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Junior Ski to Sea Race postponed, set to return in 2023

Race now managed by Whatcom Events

By Rena Kingery News Intern

The Junior Ski to Sea Race has been canceled for the third year in a row. The event, now owned and hosted by Whatcom Events, is expected to make a comeback in 2023. The future of the historic Junior Ski to Sea Parade, however, is yet to be determined.

Whatcom Events operates regional races and events such as the Mount Baker Hill Climb and Trails to Taps. The volunteer-run nonprofit has organized the adult Ski to Sea Race since 2011, and it will be taking over the junior race from the Bellingham Regional Chamber of Commerce.

“It’s wonderful that we can reunite the junior race with the big race,” said Guy Occhiogrosso, president and CEO of the Bellingham Regional Chamber of Commerce.

Occhiogrosso said they’re passing the baton to Whatcom Events so the Chamber can prioritize its mission of solving problems and advocating for local businesses.

“We look forward to Whatcom Events bringing the event to the next level,” he said.

New and improved

Anna Rankin, executive director for Whatcom Events, said canceling the junior race was a difficult decision but necessary for maintaining the integrity of the event.

“Between flood damage to the parks, development and businesses closing during the pandemic, we saw in February and March that it was going to be such a challenge just to bring Ski to Sea back this year,” Rankin said. “We wouldn’t be able to give the focus to the junior race that it deserves.”

But Rankin said she looks forward to revamping the Junior Ski to Sea event for 2023 to make it more challenging, especially for older kids.

“We actually are planning … to mimic the Ski to Sea Race,” she said, adding that the new design is still in the early stages of planning.

Rankin said next year’s Junior Ski to Sea Race could include a skiing or mountain biking leg either at Mount Baker or Galbraith, respectively. A “virtual hand-off” from those participants would signal teammates below, perhaps at Lake Padden, Rankin said, to begin a running leg that would lead to a water sport leg.

Historically, the Junior Ski to Sea Race consisted of running, a Hula Hoop partner race, biking, soccer and an obstacle course, all in a single location. Rankin said the planning team has not yet decided if this format will still be available for younger participants.

“I think people will be really pleased next year with the results that we have by taking an extra year to work on the logistics,” Rankin said.

Whatcom Events, however, is not in a position to take over the Junior Ski to Sea Parade, reportedly the longest-running event in Bellingham’s history. The event lies outside the scope of their expertise in recreational events, Rankin said.

“I can’t imagine there not being some entity within our community who will step up and see the parade continue,” Rankin said.

Planning for the 2023 Junior Ski to Sea Race will begin this fall, Rankin said, but she encouraged people to contact Whatcom Events sooner if they would like to join a volunteer committee or sponsor the race.

The long-awaited return of the Junior Ski to Sea Race will likely take place the second or third weekend of May 2023, Rankin said.

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