The 200 grit snow that has fallen at Birch Hill at -20 deg F or colder doesn’t support a high glide factor. However, think about the great strength training you’re getting by having to work both uphill and downhill. Also, having the tracks so slow, reduces the windchill factor and the chances of getting your face frostbitten.
The cold start to 2020 has done wonders for the Chena River ice thickness. After having open water in December, the NWS has posted recent ice depths:
This gets the Chena River up to 79% of the normal ice thickness for this time of year, and increases the likelihood that the 33rd annual Denali State Bank Sonot Kkaazoot will take place on the traditional course starting and ending on the Chena River downtown.
What’s holding you back from registering for the Sonot Kkaazoot? The entry fees will only increase as we get closer to race day.
When we left the Birch Hill stadium around 10:18 a.m., it was +2 deg F with sunrise still almost 40 minutes away. We skied on fast tracks down the White Bear to the Sonot Connector, where Bill Husby, Nordic Ski Club of Fairbanks groomer, had dragged and set tracks on the Southside classical trails yesterday.
Acclimated to the record warm winter weather to date, we were dressed as we normally would for double digits BELOW zero weather. We expected to find slow trail conditions. Instead the trails had firmed up so that the tracks were wicked fast. We made it to the high point in the trails a little before a spectacular sunrise (Photo by Bill Husby).
Look at those deep tracks behind us. We then chased Bill down the challenging downhill corners where one of us fell four times. However, all that was injured was my pride as the trails have plenty of padding this winter.
As this is the season of giving, please consider giving yourself and others the gift of good health. Please contribute to the Nordic Ski Club of Fairbanks trail fund so we can continue to enjoy skiing on spectacularly groomed trails.
Happy Winter Solstice!
The trails at Birch Hill are snow covered and conditions are spectacular. Make the commitment and sign up for the 33rd annual Denali State Bank Sonot Kkaazoot.
Have you wanted to ski the Sonot Kkaazoot but felt that you weren’t quite ready? Kristin Rozell’s Sonot Kkaazoot training course would be the perfect Christmas gift for you. Just let your special Santa know. Or, make a New Year’s resolution for a fitter, healthier self by having the Sonot Kkaazoot as your end of winter goal. Here’s the URL to register for Kristen’s on-snow class:
Kristen will familiarize you with all the trails used in the Sonot Kkaazoot and provide you with valuable pacing and technique insights. Confidence is key to a successful Sonot Kkaazoot, and Kristen’s class that meets weekly from January 14 to March 17 will provide skiers with the skills and practice needed.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
for Sara Eliza Johnson
Before personal computers
literary debris like this
wallowing in Spring mud.
After the shortest snow season
in 84 years,
today’s wasted white
betrays unkept promises.
Sliding on roadways,
Blizzaks and studs swapped
for summer tires,
we cling to old memories
splashing through break-up.
Select prior season:
Today’s snow teases
Trails steeped with yesterday’s warmth
No glide anywhere.
Smith Lake still frozen
Holds ski possibilities
Atop uncertain ice.
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.
Overflow in middle of Bob’s trail where river broke in 2016
To right of trail looking upstream
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.
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.
Photo by Bill Husby 3-8-19
Enjoy the spring skiing in Fairbanks during Spring Break for Fairbanks North Star Borough and UAF schools.
If you haven’t left town for Spring Break, here’s a training tip for the 32nd annual Denali State Bank Sonot Kkaazoot: Ski the Skiathon this Sunday and help support UAF Trails.
This 20 km classical technique race and tour begins at 11:00 ADT on Sunday at the UAF West Ridge Ski Trails Practice Area.
Here’s information on the event:
and here’s an electronic application and map:
Remember to set clocks ahead for Daylight Savings Time before you go to bed Saturday night or you’ll miss the start.
1 March 2019: It was +16 deg F and sunny at Denali State Bank at 11 a.m. as I headed out on the 20 km Sonot Kkaazoot course from start to turnaround. Groomers Bad Bob Baker and Bill Poles Husby had been out since 8 a.m. Skiing was awesome including under the highway bridges where Bob had dragged snow earlier and through repeated dragging had ground up the jumble ice. No need to use rock skis today! Today will be Bad Bob’s last grooming of the Sonot course until he returns from Norway on the Tuesday before the Sonot Kkaazoot.
Bad Bob and his drag on his pass toward town as I headed out around 11:15 a.m. today
Below are some photos I took during my 20 km ski. I was way overdressed and by the end, I was skiing without a hat. Bad Bob made an additional pass on the trail after I skied out, leaving the trail much wider and more level. On my return to the start, it was virtually an all V2 ski.
Only climb on the 20 km Sonot course
Bad Bob’s technique for removing toe grabbers on the 20 km turnaround trail
Bad Bob adds a kick as he grooms the 20 km turnaround
Bob and Sharon Baker will be out skiing the 20 km Sonot Kkaazoot course this afternoon. I highly recommend that you do the same. It will top off your Vitamin D stores and will definitely encourage you to sign up for the 32nd annual Denali State Bank Sonot Kkaazoot today.
March skiing in Fairbanks is simply unbeatable.
From Sonot Kkaazoot Race Director, Bad Bob Baker:
I groomed the entire 20 km Sonot Kkaazoot course this morning. Temperature was -5 degrees F with NO OVERFLOW or OPEN WATER. It’s roughed in, and even quite smooth in places. The Chena River is now SKIABLE.
I will be back down on the River early FRIDAY, and meeting up with Bill Husby (Poles), and will escort him up and down the Chena River. The forecast is for clear days with daytime temperatures in the 20’s and overnight lows around zero through next week. Now that the Chena River portion of the Sonot Kkaazoot is packed and groomed…it should freeze thicker over the next week.
BUT…as we all know…March is just around the corner…and if we get a lot of new snow or extreme high temperatures, it will become a day-to-day call as we approach race day. But, for now, things are looking quite good….amazing how just a week’s time can change conditions so much. If you do choose to ski on the RIVER, please use common sense, and stay away from anything that looks questionable. The Chena River is continuously changing, and what’s good today, may not be tomorrow. Right now it’s been groomed 12′ to 30′ wide…a little rough in spots, but should be much smoother after Friday’s grooming.