Crust skiing in light rain ends ski training year

With light rain this morning and temperatures staying well above freezing overnight, Dermot Cole and I decided to crust ski this morning starting at 10 a.m. The entire White Bear trail had been groomed on Friday, and White Bear to Sonot Junction was groomed Saturday morning. On both those days, we had enjoyed the fresh corduroy, so we were surprised to see that today, Sonot Cutoff looked like a stream bed.

Dermot Cole on Sonot Junction Sunday morning

However, except for the lake forming on the White Bear at Sonot Junction, the crust on the trails was relatively firm and skating was enjoyable. The trails had a vegetated appearance as the rain had concentrated the tree debris at the surface.

Dermot on White Bear near Hilltop

We only saw two other skiers this morning, but saw and heard geese and chickadees, and saw fresh moose tracks. At Beacon Cutoff, I wanted to check the temperature on the thermometer posted on the junction sign, but the snow did not hold my weight even with my skis. I was able to stay upright for several minutes, but would Dermot help me? No, the journalist had to get his phone out to record my data collection attempt.

Don’t expect help from a journalist if you run into problems with your data collection!
Pointing to my burial site after my 11-minute dousing in crushed ice.–photo by Dermot Cole

Crust skiing is an adventure, but mishaps happen so having a ski buddy is helpful. There’s still lots of snow on the trails so hope for some cooler night temperatures to allow the groomers to work their magic. They’ve already groomed 189 days this season.

SCUM get Schmokered on the Sunnyside

Although the Birch Hill trails were groomed this morning, most of the SCUM were not skiing on them. That was because we got “Schmoker”ed yesterday.

Because both Jesse and Christina had encouraged FXC Masters to do pickups when we ski, Mike Schmoker suggested on Sunday that a good SCUM workout would be to do intervals between each of the cutoffs on the White Bear trail. Seeing as Mike was the first SCUM to successfully finish the 50 km Sonot Kkaazoot, he commands certain reverence from the rest of us. Fortunately, White Bear had been groomed only to the Sonot Connector on Wednesday. However, Sunnyside had been groomed, so I modified Mike’s workout to do intervals between the cutoffs on Sunnyside.

Here are the unsuspecting SCUM before the intervals. Joanna had excluded herself from the workout because she was leaving for Costa Rica on Sunday and didn’t want to get injured before then. Therefore, she assumed the role of self-appointed coach and videographer.

SCUM before being Schmokered–photos and videos by Joanna Fox

Here’s a demonstration of Byron being Schmokered on the uphill section of the Center Sunnyside loop:

Mike leading the SCUM pack on Wednesday just like during the recent Sonot Kkaazoot

It sounds like the rescue helicopters were flying overhead as the back of the pack SCUM finished our Center loop interval:

Tim and Mom work harder to go slower than Mike and Byron

We were too wiped out to take an after photograph on the Outhouse Loop. Instead, we stopped on the White Bear at the Biathlon Range. It was such a lovely day that we took an extended recovery ski on the White Bear and Moilanen Meadows. Enjoy the groomed trails while we have them.

Resting after our interval session and extended cool-down

M09 and M10 SCUM enjoy spring skiing

M09 and M10 SCUM and Joanna ski White Bear today

This morning at 10 a.m., the only SCUM present were the over 70-year-old group of SCUM and two kids, Joanna and Greg. Greg was just arriving as we were heading out, so I told him he’d have to find us on the Black Loops.

However, leaving Birch Hill stadium, we followed fresh grooming down the White Cub to the Biathlon. At Zoomer Cutoff the grooming ended but, we decided to continue skiing out the White Bear. Byron texted Greg but got no response. We found the slightly icy surface made for faster skating and good balance practice. Owen was on classical skis but the fast tracks compensated for his less than perfect kick.

After finishing White Bear (and Moilanen Meadows, which hadn’t been groomed in over a week), we noticed that Sidewinder had been groomed. Thus, we headed down Sidewinder with the goal to ski the down to Big Surprise Cutoff and then back up on the sprint loop. However, one of our M10 SCUM had a little bit too much speed on one of the key downhill corners, so took the route less traveled.

Action photos and video by Joanna Fox, who was following Don, but followed the corduroy instead of her elder

The snow on this route was a little too deep for Don to execute his previously demonstrated kick turn, so he removed his skis for his retreat, which all his fellow SCUM were able to enjoy, including Greg who finally found us.

SCUM find Greg as Don returns to the trail more traveled

With less skiers enjoying the trails now, when you have little mishaps, the likelihood of having witnesses decreases. Unless of course, you’re SCUM. Then your pals will make sure there’s lasting evidence to remind you.

Real SPRING skiing NOW!

Although the Sonot Kkaazoot has traditionally been our spring celebration of nordic skiing, the calendar of the weather gods was different than Bad Bob’s this year. April 2023 has been our March. With record snowfall on some of our April days, the Nordic Ski Club of Fairbanks groomers have been busy. If the Sonot Kkaazoot had be held today, I might have been able to finish the 50 km course.

Yesterday, the groomers had done their magic on the FWW trails, specifically the trails necessary to do the SCUM “military transit” that includes the Sunnyside, Cliffside, and Sonot Connector. The White Bear was also being groomed as we skied. With the sun out, I was eager to climb the Sonot Connector (as penitence for not skiing it in the Sonot Kkaazoot). Thus, I kept skiing as the others paused for a photo in the sun.

SCUM soaking in the vitamin D at the Cliffside gate–all photos by Joanna Fox

All of the SCUM are faster than me, so it was only a matter of time until they caught me on approach to the Sonot Connector. Again, they wanted a group photo (SCUM excuse for a rest break), but I wanted to continue slowly uphill. However, Mike’s ski on top of mine was a persuasive argument against that option.

Mike holding me back from skiing on the beautiful corduroy

To extend the break, they pointed out Byron’s facial injury from a head plant on the Cliffside downhill. If appears that a crazed squirrel grabbed his ski as he tried to get out of the tracks and the impact broke his sunglasses:

Byron’s facial badge of courage

Seriously, the skiing was great. Here’s the entire gang enjoying the sun and vistas:

At the top of the Sonot Connector, half of the group decided to ski back to the stadium on the White Bear. Jerome battled the ungroomed snow to ski the trail in the designed direction while the other two, skied backwards on the corduroy that had been set within the hour or so. Three of us decided to ski back down the Sonot Connector and up the Cliffside and Sunnyside trails that were firm, sunny, and provided fantastic views of the Alaska Range and Tanana Valley.

Enjoy the spring skiing. Now is the time to work on technique so that you start next season with good muscle memory of what is needed for the Sonot Kkaazoot in March.

Just 44 skiers finish 50 km Sonot Kkaazoot

Official results for the 36th Sonot Kkaazoot are now posted. On a beautiful morning where the temperatures dropped to low single digits in the Birch Hill stadium at race time, 165 skiers successfully completed one of three official Sonot Kkaazoot courses.

The 10 km course was the most popular, where 78 skiers finished, while 6 skiers DNF (did not finish) and 4 (did not start).

The statistics for the 30 and 50 km events were very similar. Forty-three skiers finished the 30 km and 44 finished the 50 km. In each event, 4 skiers did not finish. In the 30 km, there were 3 DNS while 2 were DNS for the 50 km.

These numbers attest to the difficulty of the new courses. In 2018, the last time the Sonot Kkaazoot was held on the Chena River, 103 skiers completed the 20 km, 38 finished the 40 km, and 74 finished the 50 km.

Those of us who didn’t complete our intended courses started training for the 37th Sonot Kkaazoot on the following day. We’re enjoying spring skiing and have increased our donations to the NSCF trail fund.

SCUM take on Ride or Glide Relays

SCUM do Ride or Glide–video and interviews by Bill Husby

In the Ride or Glide relays, two person teams either bike or ski a 9-km course. The biker must do the first leg. Mike Mathers was ahead of Corrine Leistikow on the first leg. However, Eric called Dan an old man as he passed him. It may have had something to do with the tights that Eric wore. Alternatively, Eric must not have gone off course (like he did in last year’s Sonot Kkaazoot) or his bike wheel didn’t fall off (like in last year’s Ride or Glide).

What to wear if you want to beat SCUM

Congratulations to all. I’d still be out on the course if I had attempted to ski it.