Cautionary note on early season skiing

As one of the trail groomers for the Nordic Ski Club of Fairbanks, perhaps no individual spends more time on the Birch Hill trails during the winter than our own Bill Husby. On Wednesday, he was “at the office” as seen in this photo from Byron Broda:

Brother Bill at the office on 10-21-20sm

And on Thursday, Bill sent me this trail report:

“Went skiing on the White Bear this morning. Skiing on the trails with the current conditions are not for the faint hearted. Went down the W Cub, thru Range and around WB. Rather than returning the same way up the W. Cub backwards, I chose to travel through Biathlon Way backwards. Big Mistake! Caught a rock and did an instant face plant and snapped a pole. Fortunately no major injuries, just pride and money.” 


Although I’m sure that one of our local ski shops will appreciate Bill’s unplanned business, we are definitely relieved to hear that Bill did not injure himself in his mishap.

So, skiers, beware of hidden hazards.

Grooming hours tallied during the Virtual Sonot

As the virtual Sonot Kkaazoot draws to a close, let’s review the time spent by the Nordic Ski Club of Fairbanks groomers in keeping up the the record snowfall and gusty winds. During the 10 day virtual Sonot Kkaazoot, our NSCF groomers put in 44.5 hours. Between just Thursday and today, they put 123 km on their equipment. Hey, that’s more km than even Bad Bob and Sharon Baker or Bill Husby skied.

Please remember that the Iron Ranger (on a post as you enter the Birch Hill stadium) is always hungry for cash or check donations. No amount is too small.

Enjoy the sunshine and beautiful ski trails that you share with moose and other critters. Yield right of way to the moose, they’re struggling these days, too.


What a trail groomer does in his spare time . . .

Ever wonder what a Nordic Ski Club of Fairbanks trail groomer does in his spare time?  He skis, of course. But if there’s a trail not groomed, Bill Husby will  remedy that situation with his skis.

Poles reconsidering ski grooming the Tommy Knocker

Poles reconsidering skiing in the Tommy Knocker—photo by Joanna Fox

Thanks to Joanna Fox who took this video, and to Bill, Bernardo Hernandez, and Joanna, who helped make the last installment of my virtual 50 km Sonot Kkaazoot, a truly memorable day.

As you can see, most of the Black Loop trails were in absolutely awesome condition.

Enjoy the penultimate day of the Virtual Sonot Kkaazoot. The event ends Saturday, 28 March 2020.

2020 Virtual Sonot Kkaazoot posters available for Trails Fund donation

poster orangeposter blk

Well, the Denali State Bank Sonot Kkaazoot may be virtual this year, but skier/artist Mark Ross has made some real Sonot Kkaazoot posters! They are available in the Warming Hut at Birch Hill Recreation Area. They are 17″ x 24″ and come in orange or black. The cost is a donation to the Birch Hill Trail Fund of any amount. Honor system.

Click on the link below to go to the club’s Birch Hill Trail Fund page. Recommended donation amounts are listed there. If that link doesn’t work then go to the NSCF website ( and click on Support NSCF > Birch Hill Trail Fund

You can also put money or a check in the Iron Ranger at the bottom of the stairs to the Stadium at Birch Hill.

Thank you, Mark!

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.

End of Virtual 20 km on Chena River

From Sonot Kkaazoot race director, Bad Bob Baker:

I just got off the River ….. not good…All of these pictures are of different bad spots on the Chena RIVER..  There is no way to avoid getting wet.  This overflow extends from one side of the trail to the other.  It’s 3 to 6 inches deep.

The section near the Ft. Wainwright bridge is very narrow now, with moving water on each side of the trail.  There is no way I can pull my groomer thru most of these areas without getting trapped in the overflow.  I took my snowmachine all the way around the 20 km  course.  Most of the worse areas begin beyond the Hamilton Acres area.

Tonight’s forecast is to stay quite warm, with more snow possible.  My experience with these conditions on the Chena River over the past 33 years…is that I will not be groomable until a major weather change..which is not forecast until Thursday at the earliest!    SO…at this point, the VIRTUAL  SONOT  has all moved up to BIRCH  HILL.

For those of you who got your virtual SONOT  KKAAZOOT  in early,  good job!!!   I think everyone from this point on, can ski whatever  VIRTUAL  SONOT  KKAAZOOT  course they can dream up. You just CANNOT  include any part of the CHENA  RIVER..

Bad BOB   Sonot Kkaazoot  Race Director..
1724 sm wet start1715 sm1712 sn1717 wet bridge1711 smDo not ski on Chena River

A plea for help from Virtual Sonot skiers

If you haven’t already signed up for the Sonot Kkaaoot and would like to ski the Virtual Sonot Kkaaoot on groomed trails, please sign up for the Sonot at:

Proceeds will go to the grooming efforts at Birch Hill and on the Chena River. If you are struggling financially because the coronavirus, go ahead and just ski. But if you can, please donate to the Sonot or the NSCF trails fund.

Here’s the latest grooming report from Tom Helmers, head NSCF groomer:

Bottom line is the Trail Fund is at its lowest amount.  The Board of Directors of the ski club has asked all  programs including Grooming to watch expense till this virus thing is straightened out.   Word on the street is a fair number of skiers are planning to ski the Virtual Sonot Saturday, so my plan is to do a single pass of the entire trail system in the morning starting with the White Bear. The forecast is calling for some amount of snow pretty much every day for the next week to 10 days.

So please help us out if you possibly can. If not, please enjoy the groomed trails while you can. 

Stay healthy!


Virtual Sonot updates

from race director, Bad Bob Baker at 10:04 a.m. today:

THE weekend is coming..I just talked with TOM and with the wild winds he’s not sure when he’ll groom, but he plans to do what he can, when he can..  and often as possible.  Tom also mentioned that there is also a possibility of the administration shutting down the groomers.  SO..anything can happen on this VIRTUAL  SONOT  KKAAZOOT.

This coming week looks very warm and lots of snow…but by next Friday the sun starts to come out and the temp really drops …down to just below zero downtown….
NEXT SATURDAY…the true SONOT  KKAAZOOT  race day is forecasting some sunshine and a high of +12 downtown.. 
SO, the big question is how the Chena River will hold up from now till then…  
It looks like tomorrow and Sunday are going to be the best skiing snow wise until Friday and Saturday of next week.  Lots of snow and high temps Monday through Thursday…  SO…get out tomorrow and Sunday for the the most assured SONOT  KKAAZOOT  conditions… it might get better, it might not, and the River may hold up, or it may not..  
Blogger note:
I intend to ski my virtual Sonot Kkaazoot tomorrow so there’ll be no updates once I leave home. Remember, I’m a 70 year old volunteer so I do everything SLOWLY.
Seeing as this is a virtual Sonot, Bad Bob won’t be following me as course sweep. Thus, this year, I may be napping on the Chena River not him in late afternoon. (Maybe Eric Buetow will bring out a beverage in front of his house to revive me). 
Keep your virtual Sonot reports coming. I’ll update this site as soon as I can. I’m also a struggling grad student and my home internet is barely crawling along.

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).