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: 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.

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.

Waiting for warmer temperatures may mean skiing through new snow

If you’ve been waiting for warmer temperatures to do your virtual Sonot Kkaazoot, you might find yourself plodding through more new snow. The extended weather outlooks for the remaining weeks before the 2021 Denali State Bank Virtual Sonot Kkaazoot ends are not springlike.

Here are the predictions for this weekend’s temperature and precipitation:

And here are the predictions for the following week:

So, those skiers who wait until the Sonot Kkaazoot weekend may have kilometer markers, but there’s no guarantee of springlike weather. So enjoy the great grooming now and start skiing your virtual Sonot Kkaazoot.

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.

February cold and snowy

After our warm and dry January in Fairbanks, February brought back the cold and snow. According to the National Weather Service Fairbanks, here’s how the month stacked up.

For average temperatures:

and for snowfall:

Our Nordic Ski Club of Fairbanks groomers have been putting a lot of hours of work to keep up with the nearly constant snowfall. Please help them continue their grooming as the days become longer and warmer in March by making an additional donation here:

Remember the Nordic Ski Club of Fairbanks supports all grooming at Birch Hill Recreation Area. To allow safe skiing during the COVID-19 pandemic as in more normal times, please support trail grooming efforts.