Monday, April 28, 2014

Sea-to-Ski Human Powered

The biggest cultural event in Bellingham is the annual Ski-to-Sea Race. This is a 93.5 mile multi-discipline relay race that starts at the Mount Baker Ski Area. The race legs work as follows:
  1. Cross Country Skiing - 4 miles
  2. Downhill Skiing - 2.5 miles
  3. Running - 8 miles (with a 2,200 foot drop)
  4. Bicycling - 42 miles
  5. Canoeing - 18.5 miles
  6. Mountain Biking - 14 miles
  7. Sea Kayaking - 5 miles (4.3 nautical miles)
In essence the race starts at the ski area and ends in Fairhaven, where AAI has its headquarters.

Check out the map below for more details:

The Ski-to-Sea Course Map
(click to enlarge)

In its nearly forty-years of existence, the American Alpine Institute has never had a Ski-to-Sea team. This is because the race falls on Memorial Day Weekend. The problem with that particular weekend is that it is incredibly busy in the mountains.

Last year, by some stroke of luck, I was able to attend the festivities at the end of the race and realized how cool it was. I decided that it was time to design our summer schedule so that at least the office and the shop staff would be able to be involved in the race. It has taken a lot of work to make sure that all the trips running that weekend are covered without dipping into the office staff that also operate as guides.

The result...?

We have a Ski-to-Sea team!

But we're the American Alpine Institute, so we couldn't just have any old Ski-to-Sea team. We had to have an all human-powered team. In other words, we cannot use a car to assist in race logistics in any way, shape or form.

This means that the skiers, runner, and road biker, will ride up the night before, pulling kid carts full of camping gear. Then afterwards, they will have to assist one another to get down.  This also means that we have people pulling a canoe and a kayak on a bike. And we have them helping one another by dragging dismantled bikes between locations on carts.

Making a human-powered team has really stretched our thinking. The logistics would be way easier if we could use cars. But the race would be nowhere near as cool.

There are only 11 teams out of 250 that are competing without the use of cars.

So I know you all want to know who's doing what on our team. So here it is:

  • James Pierson - Northwest Program Coordinator and Guide - Cross Country Skiing
  • Jason Martin - Director of Operations and Guide - Downhill Skiing
  • Daniel Probst - AAI guest and high-end ultra-marathoner - Running
  • Tom Kirby - AAI IT Manager and Guide - Canoe
  • Cliff Palmer - Guide - Canoe
  • Dylan Cembalski - Seven Summits Coordinator - Mountain Bike
  • Hillary Schwirlich - American SW and Foreign Programs Coordinator - Sea Kayak

We are extremely excited to be involved in this event and will have a bunch more news about it as it gets a bit closer!

--Jason D. Martin

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