First ski of the season at Birch Hill

With the temperature at 33 deg F, I was shocked to see the snow depth in the Birch Hill parking lot go well above my ankles. Joanna and I had made the right choice of bringing our no-wax classical skis as the snow pack was HEAVY as the 0.49″ of precipitation on Saturday amounted to only 2.8″ of snow at the airport.

I had been worried about having enough kick in the above freezing temperatures, however, kick was not a problem. Grabby glide and downed trees and branches were the challenges on our lovely first ski of the season.

Skiing my first km of the season on snow–all photos by Joanna Fox

After skiing around the relay loop, we’d warmed up enough to make our first snow angels of the season. However, the snow was so heavy that it was a real strength workout to make a snow angel:

Mom’s first snow angel of the season in fast setting concrete–video by Joanna Fox
Joanna snow angel step 1
Snow angel step 2
Okay, how do I get up out of this?

We did ski the entire Tower loop in a record time of just 1 hour and 10 minutes! However, we were shaking the snow off trees leaning over the trail and picking up branches.

Here are two trees downed over a power line on the Tower loop:

and here’s a downed tree on the Tower just beyond the G-1 cutoff:

Downed tree on the tower just beyond the G-1 cutoff

We actually did make it all the way to the top of the Tower and took the requisite selfie:

Selfie at the top of the Tower Loop.

We also made a little snowman for the sign. That thermometer said it was only 30 deg but that was hopeful not real.

Coming down the tower was more fun for Joanna with fishscale skis than with my multi-grip, rubberized no-wax skis. Joanna has provided the caption for this video writing: “It’s the longest, steepest, fastest downhill coming out of Tower! Who’d have known it could be done so slowly!?” Anything’s possible with the right gear and determination.

Mom blazes down the Tower loop downhill avoiding the padded light pole.

Here’s hoping that the NWS is wrong and temperatures don’t increase to the 40s this week. Because it was an absolutely lovely morning to be out on the trails. The stadium was shrouded with fog as we finished our 3.79 km maiden ski of the season.

Tidying up a downed birch tree on the White Bear

For a number of years, the SCUM have volunteered to brush cut on the White Bear Trail. Although we didn’t have a group effort this summer, we do our part as the need arises. Such was the case today, when the post-Equinox snow brought down a small birch tree on the White Bear on the outside corner where the trail turns to the left:

Scene of the downed tree before the final clean up

Because of the berm on the right side of the trail, we decided to drag the tree with branches still encumbered with leaves to the other side of the trail. However, with the new snow, the unstable footing was impossible to see, and one of us, went down with the tree:

One member of the trail crew down while the other finds her phone to document the operation

However, we prevailed and the tree was moved well off the trail:

Making sure tree wouldn’t roll back onto trail

Thoroughly chilled, we finished our ski walk up to hilltop and back to the stadium via White Cub as the skies cleared for the first time all weekend.

Trail crew selfie after the tree was secured—All photos by Joanna Fox

Hopefully, Bill Husby will be proud that the SCUM honey badgers were still moving branches (with tree attached) off the trail EVEN while he’s sunning himself in eastern Washington.

Fall training makes ski transitions easy

With the spectacular autumn days that we’ve been having, getting motivated to train has been fairly easy. Add a few friends, and 4 ascents of the Fort Wainwright ski hill is easily done. Starting from Birch Hill, this makes for 757 m of elevation gained (and equal amount lost), 9.37 km total distance, with 4.48 km uphill.

Golden trees surround nicely mowed hill–all photos by Joanna Fox
Nice recovery on downhills
SCUM practicing their best race form
SCUM gathering halfway through our 4 ascents

Although it was 28 deg at Fort Wainwright when we started, but the guys in shorts were actually best dressed for the workout. Enjoy the sunshine and golden coins floating from the skies while we can.

Heading down Beacon Road to Fort Wainwright —photo by Mike Mathers

Adapting to a little rain on Ester Dome

After a very dry summer, the recent rains have resulted in soft and slimey road surfaces with an occasional downed tree. SCUM attendence for today’s ascent (and descent) of Ester Dome was down in numbers and enthusiasm as seen in this first photo from the top:

With proper coaxing, they were able to smile and then show mud residues from their ascents.

Right footed Mom and left foot dominant Bernardo

Bill had sprayed some vegan bug dope with teflon on his legs before we started. Not only were mosquitoes repelled, but mud was too:

Bernardo without teflon (left) and Bill with (right)

Only Bill would be wearing white socks on a thoroughly wet day. However, he kept his socks and legs a lot cleaner than the rest of us did.

Descending into the fog, we celebrated another Ester Dome ascent as we can prepare for winter 2021-2022 and whatever surprises it will bring.

No rainbow with a pot of gold yet this morning

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.