Athabaskan: Sonot (pronounced “SAW NOT”, “springtime”) Kkaazoot (“to slide your feet across the snow”)
Saturday, 27 March 2021
Because of continuing COVID-19 pandemic nationwide, the 2021 Sonot Kkaazoot will be virtual again. Skiers will have a choice of 10, 30, or 50 km courses that will be all at Birch Hill Recreation Area. Skiers will be able to ski their virtual Sonot Kkaazoot during the weekend of the traditional Sonot. Registration site and course maps will be forthcoming.
After our warm and dry January in Fairbanks, February brought back the cold and snow. According to the National Weather Service Fairbanks, here’s how the month stacked up.
For average temperatures:
and for snowfall:
Our Nordic Ski Club of Fairbanks groomers have been putting a lot of hours of work to keep up with the nearly constant snowfall. Please help them continue their grooming as the days become longer and warmer in March by making an additional donation here:
Remember the Nordic Ski Club of Fairbanks supports all grooming at Birch Hill Recreation Area. To allow safe skiing during the COVID-19 pandemic as in more normal times, please support trail grooming efforts.
When three of the groomers for the Nordic Ski Club of Fairbanks spend their Saturday night grooming and tracking all the major trails at the Birch Hill Recreation Area, the SCUM felt compelled to ski these trails on Sunday morning.
Unfortunately, only four of us showed up at 10 a.m. Sunday morning as the snow that fell after midnight posed a preliminary scooping and shoveling workout on our driveways before arriving to 4 inches of newly fallen snow at Birch Hill.
Only Bill Husby, our SCUM groomer, arrived suitably attired with flashy googles that proved essential while skiing through pelting snow that the wind and our awesome speed created.
After checking out whether we could stay in the tracks on the downhill of the Blue Loop, we ventured out to the Sunnyside and Cliffside where were created rooster tails as we skied downhill.
Once we got to the bottom of Cliffside and skied onto the Fort Wainwright alpine ski facility, we found newly groomed corduroy heading straight up the Fort Wainwright alpine hill to the left of the tubing hill. We abandoned the idea of skiing up the Sonot Connector (under a half foot of unpacked snow). Instead we skied up the right side of the FWW alpine hill like we did during the first decade of the Sonot Kkaazoot. Unfortunately, the grooming didn’t extend over to the top of the Sonot Connector, so we had some deep new snow to traverse.
Once on the White Bear Trail, we needed to ski to Hilltop junction because it’s Norma Haubenstock’s favorite hill, and in doing so we passed a trail marker that Don had placed on a tree on in the 1970s as part of his first job in Interior Alaska.
Eventually, the slushing through the deep powder was tiring out everyone except the “Every Ready” Husby who taunted us around the rest of the White Bear and Moilanen Meadows:
It was an absolutely lovely day on the trails and except for the tubing hilll where we saw kids enjoying the snow, we saw no one until we were nearly back to the Birch Hill stadium after our 2 hour ski.
With the Sonot Kkaazoot less than a month away, we were getting our long overdistance training done. How about you?
As care coordinator for volunteers of the Nordic Ski Club of Fairbanks race events, Norma Haubenstock plays a huge role in making sure things run smoothly. So for her birthday on Sunday, the SCUM feted her during our tour of the Nordale Flats.
The 20 km course had been carefully marked by Pat Lovely and John Estle, who had started at 0800 on two snowmachines to ready the course for the 1000 start by the slower skiers led by Don Pendergrast. The 1100 wave of skiers were led by John and finished right behind the last the 1000 skiers.
Here’s a map of our popsicle course, where the major climb parallels Heart Rate Hill at Birch Hill Recreation Area:
Leaving from John and Norma’s driveway, we walked down Wilderness Drive to the start of the trail:
When we left it was roughly 6 deg F at Birch Hill and -5 deg in the valley, so we started skiing to warm chilly fingers:
By the time we reached a small pond (where you can see the North Star classical trail at Birch Hill), we stopped to sing happy birthday to Norma:
With any group, certain individuals play key roles. For us, there was Don Pendergrast, our fearless leader, who made sure none of us got left behind:
The cabooses, Susan and Bernardo, who switched off being the red lantern.
And of course, Bill Husby, the chief instigator of falls and crashes:
As you’ll note, Bill had a face mask handy as he was not always social distancing when he was luring SCUM into potential crash sites with his phone rolling in video mode.
By the time we had finished the loop and needed to ascend Heart Rate Hill again, additional kick wax was needed:
The temperature and trail conditions were perfect for a several hour tour of woods very close to Birch Hill Recreation Area. Huge thanks go to Pat Lovely and John Estle for course marking (and take down) and John and Norma for hosting the group of very happy skiers.
With temperature a balmy +8 deg F in the Birch Hill stadium and a somewhat chilly -11 deg F at Fort Wainwright, the remedial SCUM decided to start off the New Year right with a predawn Birch Bakken (BB) Time Trial (TT).
Dreamed up by deputy groomer, Bill Husby, the Birch Bakken goes from the Fort Wainwright Ski Chalet to the top of the Tower Loop. This 4 km ascent incorporates all or part of the Cliffside, Sunnyside, Outhouse, Blue Slot, and South Tower ski trails. My Polar heart rate monitor indicated a 215 m climb during the BB.
Accessing the BB start was fast as without any recent snow, the grooming has made the downhill tracks death-defyingly fast for remedial SCUM. So we took every opportunity to enjoy the view that the Sunnyside Trail provides.
One nameless SCUM and parttime KUAC producer, decided to howl at Denali (and the moon) to scare off any rabid marmots or lynx with tularemia. His fellow SCUM provided encouragement.
Needless to say, the SCUM were all business on the climb, and some finished the Birch Bakken before the sun was up. However, not all of us were that speedy, but everyone finished the climb.
Unlike Selfie Queen, Joanna, who didn’t sweat getting up the Birch Bakken with her new skin skis, Dan worked a lot harder with his newly glide waxed and grip taped skis.
All of us agreed today’s BB TT was a perfect way to start off 2021.
Today Santa and his SCUMmy reindeer did the grand tour of all the skate trails at UAF, which were being combed as we arrived before dawn today. (Thank you, Jason!)
With temperatures in the mid-20s, snow was packing under our ski boots making it impossible to get into our ski bindings. Here are two SCUM with advanced degrees are assisting Mom get into her bindings in the predawn darkness:
And here are the eager skiers ready to chase the sun:
With no other skiers in sight, we bellowed out Christmas songs that were successful in drawing one cow moose near the socially distanced line of skiers.
Because of travel quarantines caused by COVID-19, Santa had to recruit very SCUMmy reindeer this year. On Smith Lake, Santa was tried to convince the reindeer to skate without poles, this was their response:
By then, Santa’s sore back had loosened up so he skated off ahead of the reindeer:
Happy Holidays from all the SCUM. Enjoy getting outside on the ski trails. This week we’ve enjoyed groomed tracks at the golf course (thank you, Stan) as well as the perfectly groomed skate trails at UAF (the classical tracks were are great, too). We’ll be back at Birch Hill soon, but enjoying the winter solstice on a variety of trails is a real treat.
If you are able to help contribute to the maintenance of the UAF ski trails, please consider a tax-deductible donation through UA Foundation. You can make the donation online at this URL:
After you enter the dollar amount that you wish to donate, specify “other” in the designation box. A new box will appear under “other” for you to enter: UAF XC Ski Trail Maintenance. These funds will go to grooming and maintenance of UAF crosscountry ski trails. With declining state support for UAF and the rising costs of dealing with COVID-19, please consider helping to maintain the wonderful UAF XC ski trails. These trails are even more important during the pandemic as they provide us a place to safely exercise and socialize.
With temperatures at -5 deg F and about an inch of new snow, the remedial SCUM headed out toward the north side classical trails to do trail grooming the way it was done 40 years ago (i.e. skiing in the tracks). Here Mom, who remembers skiing in tracks, skis a more direct route than Ken had set before the snow.
It was almost sunrise as we skied through the birch and aspen:
Some trail sections were total spruce forests:
These spruce made us think of Christmas trees, which we’d later find totally trimmed for Santa’s visit.
Before seeing the decorated Christmas trees, we saw the bear skull on the trail:
and we got to the Really Steep Down HIll Bypass. But given the conditions, we could head straight down the RSDH:
Here is a clip of Dan Johnson on the RSDH:
And here is one of the two Christmas trees we found with cookies and candy canes decorating the branches:
We all agreed that skiing the Classical Bear, North Star, and Aurora Run was a great choice for a chilly, snowy morning near winter solstice.
Here’s a few parting shots:
Until the groomers get back out to the North Classical trails, we’ve skied them in for your enjoyment.
Bill Husby scouted out the Rat Ponds virtual tour on Tuesday so he could “herd” the remedial SCUM around the course today. He instructed us to meet promptly at 10 a.m. today at the Seventh Day Adventist Church and School. In the pre dawn chill, I quickly discovered it wasn’t 39 deg there like it had been at home when I checked the thermometer before breakfast. I put on all the layers that I had in my car (my second closet) but still was slightly underdressed for what was to be a leisurely 12 km tour.
After awaiting for late arriving Robert Hannon, Bill was able to line us up for the first and last time of the morning. Dermot was skiing out of the tracks with his fish scale skis so that their noisy gliding wouldn’t disturb the rest of us.
Bill led most of the ski, which is a novel approach to herding SCUM:
but we do follow the leader, in this case, Kent:
The nearly full moon was overhead as we enjoyed the tracks that Stan Justice had set for this virtual tour. Thank you, Stan!
The sky after sunrise was delightfully orange.
The tracks were so enticing that even Dermot had to use them at times. As seen below, around some of the larger ponds, Stan had set two sets of tracks so that you could ski around the ponds more than once and see slightly different terrain.
Stan had marked the Rat Ponds tour with red plates that not only gave directional information but also informed the skiers of historical landmarks and recent sections of land and trail acquisitions that have expanded Creamer’s Refuge. The SCUM really appreciated these markers as they gave us an excuse to briefly rest.
We encourage other skiers to use these trails as they are perfect for the beginning skier as the trail is virtually flat. There were a couple of tricky herringbone rises to keep the ski interesting:
Because the trails are predominately in spruce forests, skiers are spared the birch seed and branch debris in the tracks after a chinook wind event. However, temperatures on these trails are comparable to the Fairbanks airport so don’t expect the Birch Hill inversion. Also, sections of the tour are on dog mushing trails (where there are no set classical tracks) so be alert for dog teams.
Thank you Stan Justice for grooming these trails for a wonderful virtual tour.
Although our fearless leader (and grooming hero), Bill Husby was injured and unable to join the remedial SCUM for our Friday workout, we prevailed in his absence. Bill had warned us that the downhills were fast, faster than anytime this season. So we decided to head for the black loops, where the lower volume of skier traffic would make the downhills safer.
Without Bill or Dan Johnson today (and with Dermot, starting well behind us), it wasn’t a popular decision to head down the black loops, but being SCUM, they begrudgedly followed. We found lots of tracks, fox tracks in the new snow, including around this den.
As we were finishing up the N40, we had to make the decision whether to take the Black Baron cutoff or head for the luge run on the Black Hole. Being a cautious skier after multiple injuries, Mom headed down the Black Baron where a snow snake grabbed her ski. Uninjured, she got up without removing her skis or dignity:
As we were finally extracting ourselves from the Black Hole, we turned around and saw Dermot Cole behind us. Unlike the rest of us, Dermot was skating so didn’t have the excuse of kick wax shearing in the tracks as an excuse for a fall. So to make the rest of us feel better, Dermot deliberately fell while standing in place:
In going down, Dermot jointed the rest of us who looked like we’d rolled in powder sugar:
All of us agreed after skiing the black loops on Friday the 13th, that the trails were lovely and that conditions were perfect for our early season fitness. Here’s the smiling crew as we finished our recovery ski of 6.7 km with 185 m of climb.
If you haven’t already done so, please donate to the Nordic Ski Club of Fairbanks trail fund so we can keep having fun on the trails this winter while doing our part to flatten the COVID-19 curve.