Junior Ski to Sea will be revived in May under new direction

Race format has been overhauled, moved to new locations
March 17, 2023 at 5:32 p.m.
The Junior Ski to Sea race is making a comeback in 2023 after a three-year hiatus, and it will feature entirely new locations and race format.
The Junior Ski to Sea race is making a comeback in 2023 after a three-year hiatus, and it will feature entirely new locations and race format. (Photo courtesy of Bellingham Regional Chamber of Commerce)

Staff Reporter

The Junior Ski to Sea race returns this year under new direction after a three-year hiatus, and it will look a lot like its big brother.

Whatcom Events acquired the event from the Bellingham Regional Chamber of Commerce in 2022, and is reviving the youth race, which will attempt to emulate Ski to Sea, on May 13 at Mount Baker and Lake Padden. 

The race includes a downhill ski/snowboard leg, followed by a “virtual handoff” from the mountain that triggers the lowland running, mountain biking and kayak legs. Previously, the event was in a single location and featured biking, running soccer ball dribble, a Hula-Hoop race and an obstacle course.

“Our board felt really strongly that, to take it under our wing and to give it a name [like] Junior Ski to Sea, it seemed important to have those elements of Ski and Sea,” said Race Director Anna Rankin. “We’re just testing the waters this year — we’re going to see how it goes.” 

The race will be in conjunction with the City of Bellingham Parks and Recreation Department. Whatcom Events is targeting registration of 60–65 teams for the race, Rankin said. 

Scholarships and equipment rentals have been made available with the help of local sponsors, such as Yeager’s Sporting Goods, Fairhaven Runners and Ameriprise Financial.

Teams can apply for partial or full sponsorship to help assist with entry costs if deemed eligible.

Like the Ski to Sea race, the junior event is organized into multiple divisions based on age: elementary (third to fifth grades), middle school (sixth to eighth grades) and high school (ninth to 12th grades). 

The race features two different course lengths, with a shorter course for the elementary division. The ski leg will begin at 9 a.m. with the elementary division before the middle and high school divisions will start at 10 a.m. 

Once the ski leg is complete, participants will have time to join their teammates at Lake Padden, where there will be a mass start of the other legs at noon (elementary) and 2 p.m. (middle/high school).

Since high schoolers can already compete in the Ski to Sea race for free, this option aims to serve as a lower-barrier-to-entry option for those looking to try out a new sport.

“This one is for high schoolers that are kind of interested but have been too shy or too intimidated by the full-on Ski to Sea, which is a lot,” said Sarah Beck, the volunteer coordinator and junior race director. “This would be a great opportunity for those kids to test out the waters and have a more condensed course.”

Further descriptions and maps of the courses as well as registration information are available on the Junior Ski to Sea website.

“Our main goal is to make sure that we are giving these kids a challenge, but also an opportunity to have fun,” Beck said. “I’m assuming that we’ll be getting a lot of good feedback and negative feedback, and we’ll do our best to listen to our racers and their families as far as what they want future races to hold for them.”

Rankin said the team working on the event is just glad to have an opportunity to bring the race back, adding that it otherwise would have faded into oblivion.

“The event’s been around since the ’80s and, honestly, if we didn’t take it on, I think it was just going to go away altogether,” Rankin said. “I’m happy that the board decided to take it on and just see where it goes.”

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