SCUM skate first LOD over 15 km

While drinking coffee and eating our post-workout scones in the warm-up hut today, we learned that Bad Bob Baker will be in Fairbanks for the 36th Denali State Bank Sonot Kkaazoot. Thus, our first skate LOD of the season meant that a SCUM redemption for our failure to finish the 50 km course at the 35th Sonot Kkaazoot would be witnessed by Bad Bob, who dreamed up the new 50 km course with 1,689 m of total climb.

Today’s SCUM workout was 30% of the Sonot Kkaazoot distance but only involved 21% of the climb. We skied Flat Black to get our bodies warmed up. We finished with the Competition Loop and Tommy Knocker Extension so that we could climb that evil hill at the end of the Comp loop twice. Bill’s smile shows how we felt conquering that hill:

Bill smiling and Dermot groaning up the Comp hill
Bernardo leading the happy crew--photo by Bill Husby
Norma smiling as she crests the hill–photo by Bill Husby

Skiing the White Bear had time for heroics as Norma and Bill decided to doublepole from the Sonot Junction to the top of Hilltop, while the rest of us skated that 1.3 km section of gradual uphill. Then Norma and Bill got serious, and we skied without rest breaks until we reached the top of Heart Rate Hill, where we rang the bell that Chris Broda (of LOL) has hung on the White Bear map sign:

Dermot was much happier after conquering Heart Rate Hill–photo by Bill Husby
Bernardo strolls to the top of Heart Rate Hill like he did Ester Dome all summer–photo by Bill Husby

Skiing is great in spite of our meager snowfall so far this winter. Thanks to our NSCF groomers, and all the volunteer brushing work done this fall, we have a better skate ski base this year than we did last year. Maybe with three more months of training, the 60+- and 70+- year-old SCUM can finish the 36th Sonot Kkaazoot 50 km course. That’s our goal.

Flowing in the tracks on N40

SCUM testing the flow of the N40 tracks

Today there was a special treat in store for the Wednesday SCUM: fresh classical tracks for the first time on Moilanen Meadows and the black loops. After skiing without tracks for a month at Birch Hill (and elsewhere), it was a sheer delight to ski with firm classical tracks. We thank our Nordic Ski Club of Fairbanks groomers, who we steadfastly support through the NSCF trail fund and hope that you will, too:

https://nordicskicluboffairbanks.wildapricot.org/Donate/

With temperatures at 19 deg F in the stadium and probably about 10 deg in the lower reaches of the black loops, even this 73-year-old cautious bionic skier reached speeds in excess of 32 km/hr (and I jumped out of the tracks unlike some of my more intact ski buddies). Only Dan and Joanna managed to step turn around Suicide Cutoff, made more difficult today because an Army soldier was standing in the intersection, while most of us overshot the turn or ploughed around it. In Moilanen Meadows, Bill’s urging to stay in the tracks resulted in dual tumbles around Dermot’s Demise. However, after finishing MM, Big Surprise (in the tracks), and the rest of WB access, we were ready to tackle the N40.

Half of today’s SCUM skiers are also FXC Masters skiers. On Monday, Christina Turman told us that the N40 was the best flowing trail at Birch Hill. With 3 to 4 inches of new powder then, we didn’t find it to be very flowing on our skate skis when our Monday Power Lunch group was doing pick-ups on the first km of the N40. So, with newly set tracks, we set out to redo Christina’s workout on our classical skis. We discovered that on warm snow and firm set tracks, the N40 is indeed a nicely flowing trail, where we glided up most of the shorter uphills. What a treat!

FXC Masters skiers take their recovery during SCUM ski on N40–photo by Joanna Fox

So Coach Christina, we practiced a few fast cadence double poles where the cones had been Monday, and we did get a free ride almost to the tops of the rises. It was much easier than V2ing through the deep powder. The best part was that we could really recover in between pick-ups. Friday, we’ll practice transitions on our skate skis. We older FXC Master skiers can’t skate ski every day without risking overuse injuries.

Today we tried three types of traction strategies: skins, grip tape, and kick wax. As it was our first ski in set tracks this season, I think the skin skiers were best able to utilize the tracks on the uphills. However, with his new pacemaker, Tim powered up the long hills best in the tracks with old fashioned kick wax and rode the downhill on the blue loop in the tracks.

In summary, today was definitely the fastest I’ve gone on my classical skis this season–both uphill and downhill. Enjoy the wonderful tracks while temperatures are still warm.

SCUM rises to the top again

Although some of the SCUM who gathered in the Birch Hill stadium at 10 a.m. today had not been on their skate skis this season, all six of the older SCUM and the young upstarts (Greg and Joanna) successfully skied the White Club, White Bear, and Moilanen Meadows.

One of Norma’s skis says, “Ski Fast, Normi” and she was taking this to heart as she had spent way too much time on her UAF sign language course. Norma loves the section of White Bear between the Sonot Connector and Hilltop so she towed all of us up this hill. I figured that Hilltop might be the last chance to get a photo of all of us together as some of us were definitely lagging behind.

Norma (in pink hat) climbing on a snow mound so she could appear taller than the rest of us at Hilltop Cutoff--photo by Dermot Cole (black hat in lower left corner)

Still smiling after sailing around White Bear and Moilanen Meadows, Norma strolled up the trail to Owen’s hill:

Norma smiling as she leads Dermot and Joanna up to the trail to Owen’s hill

Starting next Sunday, the SCUM coffee pot will be resurrected in the log warm-up hut for post-workout caffeine and warmth. (Thank you, Jerome Jackson). I’ll bring some goodies to buffer the coffee. Wash out your mugs so you can refuel before your drive home.

Early Sunday SCUM after skiing >11 km chasing Norma, Byron, and Greg–photo by Chris Broda

SCUM hoping for Sonot redemption in 2023

At the 35th Denali State Bank Sonot Kkaazoot, on the new 50 km course that has a total climb of 1,689 m, no SCUM finished the designated course for the first time in 25 years. Several of the SCUM are seriously geographically challenged, and one SCUM skied 50 km of the Sonot Kkaazoot trails but not as Bad Bob designed the course. A couple of SCUM attempted the 50 km course and were unable to finish it. Seeing as SCUM are rapidly getting older and feebler, we figure that 2023 is going to be our best chance to redeem ourselves.

Although one SCUM was out skiing as early as October 14,

Ray Halderman skiing before trail grooming–photo by Bill Husby

most of us waited until October 23rd, to enjoy our first on snow ski as we posted earlier. The snow from this first major storm created a good base on Birch Hill’s well-maintained trails, but the snow cover was thin, and with use by the Nanooks, high school teams, FXC, and recreational skiers, conditions were challenging for 70-year-old SCUM with their various bionic joints.

Bill Husby discovered that the Noyes Slough provided a great venue for skate skiing so the SCUM practiced their V2 and ski jumping techniques, between and over the beaver dams:

SCUM at beaver dam before the Johansen Expressway bridge–photo by Joanna Fox

Once FXC Masters workouts began, the SCUM realized that we needed hill workouts so Sunnyside and Cliffside trails called us:

Skiing down to Fort Wainwright was the fun part, and we discovered that they are not snowmaking yet on the alpine hill:

Bernardo, Mike, Tim, and me at FWW

but the sun came out, so we had vistas to gaze at while we climbed up Cliffside:

Bernardo and Tim taking a momentary break on their climb up Cliffside

and we celebrated when we made it to the Cliffside gate:

Feeling the burn at the Cliffside gate

From there, the workout became more of a struggle, and Bernardo skied ahead leaving the rest of us to claw our way back up Sunnyside. We were able to see our little hamlet at Powerline cutoff on our return whereas it had been in the clouds on our descent. Mike took some photos on Sunnyside but I think that they are too embarrassing to share.

We managed to ski almost 10 km with 261 m of climb. This represents 15% of the climb and 20% of the distance of the Sonot Kkaazoot—our first small ski toward our goal of finishing the 50 km course on March 25, 2023. However, thanks to the trail groomers, we were skiing on a couple of inches of packed snow in November at temperatures in the mid 20s. It was heavenly even though we were wiped afterwards.

I’ve made my trail donation and received a thank you letter from Chris Puchner, NSCF president, who is working to strengthen his new bionic knee. If you haven’t already, please donate to the NSCF trails fund, because we have fantastic early skiing thanks to our groomers:

https://nordicskicluboffairbanks.wildapricot.org/Donate/

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:

https://nordicskicluboffairbanks.wildapricot.org/Donate/

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: contact@sonotkkaazoot.org

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: contact@sonotkkaazoot.org