Ski to Sea shows love for area

    Ski to sea is over. It must be summer
    After the biggest, most well attended event yet, I’m sure the folks at the Bellingham/Whatcom Chamber of Commerce are breathing a sigh of relief. The race takes over their lives during the month of May every year, as they scramble to accommodate the 430 teams, 115 parade entrants and countless thousands of paraders, onlookers and racers who enjoy our home-town race of the year. All the effort has an important economic impact: The chamber estimates that during the Saturday and Sunday of race weekend, our local economy is boosted $5.3 million.
    Although no one in my family participated in the race this year, I had several friends who raced and we all went down to enjoy the parade. We walked along Cornwall in front of the Public Market and watched the high-school bands, the fire engines, the floats, the large puppets and the Shriners work their way through the two-hour event.
    My 7-year-old son decided at the end of the parade that he wanted to go to Tube Time next to the Public Market. Little did we know that would be the last time we would go play there, however, as Tube Time closed at the end of the month. My son had been bugging us for weeks to go, and I was glad to get one last play in before they closed their doors. There aren’t very many indoor options for kids to go have a good time in Bellingham, especially during the rainy winter, so we will miss it.
   But back to Ski to Sea, while for my 7-year-old the fun of Ski to Sea is mostly in watching the parade, for me it’s in seeing our community get outside and enjoy themselves. While I didn’t race this year, I have in the past — albeit not very successfully. I didn’t do too well, but I had fun anyway. It was great to get up onto my snowboard in the middle of May, even if I did crash at the bottom of the hill and had to hop my way out while watching skier after skier slide by me. Still, in the photo I have of me coming down the mountain, I’m beaming.
   One of the beauties of the Ski to Sea is the celebration of our areas most precious assets: the incredible outdoors. We all know what a beautiful area we live in — it’s why many of us are here — but so often it’s easy to stay in town and enjoy nothing more than the vista of Mount Baker towering on the eastern horizon.
    Even though the race has gone on for 34 years consecutively, it has its roots in the Mount Baker Marathon, which was originally established in 1911. That’s almost 100 years of enjoying the mountains, which is something we can all be proud of.
    Just the fact that almost 3,500 participants are getting out of their cars and onto bikes and skis and into boats is worth the effort. It helps us all participate more in this wonderful place we live in.
    We’re not the only community who has thought this was a good idea. There are no less than seven similar relay races across the West Coast. But we are the oldest, and it’s something to be proud of. It shows our commitment and appreciation for where we live.

Vanessa Blackburn is the editor and publisher of The Bellingham Business Journal. She can be reached at


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