Ski to Sea’s new executive director Mike Trowbridge is one of the most humble, unassuming people you’d like to meet.
As the operations manager at Mt. Baker Ski Area, he’s kind of like an offensive lineman in football — a guy who is vital to his team’s success but perfectly happy to live behind the scences, because when you don’t notice him things are typically running smoothly.
He’s quick to pass credit to those he’s working with and enjoys being a part of a team, especially when it comes to Ski to Sea.
But there is one thing Trowbridge puffs out his chest about, just a little bit, as he prepares for his first time at the helm of Whatcom County’s signature relay race: being a part of the defending Corporate Division champion Mt. Baker Ski Area Patrol team.
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“We finally beat the Bellingham Firefighters,” Trowbridge said. “We’ve been battling them the last few years, and they’ve always gotten us.”
Trowbridge, who did the road biking leg, said his ride was part of the reason why the Ski Area team came out on top. With the reconfigured race format last year, road biking was earlier in the race, allowing Trowbridge to “get out a little earlier and draft with a quick group of riders all the way to Everson.”
Last year was not Trowbridge’s first Ski to Sea victory, though. He said he also was part of a couple of Whatcom County Mixed Division champions and even a High School Division winner during his senior year in 1994.
It was during those early years that Trowbridge developed his love for the race.
To be able to put on an event that has seven different legs and six different transitions and 4,000 racers across half a county, it’s exciting. It’s an interesting challenge to take on.
“I grew up in Bellingham,” said Trowbridge, who is active in the area’s biking community and has won a few cyclocross state titles. “I’ve always been around it. I really believe in Whatcom County and the community, and I think Ski to Sea is really valuable for the community in general, both economically and it’s just one of those intangible things that adds a lot to the community.”
Besides racing Ski to Sea “more times than I can count,” Trowbridge said he became involved with the race committee the past four years, serving as the vice president of Whatcom Events, the non-profit that owns Ski to Sea, last year.
When former race director Pete Coy stepped down after last year’s race, he nominated Trowbridge to succeed him, and the board approved him.
I’m not terribly comfortable putting myself out front as the one person. Putting on a race like this is a team effort by everyone on the race committee. I just ended up being the guy with the experience of racing a lot of different things and the organizational and operation experience to put things together.
Like any good operations manager, Trowbridge quickly set his sights on the details of the race to make sure the 93-mile, seven-leg relay went off without a hitch. He said he and the race committee started a bit earlier than normal with planning the front end, and 30 days out, he was feeling “pretty locked in.”
Like the race leaders that have come before him, Trowbridge said he will constantly be looking for ways to improve the race, but the conditions that made 2015 so unusual gave him a greater appreciation for what he calls the “classic format of Ski to Sea,” and he doesn’t want to see the race chase the latest trends and sacrifice tradition.
“I’m just a caretaker of the race,” Trowbridge said. “The goal is to continue the race. I want my kids and my grandkids to be able to partake and enjoy the same experiences I’ve been able to enjoy.”
Leading the way
Executive director Mike Trowbridge becomes the fourth person to lead Ski to Sea since the inception of the race in 1973:
Jeanette “Chickie” Brennan