the climb.

▪ You are climbing in snow, and thus, you will be sinking as you step. Make sure to pace yourself.

▪ The snow in May is different from the snow the rest of the winter, so make sure that skis or snowboards are tuned for the current conditions. Wait until a couple of days prior to the race before deciding how to prepare gear.

2014 Top finishers

Men: Scott Simmons (GetSimpleBox.com) 18:16

Women: Sabrina Harper (Boundary Bay Women's Team) 24:44

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