Birch Hill Trail Reconnaissance

Much volunteer work takes place in the summer months to ensure that Birch Hill trail conditions will be great when the snow falls. Braving the mud and mosquitoes, we followed our fearless groomer today.

Two Sonot Kkaazoot organizers led by Bill Husby, trail groomer, surveyed the trails for areas needing summer brushing. To get us warmed up, Bill directed us out the White Bear backwards from the stadium, and we soon found ourselves in a mosquito-infested bog. We almost lost Robert in Moilanen Meadows.

Moilanen Meadows on 6-26-19 sm.JPG

Robert at the entrance to Moilanen Meadows

After fleeing the aerial hoards, we cut over to the White Bear just beyond the biathlon range heading toward the Fort Wainwright ski area.

Trail groomer leading us out of the White Bear bog.JPG

Bill Husby, groomer leads Robert Hannon in his fancy safety pants up the trail near the biathlon range.

In the sunshine at the base of the Fort Wainwright alpine hill, the mosquitoes dispersed, so Robert modeled his matching safety outfit purchased at Value Village.

Fancy Pants Hannon w matching safety gear sm

Robert Hannon and his matching safety outfit.

After climbing Cliffside and Sunnyside to the Outhouse Trail, we finished up on the Roller Coasters that were still wide and inviting in late June.

Roller coasters sm

Robert and Bill on the Roller Coasters on 6-26-19

Preparing for the 2019-2020 ski season at Birch Hill Recreation Area is well underway. Training for 33rd Annual Sonot Kkaazoot ramps up as the daylight hours shorten. Hill intervals start next week.

5:30 a.m. report from Birch Hill

It’s 32.5 deg F at Birch Hill, so much cooler than yesterday. Tom Helmers, the Nordic Ski Club of Fairbanks head groomer planned to start grooming at midnight so probably is still out there. Bad Bob and Sharon Baker shoveled snow on dirty spots on the Outhouse and Roller Coasters yesterday. Both courses are marked and will be ready for skiers at 11:00 a.m.

Bib pick-up today from 8:30 to 10:30 a.m. at Birch Hill. Race registration ENDS at 9:30 a.m.

Make Sonot Kkaazoot course changes before 6 a.m. Saturday for no additional charge

Because of unseasonably warm temperatures in Fairbanks (the high yesterday at the airport was 53 deg F and was likely warmer at Birch Hill), some skiers may be questioning their decisions to ski the longer course.  Even though we normally restrict changes without additional charge until Thursday night, we will extend that deadline until 6 a.m. Saturday morning for those skiers arriving from out-of-town. Local skiers have the same option. All new registration and changes must be finalized and paid before 9:30 a.m. on Saturday. You may pickup you race bibs until 10:30 a.m. but NO NEW REGISTRATION OR CHANGES AFTER 9:30 a.m. Changes made after 6 a.m. on Saturday will be charged the additional fees assessed on race day.

Email: contact@sonotkkaazoot.org with any changes you want to make before 6 a.m. Saturday. If you’ve already picked up your bib, we won’t be able to change your entry.

At 1:00 p.m. today, the Birch Hill temperature was 51.3 deg F, it was 44 deg F at the airport. The overnight low was 44.1 deg F at Birch Hill so plan accordingly. Trails will be groomed Saturday morning. We have done some snow shoveling onto the trails in some of the low snow spots but some of the trails may have very narrow snow covered sections. Mother Nature holds all the cards. The 9.5 km course is solid and is unlikely to change. The 30 km course may have some surprises on Saturday morning. I’ll try to post any updates I get from our trail groomers.

As of noon on Friday, 137 skiers signed up for the 10 km race; 143 skiers for the 30 km event. The youngest skier registered is 7 years old; the oldest 83 years old.

Don’t forget that the Awards Banquet and Nordic Ski Club of Fairbanks annual membership meeting starts at 6 p.m. at the Birch Hill Recreation Area on race day. We have three hearty homemade soups on the menu along with other goodies and potluck salads and desserts supplied by local skiers.

Plan to attend so you can select your one of kind age class woodel from the collection that Mike Schmoker and Bernardo Hernandez have cut from birch sections, burned in their skier design, and applied sealant to create these coveted awards. This year because there are only two courses, all skiers are eligible for woodels.

Chena River looking fluid, 5 days out

With Sonot Kkaazoot race director, Bob Baker still homeward bound from Norway, Nordic Ski Club of Fairbanks head groomer, Tom Helmers, made an inspection of the Chena River near where the River opened up during the 2016 Sonot Kkaazoot. With today’s temperatures predicted to be in the high 40s at the airport, current conditions don’t bode well for the traditional start and finish area for the 32nd annual Denali State Bank Sonot Kkaazoot.

River1

Overflow in middle of Bob’s trail where river broke in 2016

River2

To right of trail looking upstream

River3

View closer to upstream bank

All photos were taken by Tom Helmers.

With temperatures at Birch Hill today already at 49.6 deg F shortly after noon, our training tip for Sonot Kkaazoot skiers is to ski on the UAF trails (that were groomed this morning) where temperatures are more seasonal. Alternatively, rest up for tackling a more challenging course than normal on Saturday.

Skiers warned to stay off the Chena River

The recent snowfalls and warm temperatures have combined to create overflow and possible open water on the Chena River sections used for the Sonot Kkaazoot. Skiers are strongly advised to STAY OFF the Chena River until groomers can assess the course for safety. 

Sonot Kkaazoot race director, Bad Bob Baker will be back to assess Chena River ski trail safety on Tuesday, 19 March 2019. He will resume grooming IF his drilling and observations indicate ice conditions are safe for skiing.

All skiers should stay off the Chena River until ice conditions can be determined.

Sonot Kkaazoot training tip

Sonot Kkaazoot Training Tip for Friday, March 8, 2019: Ski the Sonot Connector, a section of the Fort Wainwright Trails that 40 and 50 km skiers traverse twice. If you don’t pace yourself on the uphill, you may find yourself struggling by the time you return 26 km later.

Sonot connector sm.JPG

Photo by Bill Husby 3-8-19

Enjoy the spring skiing in Fairbanks during Spring Break for Fairbanks North Star Borough and UAF schools.

Entire 50 km Sonot course ready to ski

All the trails that are utilized for the three Sonot Kkaazoot events were brushed and groomed for the first time last week in preparation for the 32nd annual Denali State Bank Sonot Kkaazoot. Thus, the courses are available for skier training.

MAKE SURE THAT YOU CARRY YOUR GOVERNMENT IDENTIFICATION WITH YOU AT ALL TIMES WHEN YOU SKI TRAILS ON FORT WAINWRIGHT. You could be detained if you do not have appropriate identification with you. Last year, we were informed that a skier was detained and questioned for 20 minutes after being unable to produce appropriate identification. Remember, we are guests on the FWW trails and we need to abide by the rules of a U.S. Army facility.

After my last posting, Bill Husby did additional brushing in the pond area below the Fort Wainwright ski area, so the SCUM checked out the Fort Wainwright trails and the Chena River on Sunday.

SCUM on pond smSonot skiers and volunteers on pond sm

Ski conditions on the river Sunday were quite good. Donovan Granger skied the entire 20 km river section of the Sonot Kkaazoot course Sunday (after skiing the White Bear) and found no overflow or open water except for the obvious areas seen on Friday. However, be cautious if you ski on the river and it’s a good idea not to ski alone.

Of course, if you want snow in Fairbanks, you need to send your groomers to Hawaii and Norway, where they can’t help skiers when snow falls overnight. More snow is forecast for later this week, so EXERCISE EXTRA CAUTION IF YOU SKI ON THE RIVER after any new snow. The weight of the snow can cause more overflow.

Don’t worry, Tom and Bob will return before the Sonot Kkaazoot to groom everything to perfection. In the meantime, Bill and Ken will be grooming at Birch Hill using “old school” equipment (snowmachines pulling rollers, drags, or track sled) until Tom returns to pilot the piston bully. The Chena River and FWW trails will be skier groomed for the next couple of weeks.

Enjoy our long March days and make your commitment today to ski the 32nd annual Denali State Bank Sonot Kkaazoot. https://sonotkkaazoot.org/register/