Saturday morning report from Tom Helmers

From Birch Hill head groomer, Tom Helmers: At the River this morning at 2:15 a.m. it was +7 deg F, +10 deg at the Lodge, +15 deg at Sonot Junction. At 5 a.m., it was +7 deg at the 5 km marker on White Bear.

Everything is looking great! The groomers literally were up all night making conditions great for the 31st annual Denali State Bank Sonot Kkaazoot.


Sonot Kkaazoot looks good for Chena River start

At the end of late registration for the 31st annual Denali State Bank Sonot Kkaazoot, we have 306 skiers entered. Of those skiers, 123 are signed up to ski the 40 or 50 km events with the majority of skiers opting for the shorter 20 km course on the Chena River.

Bad Bob Baker, chief-of-course, has drilled ice on the Chena River in all the usual problem areas, and has determined that the race is a go for the traditional Chena River start and finish.

Day-of-race registration, bib pick-up, and Sonot Kkaazoot hat sales will be in the Doyon, Ltd building from 8 to 9 a.m. on Saturday. After 9 a.m., you may pick up your bib on the Chena River from Dan Johnson. He’ll have a table with bibs and bib ties outside near the start. DO NOT DISTURB the timing crew in the visqueen shelter.

You may leave your dry clothes in the Doyon, Ltd. building as a security person will be working until about 4 p.m. Doyon, Ltd. has been a Sonot Kkaazoot sponsor for many years and we really appreciate their contribution to holding this unique spring event.

Sonot Update: Two days out

The temperature at the Sonot Kkaazoot race start this morning was much colder than predicted at -10 deg F. Bad Bob will be out on the river late this afternoon to determine ice thicknesses so that we can report the location of our race start at early bib pick-up tonight at the Doyon, Ltd. building from 5 to 7 p.m.

Bad Bob will drag the Chena River portion of the Sonot Kkaazoot course again this afternoon if you want to personally check it out before or after you pick up your bib.

Still trying to decide whether to sign up? Check out the awesome Sonot Kkaazoot informational flyer designed by Rebecca Heaton that is available for download on the home page.

Here are some photos that Bad Bob took on Wednesday:

Ramp down to Sonot start area sm

Ramp down to the Sonot Kkaazoot start area (all photos by Bad Bob Baker)

Chena River three days out sm

Chena River trail three days out

Chena River trail near Hamilton Acres sm

Sonot Kkaazoot trail near Hamilton Acres

Wild life on the trail 3 days out

Wildlife captured on the trail three days out

River ski trail ALMOST race ready

Several of the SCUM (Sonot Kkaazoot organizers) skied from Graehl Park to the Trainor Gate bridge on the Chena River to inspect the Sonot Kkaazoot ski trail after groomers Ken Coe and Bill Husby had brought down the Birch Hill drags to use in tandem with Bad Bob’s special river drag.

Early in our ski we met up with Bad Bob who was drilling the ice to check on ice thickness and reports that he never hit water with his foot long drill bit:

Bad Bob checking ice thickness sm.JPG

The corduroy was wide enough for two skaters to ski side by side as shown here:

Robert & Carl near Trainor Gate sm

Robert Hannon (Sonot military contact) and Carl Hemming (bib distribution staff) ski on newly groomed Chena River on Wednesday around noon.

However, Robert with his intensely focused journalist’s eyes managed to find an imperfection in the dragged surface that caused him to make a spectacular dive to avoid catching his tip on it.

Robert finds imperfection in grooming

Although temperatures were still in the single digits as we started out, the bright sunshine made “sliding around in springtime” fun. The trail was great under all three highway bridges where the groomers had harvested snow from the surrounding area and packed it down to cover the icy areas.

Enjoy the Chena River ski trail! The sunshine and easy speed is fantastic!

Three days before Sonot update

The sun is out in Fairbanks and the 8:00 a.m. temperature this morning at the Sonot Kkaazoot start on the Chena River was 0 deg F. It is 14 deg F at Birch Hill. The highs predicted for today, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday are 28, 28, 31, and 28 deg F, respectively.

Three trail groomers are out on the Chena River today getting things ready for Saturday’s race, and we will hopefully post some photos later today.

Remember, early bib pick-up is Thursday from 5 to 7 p.m. in the Doyon, Ltd building near the Sonot Kkaazoot start. PLEASE pick up your bib (and any out-of-town skiers who may be staying with you) Thursday night. We will have pulled all bibs for the two high school ski teams so one person can pick up the entire team’s bibs on race day. Skiers arriving in Fairbanks on Saturday morning can arrange to pick up their bib from the day-of-race organizer at the start/finish area on the Chena River after 9 a.m. if you email and let us know.

As of this morning, we have 268 entries with 159 skiers signed up for the 20 km event and 109 skiers doing the longer 40 and 50 events. All race registration is online and “day-of-race” fees are effective after early bib pick-up on Thursday.

REMEMBER, if you are not a USA citizen and want to register for the 40 or 50 km events, you must do so by Thursday, 22 March 2018 at 7 p.m. The longer races enter Fort Wainwright and we must get prior approval for foreign nationals to participate.


Sonot Kkaazoot hats to be sold at bib pick-up

A limited number of the Sonot Kkaazoot hats specially made for our 30th anniversary have been re-ordered and will be for sale for $25 cash or check only at the Thursday evening and Saturday morning bib pick-ups at the Doyon Ltd building. These hats with a purple tassel come in two sizes: S/M and M/L and will be available for sale only to Sonot Kkaazoot racers or volunteers. If you missed the race last year because of the USSA Distance Nationals or were out-of-town and unable to volunteer, this is your chance to own one of these distinctive and desirable hats. The band is fleece-lined making the hat a perfect spring toque for Interior Alaska.

30th Sonot hat!

Sonot Kkaazoot hat modeled by hat’s artist, Margo Klass and Frank Soos, primordial SCUM in charge of Sonot bib pick-up and swag 

One week out, 209 Sonot skiers entered

At the end of regular Sonot Kkaazoot registration, we have 209 skiers entered and ready to glide. Currently 119 skiers (57%) are signed up for the 20 km event, 27 for the 40 km, 7 for the 50 CL, and 56 skiers for the main 50 km event. These numbers will grow substantially when two high school ski teams (Dimond High from Anchorage and Galena) are officially added to the mix.

Skiers tend to procrastinate so late registration is available (again, all online using the Wild Apricot system) but at higher entry fees. All individual skier registration is online (no paper entry fees) so don’t wait until bib pick-up on Thursday.

Interesting skier registration patterns are already apparent. One week out, we have more skiers signed up for the 40 and 50 km events than the final tally last year. The 40 km event has more skiers entered than any of the previous five years.

Trail conditions are the best that they have been in years! The amazing snow cover means that downhill corners are going to be much more forgiving. So if you have been wavering on attempting the longer 40 or 50 km Sonot Kkaazoot events, this is the year to move up. As a 68 year old skier with two total knee replacements, most years I’ve dreaded the sweeping downhill on the Black Hole that goes over the old luge run. This year, with abundant new snow (instead of ground up old snow), I’ve been able to ski rather than madly snowplow down this trail that is groomed wider than is possible in low snow years.

Enjoy the new snow on the Birch Hill trails this weekend and then make the commitment to enjoy all the Birch Hill trails (and the Chena River) next Saturday.  The register tab at the top of this page is awaiting you.

Meet the Sonot Kkaazoot media lead

Putting on the Sonot Kkaazoot requires an army of volunteers who contribute many talents. Eric Troyer, a SCUM noted for his unconventional race suits, has been the Sonot Kkaazoot media lead (and NSCF Facebook guru) and a Fort Wainwright road crossing guard (and photographer) for several years. This year he has assembled the Sonot Kkaazoos, who will perform at the Sonot Kkaazoot Awards Ceremony.

Eric is one of the younger SCUM, and his wife put together this UTube video in honor of Eric’s 58th birthday.

Enjoy Corrine’s creative efforts, and be sure to wish Eric a belated happy birthday!