The Ski to Sea Race: The Northwest’s Premier Adventure Relay

Ski to Sea - Mt. Baker

What­com Coun­ty sits at the North­west cor­ner of the entire low­er 48 Unit­ed States. It is the North­west of the North­west — the ocean on one side and the tow­er­ing vol­canic peak of Mount Bak­er on the oth­er. In between is every­thing one would expect in a post­card-esque North­west snap­shot — ever­greens, wind­ing rivers, pulp mills, and mud­ded-up Sub­aru Outbacks.

Being an out­door recre­ation-mind­ed pop­u­la­tion, the peo­ple of What­com Coun­ty have cel­e­brat­ed the ter­rain in the best way pos­si­ble — by rac­ing from Mount Bak­er to the coast in an epic relay.  For 40 years, the Ski-to-Sea race has become a world famous way to show­case all the north­west has to offer.

It is a 7‑stage relay that starts at Mt. Bak­er Ski Area — 93.5 miles from the fin­ish line.  Cross-Coun­try ski­ing starts the event. From there team­mates pass the wrist­band to down­hill skiers or snow­board­ers, who must first hike uphill before rid­ing down and pass­ing to the run­ner. The run leg lasts 9 miles, tak­ing the event down the Mt. Bak­er high­way out of the snow. The run­ner pass­es to a road bik­er who rides 42 miles toward the coast. From there, a two-per­son canoe team nav­i­gates 16 miles of the Nook­sack Riv­er, even­tu­al­ly pass­ing off to a moun­tain bik­er. They must ride 13 miles of trail to the coast, where they pass off to a sea kayak­er. The kayak­er fin­ish­es the event by pad­dling 5 miles across Belling­ham Bay to the fin­ish line, where a well-deserved beer gar­den and awards cer­e­mo­ny awaits.


The race actu­al­ly has its roots from over 100 years ago as the Mount Bak­er Marathon.   For 3 years locals would race up the side of the 10,700 vol­cano to the sum­mit and back down again. The first year’s win­ner clocked in at 9 and a half hours! The event was appar­ent­ly a suc­cess, aside from the fact that in 1913 some­one died by falling into a crevasse high up on one of the glac­i­ers. No race exist­ed for 60 years, when it was rein­stat­ed as a relay. Since then it has become a key kick­off point for sum­mer, and a great way for a group of out­doors-mind­ed friends to chal­lenge them­selves and have a whole lot of fun on a (usu­al­ly) sun­ny Saturday.

For the kids
A (musch short­er) kid’s relay also exists, giv­ing adven­tur­ous teams of all ages a chance to chal­lenge them­selves and train as a team. In the kid’s race, a few events are sub­sti­tut­ed — instead of a 2‑person canoe ride, it’s a 3‑legged race… no ski­ing is involved but there is an obsta­cle course, giv­ing the kids one point over the adults.

The main relay is of course the main draw, but the entire Memo­r­i­al day week­end is packed with fun activ­i­ties for ath­letes and spec­ta­tors alike. If you’re look­ing for some­thing fun to do, gath­er sev­en of your clos­est (or if not clos­est, most ath­let­ic) friends and head to Belling­ham for one of the most fun, albeit chal­leng­ing, races you will par­tic­i­pate in!  Reg­is­tra­tion is still open so if you are look­ing for some­thing to do on Memo­r­i­al day, come on out!

More infor­ma­tion can be found at

All pic­tures and images are prop­er­ty of Ski to Sea.