Today the temperature was -4 deg F when we left the hut with a major temperature inversion. However, all the classical only trails had been groomed on Wednesday so we didn’t want to miss the opportunity to ski on firm new tracks even if it meant dropping down 10 or 20 deg F.
The trails didn’t disappoint. If you are training for the Sonot Kkaazoot, or even more, if you are training for the Oosik or the Skiathon, you REALLY should check out the classical only trails at Birch Hill.
The North Classical trails are groomed 5 feet wide making downhill corners easier for skiers with less flexible joints. The really steep downhill on the North Star was just fun today–no fall anxiety at all.
The South Classical trails are more technical but with the current snowfall and grooming, this 70 year old, bionic skier managed to easily stay on her skis on the Blackhawk loop.
Trails groomed by Ken Coe and Bill Husby. All photos by Bill Husby.
Enjoy the longer days on the ski trails. If you enjoy skiing, please make sure that you donate to the Birch Hill Trail Fund:
With the 33rd annual Denali State Bank Sonot Kkaazoot just 8 weeks out, it is time to be putting the kilometers into the bank. Today with temperatures in the Birch Hill stadium hovering around -16 deg F and snowing, it was an ideal time to do the North Classical trails especially for balance challenged SCUM. On a cold day like today, the only skiers who showed up for our Sunday workout were those old enough to remember skiing at much colder temperatures.
After warming up our 6 decade and older bodies on one circuit of yesterday’s Town Race #3 course, we headed off for the recently groomed North Classical loops. With Frank Soos leading the first part of the Classical Bear, he managed to dump a widow’s maker’s worth of snow onto our youngest SCUM, Sam Bishop. Sam decided that following the tallest skier among us wasn’t a good idea so he took the lead. At the Aurora Run intersection, we headed out the North Star trail and eventually came to the RSDH Bypass sign. As a faithful reader of the Sonot Kkaazoot blog, you will now know that this acronym stands for “Really Steep Down Hill” on this single track trail. Dermot Cole, photographer of the photo below, has another “S” word that he uses, but we’ve used the official acronym definition.
“Really Steep Down Hill” bypass sign
With the newly fallen -20 below snow, the RSDH was no challenge navigating, which is fortunate because with my down skirt fully zipped on the sides, I couldn’t snowplow. Dermot also took videos of our downhill ski technique so we could improve before temperatures warm up. Today, no one crashed even though we totally encased with frost from skiing on trails that varied from -15 to -25 deg F.
What does it take to ski at -20 deg F? Two chemical handwarmers in each of your mittens and a set for either side of your phone. And friends to ski with JUST in case something unexpected happens.
It was absolutely beautiful out on the trails today and while we weren’t skiing very quickly, we were getting quite a workout just to keep moving on both the uphills and downhills.
Although Shalene Frost won the women’s 20 km Distance Race #2 last Saturday by skate skiing, the majority of participants were classical skiing as the cold weather has lingered for over a month.
The long range forecasts show a 50 to 70% likelihood that the 8 to 14 day temperature outlooks will be below normal. Thus, most mortals training for the Sonot Kkaazoot should embrace classical skiing and plan to enter some classical races to test your fitness.
The Distance Race #3 will be held on Sunday, 16 February at 11:00 a.m. This event will be held in classical technique over 10 and 30 km courses. You can register for that race here: https://www.nscfairbanks.org/programs/races/distance-series/distance-series-3/
On Sunday, 8 March, the UAF Trails Club will host the 20 km classical Skiathon race and tour on the UAF trails at 11:00 a.m. Information and entry forms can be found here: https://uaftrailsclub.weebly.com/skiathon.html
Entry fees from this race support UAF trails so your $15 entry fee before March 7 ($40 on the day of the race) is a great investment in ski trails on the west end of the borough.
The trails at Birch Hill and UAF have ample snow pack and have been getting regular grooming so conditions are great if somewhat slow. Plan to enter some classical races and you’ll increase your fitness as the Sonot Kkaazoot draws closer.
There is now a flicker of daylight at 5:00 p.m. and although the temperatures are still rather chilly, Spring is quickly approaching. Preparation for the 33rd annual Denali State Bank Sonot Kkaazoot is well underway. With the frigid temperatures that arrived around Winter Solstice and have hung around most of January 2020, ice conditions on the Chena River look more favorable for the Sonot Kkaazoot than they have in many years. Thus, Bad Bob Baker will be looking for a full complement of volunteers to staff the Fort Wainwright road crossings and timing hut on the Chena River on race day. If you don’t plan on skiing the Sonot Kkaazoot, please consider volunteering for this annual spring event. Just drop an email to: firstname.lastname@example.org with your preference in terms of time and task, and we’ll put you on volunteers list.
Just because the temperatures are frigid, there’s no reason you shouldn’t be training if you dress appropriately. There’s even time for selfies and fist pumps as the sun rises earlier every day.
If you need a little guidance, consider signing up for Kristen Rozell’s Sonot Training Course: https://nordicskicluboffairbanks.wildapricot.org/event-3605979 . She’ll provide weekly workouts on Tuesday evenings that will familiarize you with the trails that you’ll ski during the Sonot Kkaazoot as well as provide you with specific training and pacing techniques that will make the Sonot Kkaazoot more enjoyable.
Cold weather is tough on groomers and grooming equipment so donations to the grooming fund are desperately needed to insure that trails are maintained throughout the long ski season. Here’s the URL to donate today:
Supporting ski trails is definitely less expensive than hypertension and pre-diabetes medications. Exercise is a lot easier outdoors and with friends.
So why not sign up for the 33rd Sonot Kkaazoot now so that you’ve made the commitment to get out and train regardless of the weather? Just click on the “Register” tab at the top of this website.
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.