Reprieve from break-up

The several inches of fresh snow that fell this morning gave us a short reprieve from break-up. Tom, the Nordic Ski Club of Fairbanks head groomer, made a single pass of the White Bear and Moilanen Meadows today so we enjoyed the warm, sunny April Sunday. The barely hidden water hazards let us know that our skiing days are numbered for this season.Fresh April snow on WB.jpg

Fantastic photos by Max Kaufman

Max Kaufman, photographer and skier, took all the above photos of the 20 km skiers on the Chena River from under the Old Steese Bridge, of 40 and 50 km skiers in the Birch Hill stadium, and a few skiers at the finish.

You can view and download full resolution digital images of 229 photos from the slideshow at the Awards Ceremony on Max’s Picaso album:

In exchange, please make a donation on Max’s behalf to either the Nordic Ski Club of Fairbanks trail fund:

or to FXC, the NSCF youth training program, at the upcoming Spring Gala on April 16, 2016.

Thank you, Max! Your generosity will help appease the out-of-town skiers who were disappointed that we didn’t have swag to sell this year.


Alaska Dispatch News on Galena ski team

Here’s the URL to Dermot Cole’s column in the Alaska Dispatch News, “In Galena, Alaska, it takes a village (and a mayor) to train a ski team”

The 20 km race wasn’t enough for the Galena ski team, so they went up to Birch Hill in the afternoon.

Drilling team says Sonot start is safe

This morning, Doyon, Ltd, had a drilling team out on the Chena River in the vicinity of the Sonot Kkaazoot start determining ice thickness. The thinnest ice found was 8″ in one spot. Most was a 12″ – 18″ thick. They checked for several hundred meters from bridge and into the curve.

Groomers found that yesterday’s melting left a crusty surface this morning. They were able to chew it up into skiable icy snow. Again, the plan is to groom Birch Hill, the Sonot Connector, and the Fort Wainwright trails late tonight with the piston bully. Saturday morning, they will drag and set tracks on the Chena River.

Check this website before you leave for the start tomorrow morning. At 4:30 p.m. Friday,  conditions look great for the traditional start on the Chena River. However, if we have to move the start, we will post a notice on this website, and will start all events 30 minutes later than currently scheduled at Birch Hill Recreation Area.

Mother Nature holds all the cards, and Sonot Kkaazoot organizers obey.


Updates on trail grooming Thursday

While some of the Sonot organizers were buried with late registration and bib pick-up, the groomers were busy working on the trails. Here’s the Thursday update from Bill Husby:

“Today Tom took the ginzu down to the river and leveled the bumps between the RR bridge and FWW bridge. He also got above the RR bridge. We also added some snow by  electrical box along the road. As of now that 200 meter section is beautiful corduroy with no vehicle ruts. There are piles of snow by the crossing areas ready to be shoved onto the road with the piston bully (PB) on Saturday morning making for little or no shoveling for the crossing staff.

Ken and I will be grooming the river tomorrow morning. Expect an update with pristine photos😎. Tom will start grooming all the BH trails with the PB tomorrow evening. He will also PB the Sonot Connector, road and down to the river. Around 0700 he and Ken will drag and set tracks on the river and wherever else they are needed. This should prove the best 50K course in the state of Alaska this year.”

So that’s the most recent report. The Nordic Ski Club of Fairbanks are working hard to make the 2016 Sonot Kkaazoot special for all skiers.

One final note: Sonot Kkaazoot volunteers will be drilling the ice on the Chena River to make sure that the ice will safely support skiers and run all our equipment on Saturday.

A HUGE THANK YOU to all our wonderful volunteers who have come together to pull off the 29th annual Sonot Kkaazoot, and our awesome groomers who have allowed us Fairbanks skiers to continue skiing through our winter drought.


Catching rays while training for the Sonot

Nordic skiing in Fairbanks continues to be fantastic! In addition to groomed ski trails at Birch Hill and UAF, the Chena River has been groomed in preparation for the Sonot Kkaazoot. The snowmachines on the Tanana River have made skate skiing great there, too.

Today, the Sonot organizers were enjoying the brilliant sunshine on the trails:

SCUM catching rays.jpg

at temperatures ranging from the mid-teens to mid-20s above zero. What an unusually warm (and dry) winter we’ve had in Interior Alaska this season.

So far, 164 skiers have signed up for the various Sonot Kkaazoot events. Why don’t you join them?  This link will take you through the process:

If you wait, registration fees will go up.

Classical tracks will be set on the Chena River for both outgoing and incoming skiers so you don’t have to skate ski to enjoy any of the Sonot Kkaazoot events.

We have 2 skiers who have registered, but haven’t paid, so they don’t show up in the official entry list. Please make sure to enter your credit card information to complete your registration. Also, check to make sure your registration information is correct as this spreadsheet will be used for timing and results. We have one skier registered who is only one month old according to his date of birth, so please check that you entered your birth date instead of the current date.

Also, if you haven’t made a donation to the trails fund this year, please do so at:

Birch Hill trail donations have been down this season, so groomers are having to cut back their efforts. Remember that donations pay for all the grooming at Birch Hill Recreation Area including maintenance on the equipment. We, the skiers, pay for grooming, not the Fairbanks North Star Borough.

We still need volunteers for the Sonot Kkaazoot. Even if you plan to ski the Sonot Kkaazoot, we need help with the bib pick-up, and with set-up and clean-up for the Sonot Awards soup, bread, and potluck event. We will also need help hauling snow under the highway bridges on the Chena River.

Just send an email to: and let us know what you’d like to do.

If you have friends or family who are not planning to ski in the Sonot, we really need help with timing and with staffing the road crossings on Fort Wainwright. If you want to see the wonderful folks who have already volunteered, a current list is available here:

Enjoy the sunshine skiing. Remember the Sonot Kkaazoot is just 20 days away!


Despite snow drought, trails are fantastic!

Although it’s been almost a month since Fairbanks has received any significant snowfall, thanks to the fantastic work of Nordic Ski Club of Fairbanks (NSCF) groomers, all the trails at Birch Hill, and the section of the Chena River used for the Sonot Kkaazoot have been groomed, so skiing conditions are awesome. Nothing can be finer than sunshine and fresh corduroy for a nordic skier. That’s exactly what we encountered today.

Blue skies and frest corduroy.jpg

Even without the sun, the temperatures have been moderate (but below freezing) so last Sunday, the SCUM (Sonot organizers) skied the Grand Tour (all the trails at Birch Hill with frequent rest stops.

SCUM resting

If you aren’t enjoying Hawaiian beaches or competing in crosscountry races in Europe, skiing in Fairbanks is pretty close to perfect right now for either classical or skate skiing.

Remember to donate to the NSCF Trails fund since the NSCF (not the borough) does all the grooming at Birch Hill (and on the Chena River for the Sonot).

Sonot Training Class Starts January 26, 2016

Kristen Bartecchi Rozell is teaching a 9-week long class at Birch Hill specifically designed for skiers preparing for the Sonot Kkaazoot. This Nordic Ski Club of Fairbanks class involves skate technique and interval training as well as video analysis and an opportunity to have a guided session on the Sonot Kkaazoot connector trail to the Chena River. The class meets Tuesday evenings from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. beginning tomorrow, 26 January 2016.

To register, see:

This class is highly recommended for the skier hoping to ski the 50 km Sonot Kkaazoot for the first time.

El Nino, Global Change, and the Sonot Kkaazoot

An extraordinarily strong El Nino is influencing weather patterns throughout the northern hemisphere and Interior Alaska is no exception. An early snow storm in late September led to downed trees and widespread power outages. Much warmer temperatures than normal in October melted most of the early winter snowpack but allowed trail clean-up and powerline repairs.

Robert practicing his doublepole

Robert practicing his doublepoling under trail light post on White Bear in late October

A snowy November provided Birch Hill groomers with daily challenges but gave us the needed snowpack when chinooks in December and January brought winds, above freezing temperatures, and no additional precipitation.  These conditions again brought significant grooming challenges in the form of downed trees, debris, and globs of ice. However, thanks to our groomers whose tools include chain saws and rakes, we have the luxury of skiing on world class trails. However, donations to the Trail Fund are well below last season, so please consider an additional donation at:

Saturday’s 20 km Buetow Distance Race #2 featured a course including sections of the North 40, Black Hole, Blue, Outhouse, and Tower loops with deep, beautiful classical tracks (amazingly free of leaf debris) and a firm skate platform that was an absolute delight to ski. This event was a perfect training workout for the Sonot Kkaazoot and yet another reminder of the value of grooming and volunteers in the Nordic Ski community.

So, Alaska Nordic Skiers take note, we are skiing in Fairbanks and have been since early November. The Sonot Kkaazoot has never been canceled so make a commitment now to ski 20, 40 or 50 km on Saturday, 26 March 2016. The organization for the Sonot Kkaazoot is entirely volunteer so significant proceeds can go toward the grooming necessary to make the event (and training for the event) possible. Thus, we need your help. If you plan to ski the Sonot Kkaazoot, please sign up early.

Not only will the registration fees be lower, you will assist us in planning for the event.

If you do not plan to ski, please consider volunteering to help out on race day as many of the Sonot Kkaazoot participants are the volunteers staffing the Nordic Ski Club of Fairbanks events so this is their one event to race. We especially need people who can help with timing (an “inside” job) or staffing the various road and alpine hill crossings on Fort Wainwright. We also have other volunteer tasks that racers can do as well. See the “Volunteers” page on the Sonot Kkaazoot webpage for specifics or to sign up:

Enjoy the wonderful ski trails.

Winter Solstice Ski at Birch Hill

On the Sunday closest to the winter solstice, the SCUM welcomed some of our wayward skiers back to celebrate the holidays in Nordic skiing nirvana. The days are so short near the winter solstice that the skies are especially beautiful. Here are the SCUM at the Sonot Connector intersection on the White Bear at high noon.

SCUM on winter solstice really sm

In Moilanen Meadows, Dermot noticed extra flex in his ski.

Extra skate ski flex sm

Not to be outdone, Robert demonstrated the great cornering skills that he learned from   Nick Crawford’s clinic last Sunday:

IMG_1409_cornering skills taught by NC

Back in the stadium, we launched sky lanterns to Russ and Lars, who left us a little over a year ago.

Poles launching air lantern sm

We then retreated to the warming hut to enjoy some coffee and sweets to end the shortest Sunday of the year.

Happy Holidays from the SCUM (organizers of the Sonot Kkaazoot)!Happy Holidays from the SCUM sm

Photo of Robert’s snow angel by Bill Husby; photo of SCUM and tree by Barbara Schuhmann.