Sunshine and newly groomed trails await skiers

Over a foot of new snow has fallen on Birch Hill trails this week, but skiers arriving at Birch Hill today will find all the trails (with the exception of White Bear where the Army is currently conducting their Arctic Winter Games) were groomed and tracked this morning. 

The newly fallen and windblown snow has made for difficult grooming conditions on less used trails with tight uphill corners like those on the new Sunnyside trail. Undaunted, after grooming this morning, Bill Husby went out on skis to further refine the trails.

With an overabundance of snow this winter coupled with wind events that make trail maintenance more time intensive, please make an additional contribution to trail fund so we’ll have fabulous trails to enjoy on sunny spring days like today:

If you plan to ski in any of the Sonot Kkaazoot events on March 24, it’s time to put in those training kilometers. The Nordic Ski Club of Fairbanks groomers are making it easy for us.

Chena River groomed Tuesday

Bad Bob Baker was out grooming the Chena River again today. He reports that it was “very warm, new soft spots” as temperatures rose above freezing in the low lying areas. Skiers should be alert to potential hazards, and conditions could change quickly if the predicted snow storm materializes tomorrow afternoon.

Warm day on the Chena

New cordoroy 2-20-18

Photos by Bob Baker

Raven Romp prepares skiers for the Sonot Kkaazoot

Plenty of natural snow on the White Bear and Sunnyside trails await skiers participating in this Sunday’s Raven Romp, the third Buetow Dental-Pangaea Distance Race. This 30 km classical event (with a 10 km option) starts at 11:00 a.m. Sunday at the Biathlon Range.

Details are available here:

With this week’s snowfall, trails will well-covered with newly fallen snow. As of Friday, all the trails that will be used in Sunday’s event had been packed and tracked at least once this week. The new snow brought down a number of trees that the groomers have been busy removing. If you haven’t done so already, please contribute to the Nordic Ski Club of Fairbanks grooming fund that allows us to ski on our fantastic trails. Here’s the secure online form:

With any luck, you’ll see that the Sunnyside Trails are well-named. Here’s the section line turnaround where the Raven Romp course heads back toward the Outhouse Loop.  We needed shades today.

Section Line turnaround sm

Heading back on Sunnyside toward OH sm

Sign up and ski the Raven Romp on Sunday.

Then sign for the Sonot Kkaazoot before Friday, 23 February when early registration ends. Just click the “Register” tab at the top of this website.

Test your Sonot Kkaazoot fitness in Distance Race #3 on Sunday

The recent extended cold spell (in relative terms) has limited most skiers to shorter classical workouts. However, the 10 and 30 km Distance Race is scheduled for this Sunday, 18 February starting at 11 a.m. and will be a classical technique race. The Nordic Ski Club of Fairbanks race coordinator says the course will be the same as in 2017. That course is shown below:


According to my notes, the course started at the biathlon and went out White Bear to the Hilltop turnaround, back on White Bear, East Ramp, Relay Loop to Outhouse, first cutoff to Sunnyside, turnaround at Section Line Cutoff (as we did on Distance Race #2), rest of Outhouse, Relay, Roller Coaster Bypass, and White Cub to biathlon for each 10 km loop.

Sign up here:

While you have your credit card handy, why not sign up your valentine for the 31st annual Denali State Bank Sonot Kkaazoot? What better gift than good health and fitness. Remember early registration ends on 23 February so it’ll never be a better bargain than now.

This is the likely the last year for staggered starts and the non-marquee events like the 50 km CL and 40 km designed to encourage the more recreational skiers. So if you have been training toward participating in the 50 km classical or 40 km events, it’s time to register because we haven’t gotten the number of participants in these events to justify the time and expense to continue them.

Nice skiing on the Chena River today

From Bad Bob Baker: I skated the river this morning.  The Chena is in great shape and fairly fast with decent snow under the bridges.  All questionable areas were well frozen and in good shape. Ski with a partner and enjoy the smooth skating.  Dress warm!  Be safe.

Sonot start area on 2-6-18 sm

Chena River near the Sonot Kkaazoot start area–Photo by Bob Baker

View of the Chena River on 2-6-18 sm

Chena River skiing 2-6-18 sm

All photos by Bad Bob Baker during this morning’s ski

Chena River groomed–faster but colder than Birch Hill but be careful!

Bad Bob, who turned 60 years old last week, groomed the Chena River again today and rerouted the trail in places. He reports that the Chena River is ready for skiing and is much faster but much colder than Birch Hill. 

HOWEVER, ALL RIVER TRAVEL ON ICE IS HAZARDOUS SO DON’T SKI ALONE. This is the response of groomer Bob Baker to a comment on an earlier post about unsafe spots on the Chena River:

Yes..there are still some bad spots on the river. I caused the hole this person mentioned just upriver from the foot bridge…and now, after 3 days…that hole has frozen over pretty well… but nothing is ever for CERTAIN when it come to safety on the Chena River. What the packing and grooming will hopefully do, is break down the insulating snow cover, and help freeze the packed trail thicker. The grooming helps expose some of the bad spots, but it’s not an instant fix for thin ice. We have another 6 1/2 weeks to go before the race, and it’s my hopes that now that the river has been packed, it will help in the freezing process. I did reroute a lot of the course today, only to find some other NEW HOLES…. I will keep grooming, every week or 2 and move the trail as needed. If people choose to ski on the Chena River, they are doing so at their own risk…. The preparation I’m doing now, is hoping to prepare the river for a safe route come late March for the SONOT race start. For the most part, the river is looking better with each passing week. I would strongly suggest that people don’t ski the river at this time, and if they do, to not ski alone, and be very aware of open holes, steam, and soft spots (overflow), and use extreme caution and alertness!!! It should only improve as the days go by, with these nice negative temperatures we are having. REMEMBER…traveling along any river in the winter is always hazardous!! KEEP YOUR GUARD UP.. PAY ATTENTION… STEER CLEAR OF OBVIOUS BAD AREAS and STAY ON THE PACKED TRAIL…. “

There are less than 3 weeks to sign up for the 2018 Sonot Kkaazoot at early registration fees.

Chena River 1 sm

Chena River 2 sm

Photos by Bad Bob Baker

Chasing the Sun on Moose Mountain

Have you ever wondered how Sonot Kkaazoot creator and long-time organizer, Bad Bob Baker was able to set up the Sonot Kkaazoot course and then ski the race? Grooming and  skiing are part of his life on Moose Mountain. On Saturday, 23 December 2017, Bob shared his “home trail” with us when he organized a Nordic Ski Club of Fairbanks Tour that began and ended at his house.

First, he headed off and groomed the 10 mile long, out-and-back trail to eight foot width, returning home as just a hint of predawn light was visible from his deck:

Still dark when Bob finished grooming

He put away his grooming equipment and then began directing vehicles around his parking area so that none of the 16 vehicles would be blocked by another. His years at H&S Warehouse were evident as Bob packed the cars with care, precision, and only inches of clearance between them.

Around 10 a.m., we headed out the trail and soon began the long climb:

And the uphill begins

where smiles were seen on skiers like Sharon Baker and Norma Haubenstock, who opted to stride up the trail:

Sharon & Norma striding up MM

while your blogger, who opted to skate, was struggling to make forward progress. A little snowball of a dog couldn’t figure out why I needed the entire width of the trail as she ran between me and her skier behind me.

Bad Bob, photographer for this post, passed us and skated up to the ridge before sunrise. Here is one of his photos of charred black spruce from the May 2011 forest fire in the foreground and the Alaska Range in the distance.

Sunrise on MM with Blk Spruce skeletal remains

Eventually,  the sun illuminated the windy summits and the valley below:

View of wind on Alaska Range

All photographs in this post were taken by Bad Bob Baker

It was a fantastic day with temperatures in the 20 deg F range while the Fairbanks airport stayed below zero. Descending from the ridge, the low-angled solstice sun glared in our faces, resulting in a few falls on the groomer-created moguls. However, the landings were soft, and soon we were back at the Baker’s house to refuel with Karla Taylor Welch’s chili, Gina Chythlook’s pie, and numerous other baked treats.

Happy Holidays from all the Nordic Ski Club of Fairbanks volunteers who organize the Sonot Kkaazoot. Give yourself the gift of good health in 2018. Register for the Sonot Kkaazoot during early registration. Just click on the “Register” tab at the top of this post. Bad Bob and Sharon Baker are signed up. Why aren’t you?