4 FWW ascents for the 9th of July (delayed due to smoke)

For the SCUM, each year increases the challenge. Last year, one 70 year old SCUM and two youngsters did 4 ascents of the Fort Wainwright chair lift trail for the 4th of July. (https://sonotkkaazoot.org/2020/07/03/4th-of-july-celebration-under-covid-19/).This year, we hoped to do better. However, last Friday (our normal ski walking day at FWW), winds blew smoke from the Munson Creek fire into Fairbanks so the air quality was hazardous. Thus, we delayed our workout until today.

Six of us left the Birch Hill stadium at 9:00 a.m., three were youngsters and three were over 70 years old. Robert Hannon, one of the kids, opted to just do 3 speedy ascents so he missed the photo documentation.

On their second ascent, Poles was leading Dan (hidden behind Bill) and Bernardo
Dan, the youngest of the SCUM, was working to draft behind Bill

And two-way traffic on the trail was spreading out as we used different pacing strategies.

Bill, Bernardo, and Dan head down as Carl works his way up for his 4th ascent

Temperatures stayed in the low 60s, but we were definitely overheating by ascent 3. However, all of us completed 4 ascents.

Dan, Carl, and Bernardo claim their 4 ascents

Billl had dropped his poles midway up his 4th ascent figuring that he’d go back down to meet Carl after he’d finished his. However, Carl ended up a lot faster than Bill expected so three of us accompanied Carl on his last ascent. Meanwhile, Bill had to go further back down the hill to retrieve his poles and to finish 4 ascents WITH poles.

Bill after his 4 full ascents with poles (and half without)
Mom and three SCUM ski walk with poles for 4 FWW ascents (photo by Bernardo Hernandez, who also did 4 ascents)

The lupines, roses, and irises have gone to seed on the trail already as summer speeds by. Will your carcass be ready for skiing by the time the snow covers the trails? The SCUM hope theirs will be.

Bad Bob Baker is planning new courses for the 35th annual Denali State Bank Sonot Kkaazoot in 2022, and they will involve more climbing (including the Sunnyside trail instead of the Chena River) than in the past for all 3 distances. Start hill training now.

What a difference one week makes

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.

Flat rock travels downhill during break-up

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.

Buff Bernardo lifts “flat rock” to move uphill

And here the SCUM document where “flat rock” had rested after break-up:

“Flat rock” in foreground and SCUM indicate where we found it today

Having already done our inaugural FWW alpine hill ascent in under 12 minutes, we took time on the way down to smell the lupines:

Poles plays marmot
SCUM smelling lupines, note how Dermot dermotizes with insulated mitts in summer too

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.

Skiing the White Bear on 23 April

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.

SCUM at the SCUMometer at 40 deg w/ mosquitoes lurking–all photos by Don Pendergrast

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:

We haven’t started the climb yet, but Don’s windbreaker has already been removed

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.

Only Bernardo still was wearing his hat after Heart Rate Hill

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.

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: 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:

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 contact@sonotkkaazoot.org 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.