Thank you to 33rd Denali State Bank Sonot Kkaazoot sponsors and all the virtual skiers!

In the midst of COVID-19 pandemic, I want to thank all the Sonot Kkaazoot sponsors, who allowed us to safely celebrate spring by sliding our feet over snow.

Although the 33rd Denali State Bank Sonot Kkaazoot was canceled, we were able to conduct a “virtual” Sonot Kkaazoot (over a period of 10 days leading up to and including the scheduled race day), thanks to several of our event sponsors.

Denali State Bank has been the Sonot Kkaazoot title sponsor for 33 years. Their sponsorship allowed us to cover key event expenses again this year.

Fairbanks North Star Borough Parks and Recreation manages the Birch Hill Recreation Area and did so safely during the 2020 Virtual Sonot Kkaazoot. We appreciate their extra cleaning efforts in the warming hut (now closed) and their diligence in safely removing snow from parking lots, walkways, steps, and overhanging roofs.

Nordic Ski Club of Fairbanks groomers (Tom Helmers, Bill Husby, and Ken Coe) created awesome trails for virtual Sonot Kkaazoof skiers in spite of gusty winds and record snow. John Estle, NSCF race director, set up the new ChronoTrack registration system for the Sonot Kkaazoot, and provided detailed written instructions that Anna Sorensen helped Frank Soos and me understand. Eric Troyer tallied the virtual Sonot Kkaazoot skiers’ times and distances.

Other Sonot Kkaazoot sponsors were ready and willing to assist (as they have in the past) when we cancelled the event because of COVID-19 safety concerns.

Also, a huge thank you to all skiers who skied during the Virtual Sonot. Seeing so many skiers (safely distanced from others) over the 10 days meant that some of the magic of the Sonot Kkaazoot was retained. Weather and trail conditions on the Sonot Kkaazoot race day (and last day of the ‘virtual” Sonot) couldn’t have been nicer.

For the SCUM training group (and Sonot volunteers), the Sonot Kkaazoot represents our final exam. Normally, on the Sunday after the Sonot Kkaazoot, we still skied to move our seized up muscles and aching joints. Because of the COVID-19 shelter-in-place policies, we can no longer meet as a group this season, but thanks to generous contributions of skiers to the NSCF grooming fund, we should be able to keep skiing as long as our snowpack remains.

Finally, to Sonot Kkaazoot founder and race director, Bad Bob Baker, thank you for dreaming up this amazing ski event and for all your Chena River trail grooming efforts and overall race organizing. It is so much easier to ski this event (even at 70 years old with two bionic knees) than be in the hot seat as race director.

This morning, Joanna Fox took this video of Norma Haubenstock and me enjoying the Outhouse loop—taking care to keep at least 6 feet apart. Thank you, Tom Helmers, for such wonderful tracks.


Celebrating the groomers during the virtual Sonot Kkaazoot


Tom Helmers, head NSCF groomer after working 4 hrs at -20 deg F

Although so far, skiers have devoted from one hour to the better part of a day to their virtual Sonot Kkaazoot skis, the groomers have also been working. In the five days since the virtual Sonot Kkaazoot started, the Nordic Ski Club of Fairbanks (NSCF) groomers have spent 12.5 hours working on the trails. (Updated 3/24/20: 15 hours were spent grooming last night and today)

Bad Bob Baker, who uses his personal grooming equipment, has spent 32 hours grooming the Chena River, and an additional 10 hours checking out the river conditions and hauling equipment back and forth to accomplish his grooming.

Bad Bob grooming turnaround sm

Bad Bob grooming the 20 km turnaround

This season, Nordic Ski Club of Fairbanks groomers have put 840 km on the piston bully and 1,300 km on the five snowmachines used for grooming. This is effort that allows skiers to train so that they are physically able to ski the Virtual Sonot Kkaazoot. As of 12 March, groomers had logged 832 hours of effort. They often do grooming chores during their own skiing time.


Bill Husby grooming the White Bear trail

The condition of the groomed trails that we are skiing on now depends upon grooming all winter in addition to brushing and maintenance work done over the non-snow months.

Bill Husby and Ken Coe doing trail maintenance

Bill Husby & Ken Coe doing pre-winter trail work—photo by Tom Helmers

Ski trails aren’t maintained by the borough, they are maintained with funds from Nordic Ski Club of Fairbanks donations and sponsorships. If you haven’t already done so, please donate to the NSCF trail fund so we can continue to ski this spring:

Snow that makes everyone a champion

Trails groomed so that everyone can ski like a champion.

Thank you.

Most photos of NSCF groomers were taken by Eric Troyer, SCUM in charge of Sonot Kkaazoot media and NSCF board member, who is touring and Facebook coordinator. He is also the best-dressed SCUM at races.

Bad Bob says “Ski Virtual Sonot soon”

Spring has arrived in Fairbanks. Bad Bob Baker, who has 33 years experience grooming the Chena River, warns that the Sonot Kkaaoot course on the Chena River may NOT be safe if you wait until Saturday, 28 March 2020 to ski the Virtual Sonot Kkaaoot.

Bad Bob plans to groom the river again tomorrow morning (Wednesday) and will set classical tracks on the edges of the Virtual Sonot Course. Stay inside of those tracks! If you notice new holes or signs of break-up, don’t ski near them. Use your head and be safe. 

Carry government identification while on Fort Wainwight property and use extreme caution at all road crossings. The first road was very slick today when walking across with ski boots.

Ski one of the three Sonot Kkaazoot courses. Send us a screen shot of the display from your GPS route, date, and time to us at: . We’ll post the virtual 33rd Sonot Kkaazoot times for all three distances. If you ski low tech, send us your time, date, distance and who you skied with or saw while you were out on the trails.

When Bad Bob deems the Chena River to be ungroomable, the VIRTUAL SONOT KKAAZOOT will be over. Kaput! Done. So get out there and ski. 

Bob also plans to groom early on both Saturday and Sunday (21 and 22 March 2020).

33rd Sonot Kkaazoot canceled

The Sonot Kkaazoot is cancelled; entry fees will not be refunded, but will be used to defray the sunk costs of the race (grooming to date, bibs, awards, honoraria for the schools responsible for the aid stations, etc.). Race Director Bob Baker is working on a virtual Sonot; if Ft. Wainwright consents and the river remains safe so that Bob can continue to groom, the virtual Sonot will include the original courses. You can anticipate updates from Bob as he works out the plan.


Regular registration ends Friday

Exercise, especially outdoors where you’re almost always more than a meter away from another skier, is beneficial in boosting your immune system and lowering stress. To date, 85 skiers ranging in age from 8 to 71 have registered for the 33rd Denali State Bank Sonot Kkaazoot.

Here is the current breakdown of entries:

20 km event: 38 skiers

40 km event: 8 skiers

50 km event: 39 skiers

Regular registration ends Friday. After that, you’ll be charged late registration fees. With 85 skiers spread over 50 km of ski trails, the likelihood of you contacting the coronavirus during the Sonot Kkaazoot is extremely low even if entries double before race day. This year’s snowfall and cold weather has the course looking spectacular with a little more than two weeks before the Sonot Kkaazoot.

Click the “register” tab at the top of this blogsite and you can securely sign up for any of the three events.

Perfect ski on the classic only trails

Today the temperature was -4 deg F when we left the hut with a major temperature inversion. However, all the classical only trails had been groomed on Wednesday so we didn’t want to miss the opportunity to ski on firm new tracks even if it meant dropping down 10 or 20 deg F.

The trails didn’t disappoint. If you are training for the Sonot Kkaazoot, or even more, if you are training for the Oosik or the Skiathon,  you REALLY should check out the classical only trails at Birch Hill.

The North Classical trails are groomed 5 feet wide making downhill corners easier for skiers with less flexible joints. The really steep downhill on the North Star was just fun today–no fall anxiety at all.

North Classics tracks sm

North Star tracks sm

Skiing past North Star pond sm

The South Classical trails are more technical but with the current snowfall and grooming, this 70 year old, bionic skier managed to easily stay on her skis on the Blackhawk loop.

Bernardo on Black Hawk sm

Trails groomed by Ken Coe and Bill Husby. All photos by Bill Husby.

Enjoy the longer days on the ski trails. If you enjoy skiing, please make sure that you donate to the Birch Hill Trail Fund:

Chena River groomed for Spring Break

The Chena River portion of the Sonot Kkaazoot trail has been groomed again today and is ready for skiing. Bad Bob Baker reports that it is 20 feet wide (or more) for the entire length.

What’s holding you back? The river ice is more than 2 feet thick and the trail is groomed 20 feet wide? It’s just a little over three weeks until the Sonot Kkaazoot. Register now and avoid future price increases.

Bad Bob gives Chena River trail a thumbs up

Sonot Kkaazoot Race Director, Bad Bob Baker gives the Chena River trail a thumbs up.

Wide enough to skate side-by-sideChena River 3-5-20

Cold nights, thicker river ice

Yes, it’s been a cold winter in Interior Alaska. However, the cold nights have thickened the Chena River ice so that the traditional Sonot Kkaazoot start looks VERY promising. With World Masters canceled this year because of the coronavirus, Bad Bob Baker is in town to pack down the abundant new snow so that the river ice will continue to thicken as race day approaches.

From the NWS Fairbanks Facebook page:

March ice thicknesses

Register now for the 33rd Denali State Bank Sonot Kkaazoot. Also, contribute to the Birch Hill trail grooming fund so that we can enjoy skiing on the abundant snow this spring.

Fresh grooming on Chena River today

With the cold nights and sunny days, the Chena River portion of the Sonot Kkaazoot is looking awesome. Bad Bob Baker groomed the Chena River today. Here’s a photo that Bad Bob took looking back at the start/finish area of the Sonot Kkaazoot:

View of the Sonot Kkaazoot start on 2-27-20

and here are some close ups of Bad Bob’s grooming equipment and the corduroy after he has groomed.

Bad Bob grooming gear 2-27-20 on ChenaChena River cordoroy 2-27-20

Again, make sure you have your government identification if you ski onto Fort Wainwright from the Chena River.

What is holding you back from signing up for the 33rd Denali State Bank Sonot Kkaazoot? The register tab at the top of this webpage will take you to the secure site for online registration.