SCUM ski first White Bear with an eye toward potential hazards

A huge thank you to the Nordic Ski Club of Fairbanks groomers who made possible for the SCUM to ski the entire White Bear on their first outing on skis for the season. Seeing as we had just finished a major trail brushing effort, we were disappointed to see that the wet snow created hazards that we hadn’t seen last week.

I didn’t need to get beyond the Warm-up Loop to have my first fall, which my friends rushed to document. It was practice for the falls I would do throughout the morning as I attempted to remove fallen branches while skiing:

SCUM mom’s first fall on skis this season —photo by Jerome Jackson

The sensible approach after this tumble would have been to stay in the stadium area and practice technique and balance. However, the White Bear had been rolled and combed, and I needed to check on the brushing we’d done last week. As early as the cutoff from the biathlon to White Bear, I discovered I didn’t have enough kick, but continued on with my slick skis:

We followed the tracks of Eric Troyer and Corinee Lestikow until Coronary Bypass, where Joanna wanted to head back. However, with virgin groomed trails ahead, Dermot and I wanted to continue. Joanna yielded to subtle pressure.

Not enough kick to make it back to White Bear from biathlon cutoff–photo by Joanna Fox
Dermot skiing in his own tracks on the White Bear–Photo by Joanna Fox
White Bear corduroy

Dermot was attempting to do brush hazard removal, but the snow was still sticking to the branch:

Dermot attempting to remove the snow from a branch overhanging the Whitte Bear–video by Joanna Fox

The most serious trail hazard we found was a large section of a birch tree that had probably fallen during an earlier wind event as the leaves were still attached. Additional snow on this suspended section of tree (with leaves) could definitely be a hazard to a groomer or skier who passed under this tree at the wrong time. This tree is just outbound from the Heart Rate Hill sign:

Dermot looking back at the suspended section of tree with leaves on very beginning of Heart Rate Hill–photo by Joanna Fox

Thanks to the groomers, we had a wonderful first ski around the White Bear today. The snowpack is very thin, so we were classical skiing to preserve the snow. We hope other skiers will do the same and contribute to the trail grooming fund:

Last ski walk up FWW alpine hill for 2022

With 4 inches of wet, heavy snow, ski walking up the Fort Wainwright alpine hill once today was equivalent to three ascents during the dryland season. With ice spikes in our shoes, we stayed upright both descending and ascending the alpine hill. However, I slipped and fell on an icy patch of Beacon Road (that had been plowed this morning) as we were ski walking to the FWW alpine hill.

Barring a major warm spell, this is likely our last dryland workout; it also represented two seasonal firsts.

Our first snow angel:

Bill’s snow angel at the top of the FWW alpine hill
Bill looking angelic

and our first snowman at Flat Rock:

Snow artist at work on the head
Completed snowman at Flat Rock

If temperatures cool to within than a degree or so of freezing, rolling the snow on the Birch Hill stadium and ramps will be possible. Thus, the trail brushing by Nordic Ski Club of Fairbanks volunteers is likely finished until spring. However, in the past several weeks, over 61 hours of volunteer work with chainsaws, hand saws, and pruners have provided match hours for the RTP grant funding Birch Hill trail improvements.

Thanks are extended to Dave Prusak, Mike Schmoker, Bob Moloney, Tim Prusak, Ben Calvillo, Melissa Lewis, Bill Husby, and Susan Sugai, who provided valuable self-directed trail brushing this week.

When the going gets tough, only the bionic SCUM show up for the workout–photo by Bill Husby

Update on Birch Hill trail brushing work

Bill Husby working to remove remnants of an overhanging birch tree on Black Loops

With Mother Nature holding off on snowfall this winter, we have time for additional trail work that can contribute to our match of the RTP grant funding Birch Hill trail improvement.

This week, three pairs of SCUM have done 17 hours’ worth of trail work on the black loops and Black Hawk. The classical only trails and far end of White Bear would be the best targets for future trail brushing. From firsthand experience trying to ski walk there, Classical Bear needs work.

If you do trail brushing work, please let me know where you’ve work and the number of hours you have devoted to it. Email me at:

It won’t take much snow for us to enjoy skiing this winter.

John Estle and a dozen SCUM cut and clear Junior National trails

Today John led a group of 12 SCUM and two dogs in a highly effective several hours of cutting trees and brush (all early successional trees, i.e. willows, alders) from the trails to be used for Junior Nationals in March as well as sections of the White Bear trail. Skiers, spectators, and disk golfers will notice the difference the late season cat work and brushing has done.

We broke up into 2 groups working on the South Tower and Relay Return, and two groups on the White Bear, so I didn’t get photos of the group that was the furthest from the Birch Hill stadium. There were two groups within each group: cutters and brush haulers.

John Estle cutting downed spruce tree on South Tower
Bernardo chain sawing
Eric stacking cut brush on Relay Return
Norma moving brush
Tim and Robert brushing
Lola supervising the removal of branches from trails

Some of the younger SCUM haven’t retired yet so were unable to participate in our work party today. Thus, Dave Prusak and Eric Buetow got a head start on Sunday when they worked with John on the South Tower uphill:

Sunday South Tower work party–photo by Dave Prusak

Norma, Tim Woster, Mike Schmoker, Robert, Bernardo, Kent, Cam, Tim Prusak, Mike Mathers, Bob Moloney, Dave, Eric, and yours truly had enjoyable day helping John and the Nordic Ski Club of Fairbanks widen the trails so our groomers can make trails even better this winter. It won’t be long before we’ll be skiing.

Last (?) dryland White Bear of 2022

Last winter, we were skiing on rolled trails by 6 October. However, today Norma and I ski- walked the White Bear as steady rain changed to snow.

Norma was fully dermotized with three layers on her head and insulated Alaska mitts for her hands.

Color coordinated Norma with her Alaska mitts on

We took off at a moderately fast pace to warm up, knowing by the top of Hilltop we could readjust our clothing:

It was 34 deg F at the top of Hilltop

However, it didn’t take long for the rain to change to snow:

It’s snow!

As we began Heart Rate Hill, we were startled by a serious looking dog carrying a moose femur in his mouth. He didn’t growl at us, but it was VERY apparent that he was NOT going to share his treasure. We didn’t get his photo, but the dog’s muzzle and the large bone that he was carrying was certainly the biggest surprise of the day.

The snow began sticking in earnest as we crested Heart Rate Hill and rang the bell for doing the ascent without stopping:

Ringing the bell at the top of Heart Rate Hill

That photo would be my last as battery of my new phone wasn’t as warm as I was. However, we actually were getting a little glide in places on the downhill trail. Our cars left in the Birch Hill lot were looking a little wintrier than when we had left. The snow was sticking in the stadium and the temperature had dropped to 31 deg F.

Snow in the Birch Hill parking lot

We will still be doing trail clearing work at Birch Hill on Tuesday, 11 October starting at 11 a.m. Please let us know if you’ll be able to join us:

Still ski walking in shorts and doing trail work in October

Lola and SCUM on top of Fort Wainwright alpine hill

Every winter in Fairbanks is different although the definite trend has been a shorter and warmer ski season. Last year we were already skiing at Birch Hill on 6 October 2021, but today the Eric and Tim were ski walking with poles in shorts!

Next Tuesday (11 October), the SCUM will be doing tree removal along trails to be used for Junior Nationals beginning at 11 a.m. John Estle will be directing our efforts so please let us know if you can help out for several hours. Bring chainsaws and safety gear (eye, ear, and body protection) if you have them. If not, join those of us who will be moving cut sections of trees off the trails. Everyone should wear ear and eye protection as well as sturdy work gloves.

If you can help, please contact us at:

Our work will make skiing more enjoyable for everyone this winter.