Ski to Sea

With the number of teams plummeting, is the Ski to Sea Race too pricey?

Watch highlights of the 2014 Ski to Sea Race

About 415 teams race 93 miles from the Mount Baker Ski area to Bellingham, Wash., in the 2014 Ski to Sea Race, held Sunday, May 25, 2014.
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About 415 teams race 93 miles from the Mount Baker Ski area to Bellingham, Wash., in the 2014 Ski to Sea Race, held Sunday, May 25, 2014.

Only four days before the 2016 running of the Ski to Sea Race, only 321 teams had completed registration, according the race’s website.

That’s the lowest total in eight years and well short of the self-imposed cap of 500 eight-person teams allowed in the county’s signature adventure relay, to be held Sunday, May 30.

The last time Ski to Sea reached 500 race entries was in 2011, though 495 teams registered in 2012. Last year, 349 teams registered to compete in the unusual race, in which the two skiing legs had to be canceled because of a lack of snowfall over the winter.

I think in general, we haven’t dropped as much as other races have. We’re very fortunate to have something as popular as we do and have such loyal followers for our event.

Whatcom Events president Bryan Geschwill

With team entry fees climbing 67 percent the past seven years and ranging from $499 to $699 this year, it’s natural to ask if Ski to Sea has priced itself out of many racer’s budgets, or is this just a hangover from last year’s altered race?

“In setting our prices for the entry fees, we have researched events around the region and found that our cost per racer of $74.88 is generally lower than similar events,” first-year Executive Director Mike Trowbridge said.

For comparison, the Bellingham Bay Marathon lists its entry fees at $95 for the marathon, $75 for the half marathon and $30 for the 5K in 2016. The Tour de Whatcom bicycle ride, which also is run by Whatcom Events, ranges in price from $55 to $85 for the Century Route, while the city of Bellingham Parks and Recreation Department’s Padden Triathlon costs between $40 and $90 to enter.

“The reality is that the logistics of Ski to Sea, with seven legs and eight different transition/finish areas spread out over half the county, makes finding comparable races difficult,” Trowbridge said. The race starts with cross-country skiing, then a downhill skiing/snowboarding leg, followed by running, road biking, canoeing, cyclocross and finally kayaking.

Outside Whatcom County, Oregon’s Hood 2 River Relay Race, a 44-mile relay from Mount Hood to the Columbia River Gorge in early June features alpine skiing, Nordic skiing, mountain biking, road biking, running and paddling legs. That race, in its third year, costs between $30 and $60 per individual on a six-person team.

Having fewer race teams this year could ultimately hurt Ski to Sea’s bottom line. Trowbridge estimated the break-even number of teams to be about 350, but added that final numbers have yet to be completed. He also said that it does not cost the race significantly more per team or per racer once 400 teams have registered.

“We’re going to be pretty lean again this year,” he said.

David Rasbach: 360-715-2286, @BhamSports

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