Ski-to-Sea Start

Sold out! Currently scheduled for May 26,2024, 500 teams have signed up for this iconic race. While it’s too late to get your own team together, there are still teams looking for cross-country skiers of all abilities! The Ski-to-Sea race is composed of 7 legs (8 people) that travel 55 miles past the 6500 foot level of Mt. Baker to the shores of Bellingham Bay in Fairhaven.

I. Grooming, Current Conditions, and Practice Sessions:

Grooming, 10:30 AM, May 10, 2024

Mt. Baker Downhill has been grooming the race trail so that skiers can practice (Thanks, Mt. Baker Downhill!!). Reports suggest that the steepest downhill that caused many racers problems (and backed up traffic on the trail) has been re-routed to lessen the number of crashes…

  • Friday, May 10: grooming happened at 10:30
  • Monday, May 13: grooming happened some time before noon. Temperature was 44 degrees at noon.
  • Thursday, May 16: grooming happened.
  • Expect it to be pretty soft and sloppy on Sunday, May 19.
  • Upcoming grooming: (I’m not sure, but it sounds like grooming will be mostly completed around 8:15. Exceptions to this can happen such as when the lead groomer must attend meetings in the morning. (On race day, things start at 7:30 and the snow softens up as the day progresses.))
    • Monday, May 20 – Scheduled to be groomed
    • Wed. May 22 – expected grooming
    • Fri. May 24 – expected grooming
    • Tuesday, Thursday – possible grooming, dependent on weather and conditions

Our racing guru, Will, has been out on the course several times this last week. He has volunteered to ski it with anyone wanting a preview, this Monday, May 20 at 9:15. Meet with Will at the base of the chair lift between the ski patrol hut and Heather Meadows lodge. (If you want a view at ‘race pace’ you might look for him around 8:15 as he starts his ‘workout’ ski.) Check for the details on this separate page: Preview the course with Will Our old, slow, club president, Pete, is planning on skiing the course on classical fishscale skis on Wednesday, May 22. He plans on starting at 9:15. Look for him at the base of the chair lift between the ski patrol hut and Heather Meadows lodge. Even later news: it has been reported that work is going to be done on the downhill area near the lower loop of the course on Wednesday and that the entire course will be closed. Pete and Will are both planning on skiing Thursday rather than either Wed. or Friday, but if you want to meet up with us, it is best that you email us to confirm plans.

As you have probably read, while the snow is not as deep as some years, they are definitely doing both ski legs this year. But as I’ve mentioned elsewhere on this page, with the current weather, the snow is getting pretty soft. As an old, conservative, not-all-that-fast skier, I’d take both classical (fishscale or skins) and skate skis up the mountain on race day and look at the conditions and pick the appropriate skis. My prediction is that unless you are out with the first racers, the snow is going to be pretty sloppy and slow skating…

II. More general background information:

The Nooksack Nordic Ski Club has nothing to do with the Ski-to-Sea race, except that many teams have trouble filling their cross-country ski slot and are looking for experienced skiers who can finish a 4 mile loop in ‘soft’ conditions. So this page is designed to provide wanna-be Nordic racers with some additional information.

To calibrate things, I (Pete, age 68 when I last skied it, relatively experienced, middling athletic condition) skied it with skinny classical fishscale skis and finished in the middle of the pack. And the team that added me appeared to be happy with what they got…

You can peruse all the results. You can scroll down to find me at place 201 in 2019…

If you are interested in entering the race and looking for a team, check out this message board (part of the Ski-to-Sea site). There are still a couple of possible openings listed as of May 18.

Pete on arguably the worst downhill. Click on the picture to see others and a better view of the conditions of the trail. There are eight pages – fast at the front, slower at the back 🙂

The course is listed at 4 miles. It’s relatively hilly (it is part of a downhill ski area) – it’s either going uphill or downhill – but having said that, the hills aren’t all that bad. Unfortunately (but understandably) they do not set any classical tracks. The course is usually fairly solid at the start of the race, but with 4-500 skiers, it gets churned up fairly quickly. Given the late May date, the weather is warm and the snow soft – picking a kick wax would be difficult. Skin skis, fishscales, or skating!

I did the ski to sea in 2017 and 2019. As an experienced, but not fast, skate and classical skier, I chose skinny (48 mm) fishscale classical skis rather than skate skis because of all the uphills and how the snow gets churned up. I finished a little slower than right in the middle. There is no question that skating is faster, but you need the stamina to blast up the hills in soft snow. I’d say that if you are aiming for the top 30-40%, you need to skate – go out fast enough to be with the quicker skiers and then stay with them (general strategy in a mass start race is to line up on one of the edges, so you can work forward along the edge and not get caught in the jam in the middle.). But if you are aiming for more the middle of the finishers, get the fastest classical skis you can find and ski your own race through the heavy traffic. I felt that I was limited by my stamina, not by the traffic. All this is of course just my humble opinion…

Waiting for a cross-country skier…
Further up the mountain from the race course. So what about getting some friends together, each getting onto a team, ski the race (starting at 7:30 AM), then having a great ski tour afterwards, while waiting for the road to open? (The road is closed for several hours to allow the runners to run down the mountain.)