Ski to Sea

The big picture


What: Ski to Sea

When: 7 am Sun., May. 27

Where: Mt. Baker Ski Area

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

I spent at least an hour last Sunday afternoon sitting on a piece of driftwood on a beach on Lummi Island and gazing across the expanse of low-tide sandbars and eelgrass beds to the scenic vista beyond.

Although Mt. Baker was temporarily hidden behind a haze of clouds, I pictured its ice-capped glory and the tenacity it would take for a human being to make her or his way from its elevated environs to the waterfront city sprawled below—not via sitting inside a vehicle or an airplane, but under the force of their own steam.

That’s precisely what will happen during the 45th annual Ski to Sea race, when teams comprised of as few as three to as many as eight competitors will cover the 90-plus miles between the Mt. Baker Ski Area and Bellingham Bay’s Marine Park by participating in a variety of athletic endeavors—including cross-country skiing, downhill skiing or snowboarding, running, road biking, canoeing, cyclocross biking, and, finally, sea kayaking.

In between departing the snowbanks and arriving at the finish line—where the Historic Fairhaven Festival will already be in full swing, and they can join the party—competitors will pass through Glacier, Maple Falls, Kendall, Everson, Lynden, and Ferndale before calling it a day.

And since this is the first year individual athletes have been allowed to participate in as many as three legs on race day—whether it’s for one team or multiple teams—some of those racers will get multiple bird’s-eye views of the lovely locales along the dedicated route.

For example, if you’re among the approximately 400 cross-country skiers sprinting for a start at the Mt. Baker Ski Area, but will be taking a break between returning for the running leg of Ski to Sea, the terrain will change from groomed runs to a well-defined, eight-mile route along the Mt. Baker Hwy, where you’ll be experiencing a 2,200-foot drop in elevation as you take in the flora and fauna of spring.

If another break is in order and you want to show off your athletic prowess on the water instead of on land, perhaps you’ll be in a canoe for the 18-mile journey on the Nooksack River from Everson to Ferndale, or in a sea kayak following a five-mile route from Squalicum Harbor to Marine Park, where you’ll be expected to depart your watercraft, run up a hill to the finish line and ring a bell signaling your team is done for the day.

I pondered these scenarios as I sat on the beach on the driftwood thinking about all the action that would be happening from the mountain to the bay the following Sunday. Meanwhile, the clouds parted for a moment and the tip of Mt. Baker peeked out, making the big picture that is Ski to Sea that much easier to imagine.

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