Todd Elsworth | 06/03/2013 | Insider Blogs |   

Ski to Sea in Bellingham: The Inner Workings of a Team on Race Day

The Ski to Sea Race in Bellingham, WA is an amazing endeavor. Each year, we come together and make new stories that stretch from the mountain to the bay. Planning for the event begins on a varied scale for all involved. This year, on Saturday night, after our TEAM Dinner in Fairhaven at Jalepenos, our team adjourned to Fairhaven Village Inn's upper deck to continue to build our strategy around how we were going to TOTALLY DOMINATE the following day. Seriously.

10 Libs Heavier

Our team, 10 lbs. Heavier, is the product of my long time friend, "Captain" Jason Bakke. Jason has been putting together Ski to Sea teams since he left college (two decades ago) and went to work for "The Man" in the Seattle area. For years, he even coordinated up to 2 teams to make the annual pilgrimage to his old stomping grounds and take part in one of the biggest recreational parties in the northwest. It's referred to as the "Granddaddy of All Races" for a reason. It shows off Whatcom County and the fun that can be had in one day. The influence for Ski to Sea comes from the 1911 Mount Baker Marathon that was hosted as a "publicity stunt" to attract visitors to the Mt. Baker region as a tourism destination. There's a great local movie, The Mountain Runners, that provides a documentary on the origins of the Ski to Sea. Local historians, actors, athletes and community leaders came together to make the production a success. Watch: The Mountain Runners Official Trailer.

Mountain Runners

Back to our strategy for TOTAL DOMINATION.  Well, after dinner, on the short walk back across Village Green, our "Runner" Andrew got injured. He came up to the deck and complained of a sprained ankle. After plenty of heckling from the team (and support crew) we determined that an alternative approach needed to be taken. In steps Grant, our newly appointed Team Captain for the year. "I'll do the run" he offers. And right then and there, a new strategy was devised. We just had to convince Andrew that he'd be a great "Canoer" by tomorrow. After confirming our plan, I left the team at base camp and headed up the mountain to be in position for the leg that I'd be tackling: Cross Country Ski. The next morning, I awoke to a parking lot full of skiers and runners ready to tackle the course. The rain was pouring and the collective energy at the start line kept us all warm as we waited for dynamite explosion to start the race. I did my best to keep up with those around me in my leg throughout the course. My goal was to stick with the Wonder Woman (she was in costume) that kept passing me on the downhills as I chased her down on the uphill climbs. She beat me to the finish, where I passed the timing chip to my teammate in a swarm of skiers.

Mike took off on his skis and we saw him a while later, where he passed on to our "Runner". Since Grant was off and running, I went and took a well deserved nap in my van and waited for my turn to drive down the mountain. Traditionally, once people finish their designated leg- everybody heads to the finish line in Fairhaven to watch the line of paddlers making their way on the last leg of the journey. The stream of kayakers is impressive to watch.


The swarm at the beach is fun to be a part of as everybody is looking out and cheering for their teams. The beach at Marine Park is welcoming for all to come and participate in the event. The beach front is covered with bodies and lawn chairs lined the grassy peninsula that stretches north from the park.  Teammates gather to shout out lines of last minute motivation for the paddlers to "Put Some H in it"- H for Hustle!


Each Team finishes with their kayaker ringing the bell. Here's our fearless leader coming across the finish line and clanging the brass that makes it all complete. Yes, He's a real Kayak Cowboy! Seriously. TOTAL DOMINATION. (Our team came in 401/465)


Ski to Sea Race is made up of quite the cast of characters. The costumes that people come up with are quite entertaining. I grabbed this guy to capture the spirit that he and his teammates had- showing their patriotism as a part of it too. Local personality and County Councilman, Ken Mann, also has his sort of fun for the day as the MC- seen here photo-bombing the photo op.


 Ski to Sea is more than a race- it's a lifestyle. See you OUT THERE.

        We acknowledge that Whatcom County is located on the unceded territory of the Coast Salish Peoples. They cared for the lands that included what we’d call the Puget Sound region, Vancouver Island and British Columbia since time immemorial. This gives us the great obligation and opportunity to learn how to care for our surrounding areas and all the natural and human resources we require to live. We express our deepest respect and gratitude for our indigenous neighbors, the Lummi Nation and Nooksack Tribe, for their enduring care and protection of our shared lands and waterways.
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