Ski to Sea is one of the most epic events in the Pacific Northwest. It’s a 93.5-mile Memorial Day race beginning on the ski slopes of Mt. Baker and ending at Marine Park on Bellingham Bay in Fairhaven. The competition has seven legs and includes cross-country and downhill skiing, running, cycling, canoeing, mountain biking and kayaking, with teams of eight competing in each race (two in the canoe leg).
The event began in 1911 as the Mt. Baker Marathons, a race that went from Bellingham to the top of Mt. Baker and back. A group of eco-minded people called the Mt. Baker Club was trying to make the North Cascades part of the National Parks system and initiated the race as a publicity stunt to get the government’s attention and drive tourism to the mountain. Average Joes ran the treacherous 10,781 ft. elevation to the summit of Mt. Baker and back.
The race was held for three years until 1913 when summer storms created even more dangerous conditions and a runner fell into a crevasse. They discontinued the event and it was reborn in 1973 as the Ski to Sea race, highlighting the outdoor activities available in Whatcom County. Ski to Sea is known as the granddaddy of all multi-sport relay races attracting a huge following. There is even a documentary film called The Mountain Runners based on those early races.
People come from all over the world to partake in the event, including about 800 volunteers that lend a sense of community involvement. Bellingham is packed with people visiting to participate in the race, enjoy the festivities, and cheer on their team. The weekend long event is centered on the race and includes a parade, the historic Fairhaven Festival, finish line beer garden at Marine Park, kids fun zone and food vendors.
The hoopala begins a week before the race on Friday, May 19 th with a Jr. Ski to Sea Parade followed by a Jr. Ski to Sea Race on Saturday, May 20. A family friendly Ski to Sea Community Block Party at Boundary Bay Brewery Friday, May 23 from 5-9 includes a beer garden, live music, dancing, raffle prizes and cupcake challenge.
The Ski to Sea Race begins at 7:45 a.m. on Sunday, May 25. You can register HERE. Post race festivities in Fairhaven include live music, arts and crafts vendors, activities for kids, food booths, and a $3 all-day shuttle from WWU park and ride lot, Fairhaven, and downtown.