What La Nina means for winter in Alaska

1st single digit day at FWW_sm

NOAA has indicated that the winter of 2020 to 2021 will be influenced by a mild La Nina, which usually means colder temperatures for Alaska. So although we’re still not skiing, you should start acclimating to colder temperatures by ski walking with poles if you want to enjoy the snow when it has covered the ski trails. 

Ask a Climatologist: What to expect when you’re expecting La Niña

Rocky II: the SCUM workout

With the prediction of yet another wet weather system engulfing the Fairbanks area this weekend, the SCUM had less than their normal enthusiasm for Friday’s Fort Wainwright hill climb. Thoughtfully, Dan decided to wear his rain jacket to appease the weather gods. By contrast, Dermot wore a classy sombrero in an attempt to confuse the weather gods.

Preparing for Rocky II

The prescribed workout was for 3 repeats of the hill and it was Carl’s turn to do it with the rock. He arrived with a camo backpack as he hadn’t taken his turn hauling the rock back in mid June when Bill and Robert carried the rock uphill on their shoulders:


After a warm-up hill climb without the rock, Carl did his hauling duty that slowed his hill climb time by 4 minutes.

30# is what percent of my body weight

and gave him reason to celebrate: with a V for victory. Dan provided moral support as he’s still in PT after his shoulder surgery:

V for victory

Bill Husby (aka Poles) also had reason to celebrate as he set a new hill climb PR on his second ascent with a time of 10:48:28. I took a photo of his Apple watch but it was blurred by the aura still surrounding him. He made a special reference to his time as a challenge for Joanna, “the kid” to beat next Friday.

Poles celebrates his ascent PR

Having used a backpack, Carl told us, “I am not 70 yet!” by hefting the rock without pack assist:

Rocky isnt 70

Back in the Birch Hill parking lot after the workout, “Rocky” kept repeating the same 5 words: “I am not 70 yet.” That will have to wait until March 2021.

Yes, Tom, March 2020 was snowy

Groomer Tom Helmers was correct in thinking March is usually a low snow month in Fairbanks.

As this National Weather Service Fairbanks graphic shows, March 2020 was snowy:

March snow

Thus, the Virtual Sonot skiers, who bemoaned the shoveling and scooping toll, were not being whiners. We did exert considerable effort removing this snow from driveways and paths.

The clouds that gave us all that snow kept the temperatures within normal lows but without the daytime sunshine, our highs were cooler than normal:

March temps

So enjoy skiing on that ample snow pack in April as the average temperatures rise dramatically. Remember to keep social distancing on the trails and ski within your abilities. Now is not the time for injuries that will increase the health care burden needlessly.

End of Virtual 20 km on Chena River

From Sonot Kkaazoot race director, Bad Bob Baker:

I just got off the River ….. not good…All of these pictures are of different bad spots on the Chena RIVER..  There is no way to avoid getting wet.  This overflow extends from one side of the trail to the other.  It’s 3 to 6 inches deep.

The section near the Ft. Wainwright bridge is very narrow now, with moving water on each side of the trail.  There is no way I can pull my groomer thru most of these areas without getting trapped in the overflow.  I took my snowmachine all the way around the 20 km  course.  Most of the worse areas begin beyond the Hamilton Acres area.

Tonight’s forecast is to stay quite warm, with more snow possible.  My experience with these conditions on the Chena River over the past 33 years…is that I will not be groomable until a major weather change..which is not forecast until Thursday at the earliest!    SO…at this point, the VIRTUAL  SONOT  has all moved up to BIRCH  HILL.

For those of you who got your virtual SONOT  KKAAZOOT  in early,  good job!!!   I think everyone from this point on, can ski whatever  VIRTUAL  SONOT  KKAAZOOT  course they can dream up. You just CANNOT  include any part of the CHENA  RIVER..

Bad BOB   Sonot Kkaazoot  Race Director..
1724 sm wet start1715 sm1712 sn1717 wet bridge1711 smDo not ski on Chena River

Chena River UNSAFE for skiing!!

Do not ski on Chena River


Race Director Bob Baker has deemed the Chena River to be ungroomable so the VIRTUAL SONOT KKAAZOOT has been moved up to Birch Hill.

So get out there and ski any trails or multiple trails on different days. It’s a virtual Sonot Kkaazoot.

Bad Bob Baker, who has 33 years experience grooming the Chena River, warns that the Sonot Kkaaoot course on the Chena River is no longer safe. (Photos will be posted shortly)

Ski trails at Birch Hill Recreation Area until you reach 20, 40, or 50 km (or any other distance). Send us a screen shot of the display from your GPS route, date, and time to us at: contact@sonotkkaazoot.org . We’ll post the virtual 33rd Sonot Kkaazoot times for all three distances. If you ski low tech, send us your time, date, and detailed course description. The main goal is to get out and ski while we can.

Grooming always depends upon Mother Nature. 


A plea for help from Virtual Sonot skiers

If you haven’t already signed up for the Sonot Kkaaoot and would like to ski the Virtual Sonot Kkaaoot on groomed trails, please sign up for the Sonot at:


Proceeds will go to the grooming efforts at Birch Hill and on the Chena River. If you are struggling financially because the coronavirus, go ahead and just ski. But if you can, please donate to the Sonot or the NSCF trails fund.


Here’s the latest grooming report from Tom Helmers, head NSCF groomer:

Bottom line is the Trail Fund is at its lowest amount.  The Board of Directors of the ski club has asked all  programs including Grooming to watch expense till this virus thing is straightened out.   Word on the street is a fair number of skiers are planning to ski the Virtual Sonot Saturday, so my plan is to do a single pass of the entire trail system in the morning starting with the White Bear. The forecast is calling for some amount of snow pretty much every day for the next week to 10 days.

So please help us out if you possibly can. If not, please enjoy the groomed trails while you can. 

Stay healthy!


Virtual Sonot updates

from race director, Bad Bob Baker at 10:04 a.m. today:

THE weekend is coming..I just talked with TOM and with the wild winds he’s not sure when he’ll groom, but he plans to do what he can, when he can..  and often as possible.  Tom also mentioned that there is also a possibility of the administration shutting down the groomers.  SO..anything can happen on this VIRTUAL  SONOT  KKAAZOOT.

This coming week looks very warm and lots of snow…but by next Friday the sun starts to come out and the temp really drops …down to just below zero downtown….
NEXT SATURDAY…the true SONOT  KKAAZOOT  race day is forecasting some sunshine and a high of +12 downtown.. 
SO, the big question is how the Chena River will hold up from now till then…  
It looks like tomorrow and Sunday are going to be the best skiing snow wise until Friday and Saturday of next week.  Lots of snow and high temps Monday through Thursday…  SO…get out tomorrow and Sunday for the the most assured SONOT  KKAAZOOT  conditions… it might get better, it might not, and the River may hold up, or it may not..  
Blogger note:
I intend to ski my virtual Sonot Kkaazoot tomorrow so there’ll be no updates once I leave home. Remember, I’m a 70 year old volunteer so I do everything SLOWLY.
Seeing as this is a virtual Sonot, Bad Bob won’t be following me as course sweep. Thus, this year, I may be napping on the Chena River not him in late afternoon. (Maybe Eric Buetow will bring out a beverage in front of his house to revive me). 
Keep your virtual Sonot reports coming. I’ll update this site as soon as I can. I’m also a struggling grad student and my home internet is barely crawling along.

Chena River trail groomed on 3/16/20

Bad Bob Baker spent the better part of today grooming the Sonot Kkaazoot trail from the start and finish area near the Cushman Street bridge to the Fort Wainwright alpine hill. He also groomed the 20 km turnaround loop and the ditch between the Chena River and Fort Wainwright.

It is springtime so stay alert on the river and ski with a buddy who is 6 feet away from you. Conditions can and will change swiftly. Make sure you have your government identification if you are skiing these trails.

Start and finish area ramp sm

Groomed ramp to the virtual Sonot Kkaazoot start and finish area

Sonot Kkaazoot trail on Chena River groomed wide for distancing sm

Bad Bob grooming the Chena River wide enough for social distancing

Bad Bob plans to groom again on Wednesday morning when he will set a classical track. Enjoy the spring skiing. It is good for your physical and mental well-being during the coronavirus pandemic.