Congratulations to Sonot Kkaazoot skiers

For the first time in recent history, all skiers participating in the 32nd annual Denali State Bank Sonot Kkaazoot finished their 9.5 or 30 km courses in under 4 hours. Also, winning times are the fastest in the event’s history in part because the courses were shorter than other years when the Sonot Kkaazoot has been held all at Birch Hill.

Congratulations to our 32nd annual Denali State Bank Sonot Kkaazoot winners, all of whom reside outside of the Fairbanks North Star Borough.

30 km 

Eric Packer, 28, Anchorage,   1:12:12.9

Marine Dusser, 30, Anchorage, 1:22:53.7

9.5 km

Andrew Stringfellow, 16, Nenana,  24:36.5

Georgianna Fischer, 16, Bozeman, MT, 28:27.8

One hundred twenty five skiers finished the 9.5 km event and 125 skiers finished the 30 km one. Although the number of skiers completing the 32nd annual Sonot Kkaazoot was slightly down from the previous 6 years, this is the largest combined field for an all-Birch Hill Sonot Kkaazoot.

Thank you to all the volunteers and skiers who helped us celebrate spring on skis in Interior Alaska.

Yes, it’s been warm in March before

Yes, it’s very warm outside today and is forecast to be the same or warmer tomorrow. However, we’ve had warm March temperatures in the past, and still held the Sonot Kkaazoot as it has been for 31 years.

In 2015, March was very warm like this spring and the Sonot Kkaazoot took place on March 28 that year—five days later than this year.

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Although the Chena River is not looking particularly solid for safe skiing, we have held the Sonot Kkaazoot on the traditional course starting and finishing on the Chena River for the past eight years (2011 to 2018). Before that, we had three consecutive years of alternate Sonot Kkaazoot courses, two years all at Birch Hill (2008 and 2009) and one year all on the Chena River (2010) to balance things out.

Sonot Kkaazoot skiers have to be flexible at times and ski whatever conditions and courses Mother Nature tosses our way.  However, spring skiing in Fairbanks is always a special treat.

Best ever conditions at Fort Wainwright Road Crossings

Thanks to Robert Hannon, Sonot Fort Wainwright liaison, and Dani O’Donnell, Fort Wainwright Community Engagement and Media Relations staff person, a crew of 17 Fort Wainwright volunteers were recruited to help Eric Troyer and Bill Chedister in staffing the road crossings on River and Ski Roads.

As shown below (all photos by Eric Troyer, https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.2012647878765322.1073741843.106945789335550&type=1&l=a4233c29a2), these volunteers directed vehicular and skier traffic, shoveled snow on the roadway, and encouraged 40 and 50 km skiers in the early and late stages of their Sonot Kkaazoot journeys.

These Fort Wainwright personnel greatly enhanced the partnership with Fort Wainwright that has existed for all 31 years that the Sonot Kkaazoot taken place.

We urge skiers to thank their neighbors and Fort Wainwright personnel for their additional commitment to the greater Fairbanks North Star Borough community.(https://sonotkkaazoot.org/volunteers/). Without the partnership with Fort Wainwright, the Sonot Kkaazoot would not be possible.

Last weekend ski at Birch Hill likely today

Traditionally some of the best skiing of the year happens after the Sonot Kkaazoot. However, with the overall winter being warm and low snowfall with a record loading of birch seed and spruce cones, the ski season at Birch Hill for 2014 to 2015 is drawing to a close. In addition to the Ski for Women participants, we enjoyed the wonderfully groomed ski trails today and some unexpected sunshine.

Dermot not dermotized_smShirtless Ray_sm3 shirtless skiers_smWe close out the ski season at Birch Hill with this rare shirtless photo shoot.

Skiing at West Ridge is still feasible for at least another week so we may post some photos from our annual Smith Lake biathlon (ski, swim) event that will likely be no earlier than late April.

FXC coaches set new record Sonot Kkaazoot times

Fast snow conditions led to fast times in the 2015 Sonot Kkaazoot.

Rebecca Konieczny set a new record time for the Women’s 50 km freestyle Sonot Kkaazoot. Her time  2:23:40.6 took 7:32 off the previous record finish time held by Melissa Lewis from 2005. In addition, the Sonot Connector was added to the Sonot Kkaazoot course in 2012, so Rebecca skied a couple of km further than the old “50 km” course when skiers accessed Birch Hill Recreation Area via the Fort Wainwright alpine hill.

Likewise, Peter Leonard, also improved upon the previous record time for the Men’s 20 km Sonot Kkaazoot set in 2005 by Marius Korthauer. Pete’s time of 45:56.3 bettered the Men’s record time by about 58 seconds.

Sonot Kkaazoot coverage in local media

From the Fairbanks Daily Newsminer with 11 photographs:

http://www.newsminer.com/sports/local/jack-novak-captures-title-in-sonot-kkaazoot/article_0d3087f4-d5e9-11e4-b58b-0f8cf05f9f6e.html

Alaska Dispatch News story on the oldest finisher in the 50 km Sonot Kkaazoot:

http://www.adn.com/article/20150331/79-year-old-cross-country-skier-finds-solace-50-kilometer-sonot-kkaazoot

2015 official results are posted

Congratulations to Jack Novak of Alaska Pacific University who won the 50 km FS race in 2:12.10 today, followed by Kenny Brewer of UAF in 2:15.09, and Max Donaldson of West Valley High School in 2:15.12.7

The women’s 50 km race was won for the second consecutive time by FXC coach Rebecca Konieczny in 2:23.40, a new record time surpassing the record that six-time Sonot Kkaazoot winner, Melissa Lewis held for 10 years. Melissa followed Becca in 2:38.17, and Sarah Freistone in 2:47.15.

In the 20 km men’s race, FXC coach Peter Leonard won in 45:56.2 over Ti Donaldson (a U16) in 45.56.9 and Ben Koenig (U18) in 45:57.7. Pete also set a new 20 km record for men, bettering the 10 year record held by Marius Korthauer.

In the 20 km women’s race, Jenna DiFolco (U16) won for the second year in a row with a time of 52:43.5, followed by Kaya Ratzlaff in 55:05.6 (U12), and Aasne Hoveid (U20) in 56:57.7.

Sad news

Nordic skiers in Fairbanks lost a dear friend and a Birch Hill Recreation Area trail grooming pioneer with the passing of Russell Lizotte last night. In the days before the piston bully or even the Sherpa was part of the trail grooming arsenal available to the trail grooming crew at Birch Hill, Russell took on the task of grooming Birch Hill and the entire Sonot Kkaazoot course with an Alpine pulling various grooming sleds, rollers, and drags behind him.

Donna Hawkins wrote in the April 1992 issue of “The Northern Nordic News”, the newsletter of the Nordic Ski Club of Fairbanks, “The can’t take the track setter of the saddle award goes to Russell Lizotte, who so accustomed to running over a race course with the Alpine on the day before a race, went down to Anchorage and skied all the trails at Hilltop and Kincaid the day before the Tour of Anchorage and wondered why his legs felt so bad during the race.”

Russ had the ultimate “can do” attitude and nothing that Mother Nature could throw our way was going to prevent him from creating beautifully groomed trails for ski events and trail users. For example, in the winter of 1992–93, we had our first snowfall in September before the deciduous tree leaves had changed color and fallen, thus, leaves would fall whenever the wind blew creating a lasagna of snow and leaves on the ski trails. Russ constructed a sled with a powerful leaf blower that he could use to clear the snow surface before he set his beautiful classical tracks.

As recently as 2013, Russ was an instrumental member of the grooming team responsible for “taming” the river ice surface so that all the Sonot Kkaazoot skiers would have an enjoyable experience.

Current Nordic Ski Club of Fairbanks trail operations head, Tom Helmers felt Russ was like a brother to him, so Birch Hill skiers will continue to benefit from the Fairbanks guy whose pickup had “Nordic”vanity plates and just wanted to set and ski perfect classical tracks.

Thank you, Russell for all you did for us. Even the cold, scary ride down the black loops in the chair on the track sled seemed worthwhile if the Alpine driver was happy.

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We are looking for photos of Russ Lizotte grooming or skiing at Birch Hill to honor him in the Ski Center trophy case. Please contact Tom Helmers (trailbossnscf@gmail.com) with any contributions. A donation to the Birch Hill trail fund in Russ’ memory would be greatly appreciated (https://nordicskicluboffairbanks.wildapricot.org/Donate/) .

2013 Female 40 and 50 km Sonot Kkaazoot skiers

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Please consider joining these female skiers (and those in the earlier gallery) who finished the 40 or 50 km events last year. Female skiers should make up more than 29% of the 40 and 50 km finishers. The 40 km event helped increase female participation in the longer distance events in 2013. Over the past 26 years, women have been roughly 20% of the finishers in the 50 km Sonot Kkaazoot. (All photos by Sam Lamont).