Thanks to Sonot Kkaazoot sponsors and volunteers

The 31st Denali State Bank Sonot Kkaazoot took place under fantastic sunny skies and nearly perfect temperatures for skiing. This year 285 skiers aged 8 to 72 successfully finished their events.

We are extremely grateful to the support of Denali State Bank, who has been our title sponsor from our modest start in 1988 when 21 skiers crossed the finish line for the 50 km and 8 for the 20 km. Other sponsors key to organizing this event include: Doyon, Ltd, Fort Wainwright, U.S. Army Alaska, Fairbanks North Star Borough, Nordic Ski Club of Fairbanks, Advanced Physical Therapy, Foundation Health Partners, and Subway.

The Sonot Kkaazoot remains a community ski event organized by volunteers who this year numbered over 105. Many individuals served multiple roles in the Sonot Kkaazoot and were essential to our success. Enthusiastic and helpful volunteers kept skiers fueled, safe, and ensured an accurate time. The volunteers page on the Sonot Kkaazoot website lists all volunteers that we identified: https://sonotkkaazoot.org/volunteers/

We absolutely could not have done this without the groomers who worked for days to make the trails absolutely first rate. Over 110 man hours were spent trail clearing and/or grooming for the 2018 Sonot Kkaazoot.

The feed stations had drinks and feeds ready for 5 to 6 hours. They fed and encouraged those of us in the back of the pack when we really needed a boost. Watershed School was a new addition to the Sonot Kkaazoot this year, and staffed the White Bear feed station. Watershed principal, Jarrod Decker generously redirected their feed station honorarium to the Birch Hill Trail Fund because their students benefit from the groomed trails when they take field trips to Birch Hill during the winter. Thank you, Jarrod and Watershed School.

The road crossing teams were especially welcome with concurrent activities going on at the Birch Hill Ski and Snowboard Area. They kept Sonot Kkaazoot skiers safe on the Fort Wainwright Trails when the road crossings had vehicular traffic.

The timers and finish line announcer were working until the last skier crossed. Thank you for demonstrating that every skier’s race is important to them.

After 6 years attempting to be Bad Bob Baker’s sabbatical replacement as Sonot Kkaazoot organizer, I’m happy to be just SCUM again.

Enjoy the spring sunshine! I’ll see you on the ski (or fat bike) trails.

fat bike 2 sm

“I think I’ll stick to skiing”–Photo by Dan Johnson

Saturday morning report from Tom Helmers

From Birch Hill head groomer, Tom Helmers: At the River this morning at 2:15 a.m. it was +7 deg F, +10 deg at the Lodge, +15 deg at Sonot Junction. At 5 a.m., it was +7 deg at the 5 km marker on White Bear.

Everything is looking great! The groomers literally were up all night making conditions great for the 31st annual Denali State Bank Sonot Kkaazoot.

 

Sonot Update: Two days out

The temperature at the Sonot Kkaazoot race start this morning was much colder than predicted at -10 deg F. Bad Bob will be out on the river late this afternoon to determine ice thicknesses so that we can report the location of our race start at early bib pick-up tonight at the Doyon, Ltd. building from 5 to 7 p.m.

Bad Bob will drag the Chena River portion of the Sonot Kkaazoot course again this afternoon if you want to personally check it out before or after you pick up your bib.

Still trying to decide whether to sign up? Check out the awesome Sonot Kkaazoot informational flyer designed by Rebecca Heaton that is available for download on the home page.

Here are some photos that Bad Bob took on Wednesday:

Ramp down to Sonot start area sm

Ramp down to the Sonot Kkaazoot start area (all photos by Bad Bob Baker)

Chena River three days out sm

Chena River trail three days out

Chena River trail near Hamilton Acres sm

Sonot Kkaazoot trail near Hamilton Acres

Wild life on the trail 3 days out

Wildlife captured on the trail three days out

River ski trail ALMOST race ready

Several of the SCUM (Sonot Kkaazoot organizers) skied from Graehl Park to the Trainor Gate bridge on the Chena River to inspect the Sonot Kkaazoot ski trail after groomers Ken Coe and Bill Husby had brought down the Birch Hill drags to use in tandem with Bad Bob’s special river drag.

Early in our ski we met up with Bad Bob who was drilling the ice to check on ice thickness and reports that he never hit water with his foot long drill bit:

Bad Bob checking ice thickness sm.JPG

The corduroy was wide enough for two skaters to ski side by side as shown here:

Robert & Carl near Trainor Gate sm

Robert Hannon (Sonot military contact) and Carl Hemming (bib distribution staff) ski on newly groomed Chena River on Wednesday around noon.

However, Robert with his intensely focused journalist’s eyes managed to find an imperfection in the dragged surface that caused him to make a spectacular dive to avoid catching his tip on it.

Robert finds imperfection in grooming

Although temperatures were still in the single digits as we started out, the bright sunshine made “sliding around in springtime” fun. The trail was great under all three highway bridges where the groomers had harvested snow from the surrounding area and packed it down to cover the icy areas.

Enjoy the Chena River ski trail! The sunshine and easy speed is fantastic!

All 50 km of Sonot Kkaazoot course groomed

Today some of the Sonot Kkaazoot organizers (aka the SCUM) skied down the Sonot Connector along the Fort Wainwright trails from the Birch Hill Ski and Snowboard Area to the Chena River and back. Thanks to clearing and grooming efforts of Bob Baker, Jeff Skeels, Tom Helmers, and Bill Husby, the FWW connecting trails looked better than they have in years.

Here’s Dermot Cole leaving the Birch Hill Ski and Snowboard Area over the pond area near the parking lot:

FWW trail over pond area between ski area and Ski Road sm

Here’s the wide trail adjacent Ski Road:

Wide FWW trail along Ski Road sm

Crossing River Road, which was plowed to pavement, requires taking off skis, but will be staffed on race day to allow skiers to ski across:

Crossing River Road sm.JPG

Here’s the wide trail from the Chena River back toward the 20 km turnaround:

trail to 20 km turnaround from Chena River sm

 

Entire 20 km Sonot course groomed

From Bob Baker, Sonot Kkaazoot Chief of course, yesterday (3/5/18):  “I groomed the Chena again today, and even set a rough set of classical tracks on one side.  I finished all the brush clearing and widened the 20 km turnaround and it’s ready to go…  Ft. Wainwright has groomed out the route from the ski area all the way to, and across the River Road and all along that ditch, too.  Looks great!   And now, they can even take the big grooming equipment all the way to the River’s edge.

The Chena River has developed some overflow and wet spots on a few places on the edges of where I have groomed.  The temperature really shot up today to almost 20 deg. I think when the snow stops and the temps drop back down to the ZERO area over night, things will get much better again.   No panic yet, just the Chena being the Chena.  Otherwise, the Chena River was groomed with a Classic Track and a good 12′ wide Skate lane the whole 20 km.

Will do more next time the temp drops some more.” 


So ski with care and preferably with someone on the Chena River. Do not wander outside the groomed trail. Remember to carry your identification if you plan to ski on Fort Wainwright trails and watch for traffic on road crossings.