By Ken Johnson
Ski to Sea happened May 27, engulfing Bellingham in a festive and intense atmosphere.
The Ski to Sea race has seven different events: cross country skiing, downhill skiing or snowboarding, running, road biking, canoeing, cyclocross biking and sea kayaking.
There is a method to this athletic madness; these events show the range of outdoor activity in Bellingham.
Boomer’s Drive-In won this year with a time of 6 hours, 6 minutes and 42 seconds.
Race day was sunny and hot, and for most of the events this spelled out perfect conditions- but not for cyclocross.
According to Jeff Cummings, who helped design the cyclocross track, the ideal conditions are for it to rain two days before the race, that way there aren’t clods of dirt blocking the racers’ path.
Cyclocross is a form of bike racing wherein competitors deal with a variety of different terrain, as well as lift their bikes over small obstacles.
Mark Gallatin, a Ski to Sea volunteer at the canoe leg, said that canoers regularly flip over.
Gallatin added, pointing at a bend in the river treacherous with sticks and logs, some people get holes poked in their canoes.
Not everyone who races in Ski to Sea is competitive, for some it is an opportunity to have fun and get together with friends.
The “Sheroes,” an all-women team from the United States and Canada, said Ski to Sea gives them a chance to reconnect every year.
Lana Mitchel and Eric Booth were part of another team from out of town. They drove from Seattle to compete.
Booth said he “gets that tingly feeling associated with skiing” whenever he comes to Bellingham.
Ski to Sea draws large crowds of people, and this, coupled with the road closures that allow bikers and runners to race, creates a traffic issue. Closures made it borderline impossible to travel through downtown Fairhaven, as well as into many parks from Lynden to downtown Bellingham.
According to “Adventures NW” Ski to Sea was originally created as a tourist attraction to stimulate the local economy.
Ski to Sea still provides a boost to Bellingham’s economy.
Pete Madden, an employee at Backcountry Essentials, a sporting goods store in downtown Bellingham, said that traffic through their store increased around 15 percent.
“Good weather and more people in town increased traffic through the store,” Madden said.
Booths, set up to advertise different businesses, populated Ski to Sea. In downtown Fairhaven, near the finish line, the streets were packed with flamboyant stands giving out prizes. Mercedes’ cars lined one of the streets, acting as a make-shift car dealership.
Like Christmas or Easter, Ski to Sea brings gobs of money into Bellingham while managing to be a fun and engaging tradition.