Wanted: Female skiers for the Sonot Kkaazoot

Photo by Daniel Baker Photography

Photo by Daniel Baker Photography

As a 35 year resident of Fairbanks, I have never noticed an absence of females in any human-powered outdoor activity—especially in multi-sport events and in running marathons. In the most recent Equinox Marathon, there were 310 female finishers out of a total field of 647, so 48% of the runners passing through the Equinox finish chutes in front of Patty Building were women. However, in the 2012 Sonot Kkaazoot, only 27 women skied through the 50 km finish near the Cushman Street Bridge of the total field of 123. In the entire 25 year history of the Sonot Kkaazoot, women have averaged 21% of the 50 km finishers.

In both skiing and running, women have a speed disadvantage over men. However, last year I was the red lantern in the Sonot Kkaazoot among women, but finished ahead of 5 men. In many of the 25 years that I have skied the Sonot, I have been the overall red lantern, but Bad Bob Baker (or in later years, his son Daniel) would patiently wait for me to ski past the km markers on the Chena River before retrieving them.

Maybe because the Equinox Marathon is only 42 km, it seems less intimidating. So this year, we have added a 40 km Sonot Kkaazoot event that eliminates the most technical loops at Birch Hill and between an hour to 90 minutes off the finish time for the non-elite skier doing the entire 50 km course.

Finally, this year we will have special Sonot Kkaazoot swag for women. Because women tend to have significantly more insulation (i.e. hair) on their heads that guys do, headbands rather than hats are often our choice for spring skiing.  Look at all the photographs of female skiers from World Championships in Val di Fiemme, Italy. Many are wearing headbands not hats. This year at bib pick-up or at the Sonot awards banquet, event participants will be able to purchase “Ventilator” headbands designed by a former Canadian National Team skier for “high intensity exercise in temperatures as cold as 15 deg F.”

Because we combined our Sonot order with the order for Junior Nationals, we will be selling the headbands for less than $15. The headbands (color choices: navy, white, or lava flow—the closest we could find to Bad Bob orange) have a logo created for the Sonot Kkaazoot by Dee Dee Hammond (http://home.gci.net/~cwphoto/site/pages/artists/Artists/3-DEEDEE-Hammond/3-DEEDEE-Hammond.html).We will also selling technical fabric long-sleeved t-shirts with Dee Dee’s design, too.

The actual headband can be viewed here:Sonot headband navy


So, please ladies and girls, sign up for any of the 4 Sonot Kkaazoot events: 50 km classical, 50 km freestyle, 40 km freestyle, or 20 km freestyle, and you’ll be able to get a bargain-priced “hot headband” with the Sonot Kkaazoot logo. Remember that the early registration period ends this Thursday, 28 February at 5 p.m.  

Sonot Kkaazoot training tip: Ski the Sonot Connector

Sonot connector

Where else can you ski a critical part of the Sonot Kkaazoot course, stop in at the Fort Wainwright ski lodge for a hot chocolate, and then ski back up the Sonot Connector to the White Bear? The 2 km Sonot Connector was added to the Sonot Kkaazoot in 2012 as an alternative to skiing up and down the alpine hill as was done 19 times during the Sonot Kkaazoot history. Four years, the Sonot was held entirely at Birch Hill (when the Chena River was deemed unsafe) and one year entirely on the river when the south facing trail that was unofficially the first Sonot Connector, melted to dirt. The new Sonot Connector is very user friendly as the climb/descent is broken up by a series of gentle switchbacks that are fun on the downhill traverse and offer much needed recovery on the uphill. The Fort Wainwright groomers maintain the Sonot Connector and all nordic skiers are welcome providing that they have a picture identification with them and stay on the groomed nordic trail. Take your wallet with you and enjoy a well-deserved snack at the ski lodge.

The Nordic Ski Club of Fairbanks is hosting a Wednesday night race on 13 March at 6:45 p.m. for those hard core skiers who want to race down and up the Sonot Connector from the biathlon range (http://wnrace.com/). However, for the less elite wave, incorporating a fun descent and a leisurely ascent in the southern exposure of this relatively new section of trails is worth a tour (or several) before the Sonot Kkaazoot.

Early registration ends a week from today!

Unlike earlier years, this year we have offered an early registration fee and period. Early registration ends on Thursday, 28 February 2013. This means any entries received at the Nordic Ski Club of Fairbanks (NSCF)  that day, any entries filled out and left at Raven Cross Country, Goldstream Sports, or Beaver Sports prior 5:00 p.m. on that day, or submitted via the NSCF secure registration site prior to 5:00 p.m. Alaska Standard Time on 28 February will be accepted at the early registration fee level.


Fairbanks skiers in Italy at World Masters

A group of five skiers from Fairbanks are currently in Italy competing in Cross Country Masters Cup in Asiago, Italy. Bad Bob Baker, Sonot Kkaazoot founder and longtime director, was 16th among the M5 men (2nd American) in the 30 km classic event yesterday; Dave Edic, M6 was 5th (first American). In the 15 km classic event, Owen Hanley was 30th among M8 men, good for 2nd among Americans. Bruce Jamieson and Chris Puchner round out the Fairbanks contingent, who opted for the freestyle longer distance events. All results can be found at:


Ski fast, Nordic Ski Club of Fairbanks skiers!

Temporary detours

Successful training for the Sonot Kkaazoot can go astray when an unexpected injury or untimely illness strikes. Thus, luck plays a significant role in making it to the start line on the Chena River on March 23, 2013. However, the celebration of spring that the Sonot Kkaazoot marks is more than just a ski race. For many skiers in the last wave, the Sonot Kkaazoot also symbolizes the return of health and fitness after unplanned detours. To those skiers (including our friend and race volunteer Tobben Spurkland, who is presently recovering from surgery in Anchorage), we give the SCUM salute. May you return to the ski trails soon.

SCUM salute for TobbenPhoto by Eli (the kid) Lyke

The Grand Tour

“Start slow and go, go, go; start fast, and you won’t last”—advice from a wilderness adventure friend of Mike Ruckhaus

With the Sonot Kkaazoot just 40 days away, today’s unseasonably warm temperatures combined with having all the Birch Hill trails groomed within the past 48 hours made for absolutely awesome conditions for doing the “grand tour” of all the Birch Hill Recreation Area trails. This workout is a great pacing exercise as well as a dry run for nutrition and clothing needs for an extended ski effort.  Completing the “grand tour” of 26 km or the “mini-tour” of 16 km for skiers training for the 40 km Sonot is a fantastic confidence builder as well as an important element of one’s pre-Sonot training plan.

The black loops are the most demanding trails at Birch Hill and for good reason. They are technically the most difficult loops with short steep climbs, long continuous climbs, and technically challenging downhills. They are north facing and drop to the lowest regions of the park so are generally the coldest trails and are less frequently groomed than the more utilized lighted loops and White Bear trails. Also, unlike the Tour of Anchorage, where the challenging Spencer Loops are encountered at the very beginning of that 50 km race, in the Sonot Kkaazoot, a skier is in the midst of the Black Hole when the 25 km mark is passed.

To most effectively train for the Sonot, the “grand tour” should be skied in the order that trails are encountered in the Sonot. So today we skied the White Bear Access, White Bear, Moilanen Meadows, and Warm-up Loops that all 40 and 50 km Sonot participants ski, before skiing the Competition, North 40, Black Hole, Blue, and Outhouse loops that the 40 km skiers will by-pass (these loops according to my GPS total 9.91 km). Finishing off the tour involved skiing the Tower and Roller Coaster loops and around the main building to where we had started 3 hours and 23 minutes previously. The others had finished over an hour before the slowest of us, but two pieces of Eric Buetow’s birthday cake were awaiting our finish.

Thanks to my gizmo (as one SCUM called it), I had more than just a good feeling after this workout but also data to download.  With an overall average heart rate of only 129 (79% of my max), I know that I can ski faster without “blowing up.” The 9.91 km that the 40 km skiers will not ski took us 1:25:47, which works out to a pace of 8:40 min/km. By comparison, we skied the 11.05 km from the Sonot cutoff on the White Bear to Moilanen Meadows, the rest of White Bear and White Bear Access, and the Warm-up at a 7:42 pace, and we finished the Tower and Roller Coasters at a 6:39 pace when we could see the finish line. Heading for the warm-up hut for dry clothes and birthday cake, we started  replacing the 1882 kcal that we’d burned while skiing the “grand tour.”