Despite snow drought, trails are fantastic!

Although it’s been almost a month since Fairbanks has received any significant snowfall, thanks to the fantastic work of Nordic Ski Club of Fairbanks (NSCF) groomers, all the trails at Birch Hill, and the section of the Chena River used for the Sonot Kkaazoot have been groomed, so skiing conditions are awesome. Nothing can be finer than sunshine and fresh corduroy for a nordic skier. That’s exactly what we encountered today.

Blue skies and frest corduroy.jpg

Even without the sun, the temperatures have been moderate (but below freezing) so last Sunday, the SCUM (Sonot organizers) skied the Grand Tour (all the trails at Birch Hill with frequent rest stops.

SCUM resting

If you aren’t enjoying Hawaiian beaches or competing in crosscountry races in Europe, skiing in Fairbanks is pretty close to perfect right now for either classical or skate skiing.

Remember to donate to the NSCF Trails fund since the NSCF (not the borough) does all the grooming at Birch Hill (and on the Chena River for the Sonot).

Ski the Chena River portion of the Sonot

Bad Bob Baker is the Man when it comes to grooming the Chena River for the Sonot Kkaazoot. You can now ski the entire 20 km Sonot Kkaazoot trail. Here is Bad Bob’s report for today:

I dragged the Chena River again today…  I also found a path thru the bad ice near the START/FINISH area.  You can now ski the whole SONOT route on the River…  Looks real nice, just  as always…….stay on the groomed trail!   It’s looking good on the CHENA. It’s was 19 degrees on the river this afternoon.  Bare ice under the Steese Hwy bridge, and a little bumpy in just a few spots, but it’s definitely worth skiing/skating….no classic track, most the river is groomed 16′ wide.




Sonot Training Class Starts January 26, 2016

Kristen Bartecchi Rozell is teaching a 9-week long class at Birch Hill specifically designed for skiers preparing for the Sonot Kkaazoot. This Nordic Ski Club of Fairbanks class involves skate technique and interval training as well as video analysis and an opportunity to have a guided session on the Sonot Kkaazoot connector trail to the Chena River. The class meets Tuesday evenings from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. beginning tomorrow, 26 January 2016.

To register, see:

This class is highly recommended for the skier hoping to ski the 50 km Sonot Kkaazoot for the first time.

Sonot Kkaazoot Chena River Grooming

In preparation for the 2016 Sonot Kkaazoot, this afternoon Bad Bob Baker took his new double drag down the Chena River. He enthusiastically reported that it worked well. “The Chena has several sections of jumble-ice, however, after going over these areas 4 or 5 times, they really smoothed out quite a bit.  The Chena is actually in pretty good shape. I had no real problems with open water. ”

Bob continues “There is a small section just upriver from the DOYON building that I did not groom, as there is some open water problems there, but I think that will freeze up fine by next month.”

Bad Bob may make another grooming run next week before he heads off to World Masters XC Ski Races in Finland.  What a treat! We now have an opportunity to ski the Chena River downriver from Graehl Park (where the Sonot Kkaazoot has actually started in the past) two months before the Sonot Kkaazoot.

El Nino, Global Change, and the Sonot Kkaazoot

An extraordinarily strong El Nino is influencing weather patterns throughout the northern hemisphere and Interior Alaska is no exception. An early snow storm in late September led to downed trees and widespread power outages. Much warmer temperatures than normal in October melted most of the early winter snowpack but allowed trail clean-up and powerline repairs.

Robert practicing his doublepole

Robert practicing his doublepoling under trail light post on White Bear in late October

A snowy November provided Birch Hill groomers with daily challenges but gave us the needed snowpack when chinooks in December and January brought winds, above freezing temperatures, and no additional precipitation.  These conditions again brought significant grooming challenges in the form of downed trees, debris, and globs of ice. However, thanks to our groomers whose tools include chain saws and rakes, we have the luxury of skiing on world class trails. However, donations to the Trail Fund are well below last season, so please consider an additional donation at:

Saturday’s 20 km Buetow Distance Race #2 featured a course including sections of the North 40, Black Hole, Blue, Outhouse, and Tower loops with deep, beautiful classical tracks (amazingly free of leaf debris) and a firm skate platform that was an absolute delight to ski. This event was a perfect training workout for the Sonot Kkaazoot and yet another reminder of the value of grooming and volunteers in the Nordic Ski community.

So, Alaska Nordic Skiers take note, we are skiing in Fairbanks and have been since early November. The Sonot Kkaazoot has never been canceled so make a commitment now to ski 20, 40 or 50 km on Saturday, 26 March 2016. The organization for the Sonot Kkaazoot is entirely volunteer so significant proceeds can go toward the grooming necessary to make the event (and training for the event) possible. Thus, we need your help. If you plan to ski the Sonot Kkaazoot, please sign up early.

Not only will the registration fees be lower, you will assist us in planning for the event.

If you do not plan to ski, please consider volunteering to help out on race day as many of the Sonot Kkaazoot participants are the volunteers staffing the Nordic Ski Club of Fairbanks events so this is their one event to race. We especially need people who can help with timing (an “inside” job) or staffing the various road and alpine hill crossings on Fort Wainwright. We also have other volunteer tasks that racers can do as well. See the “Volunteers” page on the Sonot Kkaazoot webpage for specifics or to sign up:

Enjoy the wonderful ski trails.

Ski the 50 km Sonot Kkaazoot in 2016

The winter of 2015-2016 is a huge El Nino one, so the mild weather in Interior Alaska makes is much easier to train for the 50 km Sonot Kkaazoot. Unlike many ski marathons, the 50 km field in the Sonot tends to be dominated by the 50 and older crowd. In fact, this year, the Sonot Kkaazoot may have our first finisher in the 80 and over category. Can you pick him out of this photo from our first SCUM workout of 2016?

New Yeark at SCUM corner sm

Everyone in this photo has done the 50 km Sonot Kkaazoot multiple times. Everyone is older than 56; two have totally bionic knees, one has had multiple heart valves replaced, one has had 8 concussions. If we can train for and complete the Sonot Kkaazoot, why not you?

Here are some suggestions for finishing your first 50 km Sonot Kkaazoot with a smile from a 66-year old skier who has done 28 of them while working 50 to 60 hours a week at a desk job.

  1. Make a generous donation to the Birch Hill trails fund. The groomers make it possible for you to train after snowstorms, windstorms, and huge swings in temperature. The groomers also serve as trail sweeps during races, including the Sonot Kkaazoot, so thank them for their efforts by contributing as much as you can to the Nordic Ski Club of Fairbanks trail fund:
  2. Register for the Sonot Kkaazoot 50 km event. Skiing 50 km is at least 50% mental. Make a public commitment to do the event. 
  3. Ski the black loops before the Sonot Kkaazoot. These loops are much less intimidating once you know where to expect the corners.
  4. Ski the Sonot Connector (both directions) going down as far at the Fort Wainwright alpine hut.
  5. Ski the “Grand Tour” (all 26 km of the Birch Hill trails) or the 30 km Distance Race #3. Test out your hydration and feed strategy for a long distance effort.