With the snow returning last winter, just about everything in this year’s Ski to Sea will be changing back to what new executive director Mike Trowbridge has termed the “classic” format of the race.
But the one thing that isn’t changing from 2015 may be the biggest adjustment for Ski to Sea veterans.
Following in the footsteps of 2015, when race organizers started the race 15 minutes earlier to account for the uncertainty of the new race format, Ski to Sea will keep the opening blast at 7:30 a.m. in 2016.
“I know it’s an early morning for people,” Trowbridge said, “but our goal is safety and our goal is to get kayakers off the water earlier.”
The ripple effect is that the Whatcom County Sheriff’s Department will close Mount Baker Highway 15 minutes earlier at 7:15 a.m., meaning competitors, volunteers and spectators heading for the mountain should plan on leaving at least 15 minutes earlier than they have the past.
Pre-race meetings also have been adjusted from previous years to reflect the change.
Beyond that, the race committee tried to limit the number of changes it will make in 2016 in an effort to resettle into a sense of normalcy following a tumultuous 2015 race.
There are two minor course modifications to note in the late afternoon legs.
The first is on the newly named cyclocross leg, which will now incorporate a cyclocross obstacle course in Hovander Homestead Park in Ferndale just south of the canoe exchange point, before heading north to Main Street along the Nooksack River dike. The course also will have minor modifications the rest of the way into Bellingham to make it more “point to point” and eliminate obstacles, such as the dreaded railroad tracks, that were part of the course “just for the sake of making it hard,” Trowbridge said.
“We’re trying to make it a true cyclocross course,” he said.
The kayaking course also will see some minor modifications with a couple of bouys moving slightly. The first involves the buoy nearest the old Georgia Pacific plant being adjusted about 150 feet to help safety boats get a better anchorage, kayak and bay chair Larry Bussinger said in a phone interview, and the second is moving the final buoy near Marine Park a little farther south to create a better approach angle to the beach.
Other than that, there are no major changes for 2016.
“We’ve got this tradition, and we’re happy to get back to running the race the way it’s supposed to be run this year,” Trowbridge said. “We’ll make tweaks here and there, but it’s just continued refinement.”