During wintertime, sometimes summer seems a long way off.
Favorite trails are wet and muddy, or maybe even buried deep under snow. Days are short and the sun makes only occasional cameos.
But for some popular summer and spring adventures, it’s already time to start making plans. Dropping the ball now could spoil the warmer months before they even arrive, or at least make them more expensive.
To make sure your bases are covered, here are some winter dates you need to know:
Ski to Sea: Arguably the Northwest’s most famous relay race, Bellingham’s Ski to Sea is on the bucket lists of many Northwest weekend warriors. It’s a team race from Mount Baker to Bellingham Bay and incorporates seven legs, each with a different mode of racing. The race started in 1973 and has grown into the state’s most famous relay race.
Teams must have eight members, and the race starts with a cross-country skiing leg. The second leg requires climbing to the top of the ski resort then skiing back for an exchange with a runner. The runner hands off to a road cyclist, who races to a pair of canoeists. A cross-country mountain biking leg is next and the race concludes with a sea kayak leg.
Sounds like fun, but the field is limited to 500 teams. So if you want to check it off your to-do list this spring (the race is May 29), it’s already time to sign up. Registration opened earlier this week. Entry is $650 per team ($700 after April 24). skitosea.com.
Mount St. Helens permits: If you are fit enough to hike and scramble up about 4,500 feet over 4.5 miles and then make the descent, the view from the crater rim of Mount St. Helens is one you should experience at least once. On a clear day, mounts Adams, Hood and Rainier are visible from the crater. Sometimes other peaks are visible, too. But the look inside the crater to the mountain’s new lava dome is the real reward.
Permits on go on sale Feb. 1 at 9 a.m., and they go quick. Permits are limited to 100 per day. Weekends sell out almost immediately. Permits are $22. mshinstitute.org
Capital City Marathon: Is there any distance runners aspire to more than the marathon? Capital City Marathon is the South Sound’s oldest marathon, and it celebrates its 35th anniversary on May 15. If 26.2 miles is too far, the race also offers a half marathon and a 5-mile race. Runners are already training for these longer races, and it might not be a bad idea to dust off your checkbook now, too. While runners can typically register as late as the day before the race, the price increases to $95 from $85 on Feb. 1, and then to $110 May 9. The half marathon and 5-miler are currently $75 and $35, and also have fee increases scheduled for Feb. 1. capitalcitymarathon.org.
STP: The Seattle to Portland Bicycle Classic, one of the nation’s most popular bicycle rides, sells out in matter of days even though 10,000 people are permitted to participate. The ride costs $155 and covers more than 200 miles. Riders can choose between cranking out the entire course in a day or splitting it into two days. Registrations opens at 10 a.m. Feb. 9. cascade.org.
Enchantments permit: The Enchantments lives up to their name. Take a long uphill walk in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness to one of the most coveted backcountry spots for hikers and climbers, where blue lakes, too-friendly mountain goats and postcard-worthy peaks are all part of the experience. Overnight visitors, however, must win a permit lottery if they plan on visiting June 15-Oct. 15. The lottery is Feb. 15-March 2. The application fee is $6, plus $5 per person per day. recreation.gov.
RSVP: STP might be Cascade Bicycle Club’s most popular ride, but it’s hardly the club’s only hot ticket. Among the extensive schedule of rides is the popular Ride from Seattle to Vancouver (B.C.) and Party. Participants can do the 175-mile ride on Aug. 12-13 or 23-14. Entry is $140 for club members and $160 for non-members. cascade.org.
Tacoma City Marathon: In September, Runner’s World listed the Tacoma City Marathon on its small-town marathon bucket list. The magazine singled out the stretches along the waterfront, over the new Tacoma Narrows Bridge and through Point Defiance Park as reasons to participate in this race. Like Capital City, getting in isn’t so difficult. But if you don’t like paying full price, the next rate increase is March 1, when it jumps from $95 to $105. Rates also increase March 1 for the other distances: half marathon, five-person marathon relay, 5K and kids marathon. tacomacitymarathon.com.
RAMROD: Apparently South Sound cyclists enjoy suffering. Ride Around Mount Rainier in One Day is a 150-mile lap starting and ending in Enumclaw. Along the way, cyclists climb to Paradise, Backbone Ridge and Cayuse Pass. That’s 10,000 vertical feet of climbing while often battling high early afternoon temperatures. Sound hard? Not as hard as winning the lottery to get in. RAMROD is limited to 800 riders. The waiting list is often longer. The ride is July 28. The lottery is in March. Exact dates and prices have not been announced. redmondcyclingclub.org.
Wonderland Trail permit: The hottest ticket in Northwest hiking is a Wonderland Trail permit, for the hilly 93-mile trail that loops around Mount Rainier. Mount Rainier National Park starts receiving applications on March 15 for backcountry trips. From March 15-April 1, the park receives enough requests to melt most fax machines. Rangers process requests randomly, trying to accommodate as many hikers as possible. Those with flexible itineraries typically have the best chance of scoring a permit. Last year, the park received 2,600 requests and stopped accepting all requests in early April. Before 2013, the park averaged 800 requests during the application window. nps.gov/mora.