Thanks to the volunteer brushing by Mike Schmoker and David Prusak, the SCUM were able to ski Blackhawk (and Chinook) on set tracks today! The volunteer effort by Mike and Dave not only assisted the Nordic Ski Club of Fairbanks in contributing labor match for the club’s RTP grant, but their work also allowed us to ski these classical only trails on machine set tracks in November (with half the normal snowfall to date).
As groomer, Bill Husby had the inside information on where the tracks were lifted on downhill corners, so he avoided falling. But he did drop one knee to the trail causing a three-SCUM-pile-up on Chinook.
However, these skiers didn’t have the quantity of snow on them that others had.
They just had the misfortune of falling when someone had access to their phone. Given the -5 deg F weather, most of us were well dermotized and our phones were zipped into inner pockets. However, one phone was recovered from a Blackhawk tumble when its owner got up too quickly to note its absence.
A huge thank you to the Nordic Ski Club of Fairbanks groomers who made possible for the SCUM to ski the entire White Bear on their first outing on skis for the season. Seeing as we had just finished a major trail brushing effort, we were disappointed to see that the wet snow created hazards that we hadn’t seen last week.
I didn’t need to get beyond the Warm-up Loop to have my first fall, which my friends rushed to document. It was practice for the falls I would do throughout the morning as I attempted to remove fallen branches while skiing:
The sensible approach after this tumble would have been to stay in the stadium area and practice technique and balance. However, the White Bear had been rolled and combed, and I needed to check on the brushing we’d done last week. As early as the cutoff from the biathlon to White Bear, I discovered I didn’t have enough kick, but continued on with my slick skis:
We followed the tracks of Eric Troyer and Corinee Lestikow until Coronary Bypass, where Joanna wanted to head back. However, with virgin groomed trails ahead, Dermot and I wanted to continue. Joanna yielded to subtle pressure.
Dermot was attempting to do brush hazard removal, but the snow was still sticking to the branch:
The most serious trail hazard we found was a large section of a birch tree that had probably fallen during an earlier wind event as the leaves were still attached. Additional snow on this suspended section of tree (with leaves) could definitely be a hazard to a groomer or skier who passed under this tree at the wrong time. This tree is just outbound from the Heart Rate Hill sign:
Thanks to the groomers, we had a wonderful first ski around the White Bear today. The snowpack is very thin, so we were classical skiing to preserve the snow. We hope other skiers will do the same and contribute to the trail grooming fund:
With 4 inches of wet, heavy snow, ski walking up the Fort Wainwright alpine hill once today was equivalent to three ascents during the dryland season. With ice spikes in our shoes, we stayed upright both descending and ascending the alpine hill. However, I slipped and fell on an icy patch of Beacon Road (that had been plowed this morning) as we were ski walking to the FWW alpine hill.
Barring a major warm spell, this is likely our last dryland workout; it also represented two seasonal firsts.
Our first snow angel:
and our first snowman at Flat Rock:
If temperatures cool to within than a degree or so of freezing, rolling the snow on the Birch Hill stadium and ramps will be possible. Thus, the trail brushing by Nordic Ski Club of Fairbanks volunteers is likely finished until spring. However, in the past several weeks, over 61 hours of volunteer work with chainsaws, hand saws, and pruners have provided match hours for the RTP grant funding Birch Hill trail improvements.
Thanks are extended to Dave Prusak, Mike Schmoker, Bob Moloney, Tim Prusak, Ben Calvillo, Melissa Lewis, Bill Husby, and Susan Sugai, who provided valuable self-directed trail brushing this week.
Every winter in Fairbanks is different although the definite trend has been a shorter and warmer ski season. Last year we were already skiing at Birch Hill on 6 October 2021, but today the Eric and Tim were ski walking with poles in shorts!
Next Tuesday (11 October), the SCUM will be doing tree removal along trails to be used for Junior Nationals beginning at 11 a.m. John Estle will be directing our efforts so please let us know if you can help out for several hours. Bring chainsaws and safety gear (eye, ear, and body protection) if you have them. If not, join those of us who will be moving cut sections of trees off the trails. Everyone should wear ear and eye protection as well as sturdy work gloves.
After training days when we’ve had hazardous wildfire smoke, winds, or persistent showers, temperatures this morning ranged from 56 to 64 with sunny skies and the Alaska Range clearly in view as we descended the hill. SCUM, of course had perfectly legitimate excuses of why they couldn’t join us: (e.g., “fair booth duty for the League of Women voters”, “moving stuff in Portland and painting a room”, “meeting up with relatives for breakfast”, “doctor’s appointment”, “simple cold although I tested negative but in abundance of caution”, “duty (work) calls “). Two young runners did two ascents while we were ski walking our first two, but I think our fun factor was higher.
We missed our wayward SCUM but they missed a perfect day as the three of us had a great workout before we went home to jack up a sauna, insulate an attic, and mow a lawn.
With predicted daytime highs in the 50s, our record snowpack is going down fast. With the pistenbully down and waiting for a part to be trucked from Reno, Tom Helmers has been grooming icy trails with the Sherpa and drag. Although less effective than the pistenbully, this grooming allows skiers with marginal technique to still enjoy the sunshine and fast trail conditions.
The spring warmth also encourages skiers to seek their own trails through the crust-covered snow, researching stories to inform and educate us.
UAF will be presenting Dermot Cole a Doctor of Humane Letters degree on Friday, 29 April 2022 in the Davis Concert Hall, beginning at 5 p.m.
The National Weather Service Fairbanks posted this graphic on their Facebook page today. It indicates that we have the snowpack for great spring skiing, provided you contribute to the trails fund so that the groomers can continue to buy diesel for the Pistenbully.
When the SCUM group started 25 years ago as an uncoachable group of men, mostly over 40 years old, the final exam was to ski the 50 km Sonot Kkaazoot. This year, 25 years older, slower, and perhaps, wiser, none of the SCUM finished the 50 km course yesterday.
The new 50 km Sonot Kkaazoot course had an additional 20 km of hilly Birch Hill trails instead of the flat Chena River. After a La Nina winter of unusually cold weather, abundant snowfall and record rainfall, those of us who remained in Fairbanks all winter, had spent more time shoveling and scooping snow than skate skiing.
Yet, the 35th Denali State Bank Sonot Kkaazoot was held under glorious spring weather so all of us, 10- and 30-km Sonot Kkaazoot skiers and volunteers were sore and exhausted today before our post-Sonot workout.
Still dealing with Sonot Kkaazoot organization duties, I was late for today’s workout and hoped that the group would have left without me. Alas, they were still in the stadium discussing whether predator-prey ratios in the ocean are mathematically determined. Some SCUM don’t understand the meaning of retirement.
I headed off down the White Cub and White Bear toward the Sonot Connector that none of us skied on race day.
The Sonot Connector descent was exhilarating and the views from the FWW alpine hill were stunning.
However, the real SCUM antics surfaced when they discovered a new avalanche patch on the Cliffside trail and in their delusional states from yesterday’s Sonot, thought they saw a body near the bottom of the avalanche requiring investigation.
First Joanna skied toward the avalanche and fell, so Carl attempted to rescue her. but decided against it.
Then Dermot tried to approach the avalanche on foot.
and discovers the SCUM hat belonging to Susan that he propped up on his ski pole:
before discovering how tiring walking in deep snow can be:
Sufficiently recovered, the SCUM skied up until they found a snowy patch that they thought might be suitable for snow angels. Robert demonstrates a face down snow angel:
Amazingly, we eventually finished our military transit from White Bear to Sunnyside and back to the stadium in under 2 hours on the morning after the Sonot when trails were icy and fast. All bets are off on whether I would have been found with my hat in the Cliffside avalanche today if I had attempted section 3 of the 50 km Sonot Kkaazoot.
Thanks to everyone who volunteered for or participated in the 35th Denali State Bank Sonot Kkaazoot. The trails were awesome and the spirit of everyone on them was fantastic. Enjoy spring skiing.