SCUM ski South Classics as Spring arrives

Just one month ago, the remedial SCUM made history by skiing the South Classical loops without anyone falling. (See: 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:

The end of the train in the Chinook–all photographs by Joannna Fox
Pondering SCUM
Norma, smiling and upright as she was for over two hours

And here are some photos when the SCUM were examining the snow on the trails:

Bernardo down
Dan getting up from his fall

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:

The Little Bird skiers
Bernardo returning up Little Bird

Those of us not using magic skin skis had to work hard for our kick as the temperature on the Blackhawk was 26 deg.

Mom overheating to get kick

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.

A -8 deg F ski on the North Classical trails this morning

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.

Regrouping in front of the Fairbanks North Star Borough Parks & Rec Trail sign on the Classical Bear (all photos by Joanna Fox)

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.

Heading back down the North Star, post-RSDH

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.

Can you see the light distortion in the skate platform?

Another wonderful ski on April 9th, with temperatures subzero and snow groomed to perfection.

No sign of snow melting where the warm-up loop passes under the main building.

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.

Minus 2 deg F at Birch Hill, no April Fools

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:

SCUM with handwarmers and skis without skins

As we were chatting after finishing up, Dermot was starting out. We were able to convince him to reconsider skate skiing:

Dermot reconsiders skate skiing on a crisp April day

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.

Explore new ski trails in Minto

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 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?

Spring Skiing outlook is EXCELLENT

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.

Historic SCUM ski of South Classical Loops

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.

Ready to climb the Sonot Connector in the sun–all photos by Joanna Fox

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:

Remedial SCUM elder with doctoral degree in recreational management demonstrates downhill technique–video by Joanna Fox

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.

Remedial SCUM finishing the Chinook Loop without falling x 5

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.

Celebrating skiing both the Chinook and Blackhawk loops without any falls

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:

Military Tour completed: Sunnyside, Cliffside, Sonot Connector, Chinook, and Blackhawk to the White Bear

What a great way to celebrate the return of the sun. Remember, to spring forward your clocks on Sunday.

Enjoying the Birch Hill ski trails with 4 inches of new snow

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.

Fearless powder skiers–photo by Joanna Fox

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.

Bill Husby with his flashy and effecttive goggles–photo by Joanna Fox

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.

Rooster tails down the Sunnyside–video by Joanna Fox; commentary by Bill Husby and Joanna
Powder skiing down the Cliffside–video by Joanna Fox, commentary by SCUM

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.

Bill Husby leads the way– photo by Joanna Fox
Why herringbone if you aren’t a duck? –photo by Joanna Fox

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.

Don points out his trail marker while Mom attempts to tuck on the trail—photo by Joanna Fox

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:

Bill turning around to taunt the lagging skiers–photo by Joanna Fox

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?

Celebrating Norma’s birthday on the Nordale Flats tour

As care coordinator for volunteers of the Nordic Ski Club of Fairbanks race events, Norma Haubenstock plays a huge role in making sure things run smoothly. So for her birthday on Sunday, the SCUM feted her during our tour of the Nordale Flats.

Norma cresting a hill–Video by Dan Johnson

The 20 km course had been carefully marked by Pat Lovely and John Estle, who had started at 0800 on two snowmachines to ready the course for the 1000 start by the slower skiers led by Don Pendergrast. The 1100 wave of skiers were led by John and finished right behind the last the 1000 skiers.

Here’s a map of our popsicle course, where the major climb parallels Heart Rate Hill at Birch Hill Recreation Area:

Map of course by John Estle

Leaving from John and Norma’s driveway, we walked down Wilderness Drive to the start of the trail:

Marching–photo by Bill Husby

When we left it was roughly 6 deg F at Birch Hill and -5 deg in the valley, so we started skiing to warm chilly fingers:

10 am start group —photo by Joanna Fox
Troupe–photo by Dan Johnson

By the time we reached a small pond (where you can see the North Star classical trail at Birch Hill), we stopped to sing happy birthday to Norma:

10 am start group–photos by Amanda Byrd
SCUM salute for Norma

With any group, certain individuals play key roles. For us, there was Don Pendergrast, our fearless leader, who made sure none of us got left behind:

In the foreground, Don Pendergrast, leader —photo by Joanna Fox

The cabooses, Susan and Bernardo, who switched off being the red lantern.

Red lanterns–photo by Dan Johnson

And of course, Bill Husby, the chief instigator of falls and crashes:

Bill, the Eddie Haskell of the SCUM–photo by Dan Johnson

As you’ll note, Bill had a face mask handy as he was not always social distancing when he was luring SCUM into potential crash sites with his phone rolling in video mode.

Some SCUM are definitely not right leaning– video by Bill Husby

By the time we had finished the loop and needed to ascend Heart Rate Hill again, additional kick wax was needed:

Rewaxing–photo by Amanda Byrd

The temperature and trail conditions were perfect for a several hour tour of woods very close to Birch Hill Recreation Area. Huge thanks go to Pat Lovely and John Estle for course marking (and take down) and John and Norma for hosting the group of very happy skiers.

Starting the New Year with Birch Bakken TT

With temperature a balmy +8 deg F in the Birch Hill stadium and a somewhat chilly -11 deg F at Fort Wainwright, the remedial SCUM decided to start off the New Year right with a predawn Birch Bakken (BB) Time Trial (TT).

Dreamed up by deputy groomer, Bill Husby, the Birch Bakken goes from the Fort Wainwright Ski Chalet to the top of the Tower Loop. This 4 km ascent incorporates all or part of the Cliffside, Sunnyside, Outhouse, Blue Slot, and South Tower ski trails. My Polar heart rate monitor indicated a 215 m climb during the BB.

Bill’s data for the Birch Bakken from 4/9/2018

Accessing the BB start was fast as without any recent snow, the grooming has made the downhill tracks death-defyingly fast for remedial SCUM. So we took every opportunity to enjoy the view that the Sunnyside Trail provides.

Photo by Dan Johnson

One nameless SCUM and parttime KUAC producer, decided to howl at Denali (and the moon) to scare off any rabid marmots or lynx with tularemia. His fellow SCUM provided encouragement.

Video by Joanna Fox; click on image to start music.

Needless to say, the SCUM were all business on the climb, and some finished the Birch Bakken before the sun was up. However, not all of us were that speedy, but everyone finished the climb.

Photo by Joanna Fox

Unlike Selfie Queen, Joanna, who didn’t sweat getting up the Birch Bakken with her new skin skis, Dan worked a lot harder with his newly glide waxed and grip taped skis.

Photo by Dan Johnson

All of us agreed today’s BB TT was a perfect way to start off 2021.

Merry Christmas from Santa & his SCUMmy reindeer

Today Santa and his SCUMmy reindeer did the grand tour of all the skate trails at UAF, which were being combed as we arrived before dawn today. (Thank you, Jason!)

With temperatures in the mid-20s, snow was packing under our ski boots making it impossible to get into our ski bindings. Here are two SCUM with advanced degrees are assisting Mom get into her bindings in the predawn darkness:

Photo by Joanna Fox

And here are the eager skiers ready to chase the sun:

Photo by Joanna Fox

With no other skiers in sight, we bellowed out Christmas songs that were successful in drawing one cow moose near the socially distanced line of skiers.

Photo by Dan Johnson
Photo by Bill Husby

Because of travel quarantines caused by COVID-19, Santa had to recruit very SCUMmy reindeer this year. On Smith Lake, Santa was tried to convince the reindeer to skate without poles, this was their response:

Santa and SCUMmy reindeer on Smith Lake–photo by Bill Husby

By then, Santa’s sore back had loosened up so he skated off ahead of the reindeer:

Photo by Dan Johnson

Happy Holidays from all the SCUM. Enjoy getting outside on the ski trails. This week we’ve enjoyed groomed tracks at the golf course (thank you, Stan) as well as the perfectly groomed skate trails at UAF (the classical tracks were are great, too). We’ll be back at Birch Hill soon, but enjoying the winter solstice on a variety of trails is a real treat.

If you are able to help contribute to the maintenance of the UAF ski trails, please consider a tax-deductible donation through UA Foundation. You can make the donation online at this URL:

After you enter the dollar amount that you wish to donate, specify “other” in the designation box. A new box will appear under “other” for you to enter: UAF XC Ski Trail Maintenance. These funds will go to grooming and maintenance of UAF crosscountry ski trails. With declining state support for UAF and the rising costs of dealing with COVID-19, please consider helping to maintain the wonderful UAF XC ski trails. These trails are even more important during the pandemic as they provide us a place to safely exercise and socialize.