Ski to Sea: Epic Race Celebrates 100 years!

By Sarah Wyatt

Photo courtesy of Bellingham Whatcom County Tourism

The Ski to Sea Race every Memorial Weekend is seen as the kickoff to summer in Whatcom County. In 2011, the week-long festivities will celebrate the 100-year anniversary of the original race, the Mount Baker Marathon, and will conclude with the current incarnation Ski to Sea Race on that Saturday. The current race, which has been running since 1973, grew out of the desire of some Whatcom County residents to recreate the 1911 race.

“We are often seen as the granddaddy of all relay adventure type races in this country,” says Mel Monkelis, Executive Director. “Ski to Sea highlights the major recreational activities that are available in Whatcom County while passing through some of the most scenic areas that the Northwest has to offer.”

The 100-mile race is an epic relay that encompasses seven legs: cross country skiing, downhill skiing or snowboarding, running, road biking, canoeing, mountain biking and sea kayaking. The racers range from beginners to Olympic athletes. Teams of families, high schools, and corporations all participate.

The race starts at the top of Mount Baker and finishes to cheers at Bellingham’s Marine Park.

“We had a record number of teams in the race in 2010 with 464 teams and we are looking at topping 500 teams in 2011,” says Monkelis. “That translates to over 4,000 racers competing in the ‘Bellingham Olympics’ as some folks like to call the race. It’s the highlight of the year for a lot of people.”

(Editor’s Note: A movie is being made of the 1911-1913 Mt. Baker Marathons titled, The Mountain Runners. The movie is scheduled to be released this fall. )