Merry Christmas from Santa & his SCUMmy reindeer

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:

Photo by Joanna Fox

And here are the eager skiers ready to chase the sun:

Photo by Joanna Fox

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.

Photo by Dan Johnson
Photo by Bill Husby

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:

Santa and SCUMmy reindeer on Smith Lake–photo by Bill Husby

By then, Santa’s sore back had loosened up so he skated off ahead of the reindeer:

Photo by Dan Johnson

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.

Winter solstice on the north side classical trails

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.

Photo by Joanna Fox

It was almost sunrise as we skied through the birch and aspen:

Photo by Dan Johnson

Some trail sections were total spruce forests:

Photo by Joanna Fox

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:

Bear skull and Dan Johnson for size perspective–photo by Joanna Fox

and we got to the Really Steep Down HIll Bypass. But given the conditions, we could head straight down the RSDH:

Photo by Joanna Fox

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:

Mom after a surprise run-in with Dan
Bernardo’s SCUMsicle after our leisurely ski–last 2 photos by Joanna Fox

Until the groomers get back out to the North Classical trails, we’ve skied them in for your enjoyment.

Herding SCUM around the virtual Rat Ponds tour

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.

Route of our virtual Rat Ponds tour, phtoto by Bill Husby

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.

SCUM already showing signs of individuality as Dermot skis his own tracks. Photo by Bill Husby

Bill led most of the ski, which is a novel approach to herding SCUM:

Bill leading Mom, Bernardo, and Robert, where are the others? —photo by Dan Johnson

but we do follow the leader, in this case, Kent:

Kent Karns leaving the SCUM behind —photo by Dan Johnson

The nearly full moon was overhead as we enjoyed the tracks that Stan Justice had set for this virtual tour. Thank you, Stan!

Dermot blazes his own trail —photo by Bill Husby
Robert Hannon and Dan Johnson —photo by Kent Karns
photo by Kent Karns

The sky after sunrise was delightfully orange.

Robert and Dan enjoy the sunrise —photo by Kent Karns

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.

Photo by Kent Karns
Kent urging Dermot along —photo by Bill Husby
Single tracks —photo by Bill Husby

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:

photo by Dan Johnson

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.