Last Friday felt like fall with temperatures barely in the 40s, whereas today temperatures were 25 degrees or more higher, the hills were much colorful, two dozen fire fighters were also training on the hill, and the mosquitoes more blood thirsty.
Above we see Robert Hannon leading Dermot on their third partial ascent. After their second ascent, they headed down and met Bill and Mom a little below “flat rock” and followed them up.
Here Dermot shows that he can carry one of the smaller rocks momentarily (with an assist) while Bill takes his photo:
The Birch Hill trails have dried out significantly and if users avoid the marked wet areas, the trails should stabilize for multiuse during the non-snow months.
The remedial SCUM will be doing 4 ascents by the weekend of the 4th of July so join them soon so you’ll be ready for the Independence Weekend challenge. We leave the Birch Hill stadium at 10 a.m. on Friday mornings.
Under fall-like conditions this morning (42 deg F with 15 mph winds and 22 mph gusts), the remedial SCUM attacked the Fort Wainwright alpine hill for the first time in 2021. In doing so, we discovered that one of our key landmarks had eroded downhill during break-up.
When doing the 0,83 km ski walking/bounding interval up the alpine hill under the chairlift, “flat rock” indicates that the steepest section and roughly 30% of the hill is over. Thus, we needed to move “flat rock” back its proper location on the hill. So Bernardo, our vegan SCUM, showed off his buff boulder lifting prowess as he moved “flat rock” to it’s rightful home.
And here the SCUM document where “flat rock” had rested after break-up:
Having already done our inaugural FWW alpine hill ascent in under 12 minutes, we took time on the way down to smell the lupines:
We did our second ascent at a leisurely pace (since Dermot joined us as we were finishing our first ascent). Dermot, who has been missing in action because of a spained ankle, added welcomed groans of effort as we ski walked our second ascent. None of us were cold by then.
Walking back down the tower loop, we found the trail soft in places but it was easy to skirt the mud. The winds that greeted us today will allow Birch Hill trails to dry out and become firm like those on the Fort Wainwright alpine hill. However, the erosional forces of spring time were evident as the meltwater carved new gullies along the trail under the chair lift.
In spite of a couple weeks of daytime temperatures in the 50s and 60s, our deep snowpack is allowing the trails to freeze overnight as the ground is still colder than the air. Thanks to Tom Helmer’s grooming efforts this morning, the remedial SCUM skate skied the White Bear on 23 April, a full 6 months after we started skiing in the fall.
It was 46 deg and sunny when we left the stadium at 9:03 a.m. being urged by Nick Crawford and friend that the optimum skiing time had been at 7:00 a.m. We took off down the White Bear access delighted with the glide accompanied our efforts. In a flash, we were down to the bottom of the White Bear, where we found the big, slow mosquitoes and a temperature of 40 deg.
At the base of Heart Rate Hill, we pulled over to let a young shirtless skier and his friend pass us. After our photo documentation, we were prepared to climb slow and steady through the slush and sunshine:
It is a SCUM ritual that if we climb Heart Rate Hill without stopping for a rest break we get to poke the tree at the top with our ski pole. Even though I was supposed to be doing an easy distance ski, my heart rate slipped briefly into level 4 as the slush made the going tougher than it would have an hour earlier. Being SCUM meant that not stopping took precedence over keeping my heart rate in level 1. This means I have to do a distance ski tomorrow to record as my LOD in FXC Masters virtual training. Just don’t tell Christina.
The skate skiing is the best that it has been all season. The mean age of our workout group today was 71 years old and we had a blast! Don’t miss out on the best skiing of the season.
Just one month ago, the remedial SCUM made history by skiing the South Classical loops without anyone falling. (See: https://sonotkkaazoot.org/2021/03/12/historic-scum-ski-of-south-classical-loops/). Today as we left the stadium at 11 deg F with temperatures at Fort Wainwright still in the subzero range at 10 a.m., we knew Spring was around the corner. The tracks were feeling slick before we even left the stadium. However, by skiing both the North and South Classical loops within 48 hours in the month of April would be historical, too. All the SCUM fell at least once today. Only the wannabe SCUM (Norma Haubenstock and Joanna Fox) stayed upright for our Sunday ski of the South Classical Loops.
Here are some photos from the Chinook and Blackhawk Loops while we’re upright:
And here are some photos when the SCUM were examining the snow on the trails:
Some of us were very thorough in our skiing of the South Classical trails in that we also skied down Little Bird (and back up again) from the intersection with the Blackhawk Trail:
Those of us not using magic skin skis had to work hard for our kick as the temperature on the Blackhawk was 26 deg.
Unlike when we skied the South Classical loops at -16 deg F, all of us were overheating today. However, we definitely enjoyed the sunshine, warmth, and great April skiing. Thank you Travis Kulp for grooming these trails! We had a great time–the long downhill out of the Blackhawk was especially sweet as we finished our tour.
A suggestion to skiers interested in following us. Blue kick wax wasn’t providing enough grip, but +2 on the magic skin skis was.
Although Tom Helmers was out grooming the lighted loops (as well as blue and Outhouse) while we assembled for our Friday ski, we opted to ski the North Classical loops that Ken Coe had fun setting yesterday afternoon. The thermometer on the new building read -7 deg F but the Sourdough Fuel one on the Classical Bear as we were heading back to the stadium said only -8 deg so that’s the temperature I took for the title.
With 8 of us assembled at 10:00 a.m , we had some difficulty getting ourselves to the trail head of the Classical Bear, but we eventually managed. Don and Byron lead the way allowing our fingers and thumbs to warm up as we followed Ken’s newly set tracks. Unfortunately, a moose had also discovered the tracks so they weren’t as pristine as they had been.
On the North Star trail, we had almost as much fun as Ken had setting the tracks. It was easy to kick up all the hills and stay upright on the untracked corners. That is until the Really Steep Down Hill. Ken hadn’t bothered to roll the RSDH bypass as he figured that any skier who would be skiing the North Classic trails would be able to negotiate the North Star downhill on over 90″ of snowfall packed firm enough for skis but still soft for poles. His reasonable assumption may have been valid for non-SCUM skiers but two of us ended up in the unpacked snow on one corner. Another SCUM went down in the trail because he was following an unstable SCUM a little too closely. Three down out of 7 remaining SCUM at that poiint is probably not what Ken counted on. But we enjoyed rolling in the snow almost as much as skiing the humps and corners. It’s lovely to watch the forests change from spruce to birch.
Although we weren’t moving very quickly, none of us was having difficulty staying warm in what started out as -20 deg F windchill temperatures. In the singletrack trails, surrounded by trees, the wind proved not to be an issue. However, we were disappointed not to find any cookies decorating the spruce trees like during the holidays. Some SCUM are lured on our workouts with promises of treats just like kids.
The skies had turned robin egg blue while we were out on the North Classics and the sun was distorting the corduroy of the newly groomed stadium as we were finishing.
Another wonderful ski on April 9th, with temperatures subzero and snow groomed to perfection.
Thank you Ken and Tom. We’ve made supplemental contributions to the Birch Hill trails fund to allow you to keep grooming for us. To ski the North Classics in April (and not be on sheer ice) was a super treat.
I don’t think I’ve ever classic skied on Start Tar green (and had too much kick) in April. The remedial SCUM skied the black loops today (once the regular Sonot route, then the Tommy Knocker so we could do the final hill twice), because we knew the dowhills wouldn’t be frightening. All of us were using chemical handwarmers (commenting on how many cases we’ve used this season) in APRIL and wishing we were more dermotized.
Here are the elder SCUM, all of whom are skiing on classical skis without skins:
As we were chatting after finishing up, Dermot was starting out. We were able to convince him to reconsider skate skiing:
Temperatures had warmed to above zero by the time Dermot switched skis, but I’m sure he wasn’t overheating. No snowpack melting today, and the National Weather Serice is predicting 8 to 12 inches of snow this weekend. My supplemental Trails Fund contribution will be well spent this month.
Scott Brucker, a teacher in Minto and frequent Sonot Kkaazoot skier, recently emailed me inviting skiers to explore new ski trails in Minto. Those of you who ski jor or mush would also be welcome.
Scott writes: “If anyone is interested in skiing in Minto I have a stupid number of miles of groomed trails. I spent the past 5 years cutting trails for skiing and dog mushing. I’ve been running 15 of my sprint dogs all year on it. We were intending to run Rondy and ONAC, and it didn’t quite happen. Anyways I have about 17+ miles of trails that we could offer for future races in skiing if there was enough interest. I’ve been stupid meticulous about grooming because that’s what sprint dogs need. The course wraps all over two different hills and includes a lot of up and down skiing. This summer I will attempt to cut another 3 miles and I think I’ll finally call it quits. It already takes me two hours to groom the current trail system.”
Below are elevation profiles of the routes and distances. If interested in traveling to Minto to ski, please email email@example.com and I’ll send Scott’s email and the high resolution attachments to you.
Scott continues: “If the Nordic Ski Club of Fairbanks was interested next winter, we can host a race. I know after a few years I started getting burned out on doing the same UAF and Birch Hill trails all the time. There might be an interest in doing something different. We welded three different drags this past year to make it be as nice as it is. Next thing is to weld some new drags/packers to take the air out of the snow.”
In a post-pandemic world, skiing on different trails in the Interior sounds like a fun adventure. Anyone for a post-Sonot Kkaazoot road trip next year?
Hopefully, donations for the Birch Hill Trails Fund during the virtual Denali State Bank Sonot Kkaazoot helped build a grooming cushion because temperature and snow forecasts make the outlook for spring skiing look excellent. Here’s the URL for trail fund donations if you would like to help us out:
First of all, temperatures haven’t broken the 40 deg F temperature barrier since October 11 and we’re likely to break the record for consecutive days below 40 deg F on Monday, 5 April 2021 if current National Weather Service forecasts hold.
The second factor necessary for Spring skiing is adequate snowpack. Monday’s snowfall was a record 3.8″ and brings our seasonal snowfall total to 73.3″, which is over a foot above normal.
Thus, both unseasonably cool temperatures and adequate snowpack are good indicators of a great spring skiing season.
With temperatures a chilly -16 deg F in the Birch Hill stadium and -23 deg F at Fort Wainwright at 10 a.m., the remedial SCUM opted out of doing a Birch Bakken climb. Instead, seeing as the South Classical Loops had been groomed yesterday (Thursday), we decided today would be a great day for the South Classical Loops.
Being guided on our workout by one of the illustrious Nordic Ski Club of Fairbanks groomers meant that we were allowed to break some of the trail guidelines. To stay in the sun, we skied the Relay loop backwards, and then skied the Outhouse backwards until we intersected the Sunnyside and Cliffside Trails. After a quick descent in the set tracks, we all arrived at Fort Wainwright with chilly hands but still upright.
Climbing the Sonot Connector in the deep Yellowstone tracks, we first tackled the Chinook Loop as several of us hadn’t skied it yet this season. Conditions were perfect and even the downhills were easily traversed as shown below by Don Pendergrast:
The remedial SCUM were a little stunned when we emerged from the Chinook Loop with no snow adhering to our ski gear. No one had fallen. A historic day in the making.
Figuring that we were on a roll, we decided that our work could be postponed another hour so we could also ski the Blackhawk Loop. The sunshine felt so good after a gray week of snow scooping. Here is the SCUM salute to the groomers as we alll finish the Blackhawk loop in the tracks and without any sitzmarks.
With real work and school work to return to, we skied up the rest of the Sonot Connector and back on the White Bear to the stadium, where we met up with Tom Helmers, head groomer, out for a ski on the trails he set yesterday. That called for one more selfie by Joanna of the remedial SCUM and two of our NSCF groomers:
What a great way to celebrate the return of the sun. Remember, to spring forward your clocks on Sunday.
When three of the groomers for the Nordic Ski Club of Fairbanks spend their Saturday night grooming and tracking all the major trails at the Birch Hill Recreation Area, the SCUM felt compelled to ski these trails on Sunday morning.
Unfortunately, only four of us showed up at 10 a.m. Sunday morning as the snow that fell after midnight posed a preliminary scooping and shoveling workout on our driveways before arriving to 4 inches of newly fallen snow at Birch Hill.
Only Bill Husby, our SCUM groomer, arrived suitably attired with flashy googles that proved essential while skiing through pelting snow that the wind and our awesome speed created.
After checking out whether we could stay in the tracks on the downhill of the Blue Loop, we ventured out to the Sunnyside and Cliffside where were created rooster tails as we skied downhill.
Once we got to the bottom of Cliffside and skied onto the Fort Wainwright alpine ski facility, we found newly groomed corduroy heading straight up the Fort Wainwright alpine hill to the left of the tubing hill. We abandoned the idea of skiing up the Sonot Connector (under a half foot of unpacked snow). Instead we skied up the right side of the FWW alpine hill like we did during the first decade of the Sonot Kkaazoot. Unfortunately, the grooming didn’t extend over to the top of the Sonot Connector, so we had some deep new snow to traverse.
Once on the White Bear Trail, we needed to ski to Hilltop junction because it’s Norma Haubenstock’s favorite hill, and in doing so we passed a trail marker that Don had placed on a tree on in the 1970s as part of his first job in Interior Alaska.
Eventually, the slushing through the deep powder was tiring out everyone except the “Every Ready” Husby who taunted us around the rest of the White Bear and Moilanen Meadows:
It was an absolutely lovely day on the trails and except for the tubing hilll where we saw kids enjoying the snow, we saw no one until we were nearly back to the Birch Hill stadium after our 2 hour ski.
With the Sonot Kkaazoot less than a month away, we were getting our long overdistance training done. How about you?