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.

Besh Cup Races 3 & 4 moved to Birch Hill

The Competition Committee of Cross Country Alaska decided last night to move Besh Cup Races 3 & 4 (scheduled for Soldotna on 17 and 18 January 2015) to Birch Hill. This change of venue was unavoidable because of lack of snow in the Kenai. Besh Cup Races 3 & 4 are both classical technique races (one sprint, one mass start) because the Besh Cup Race 1, held in Anchorage in December, needed to be changed from a classical to freestyle technique sprint format because of lack of snow.

Thus, the Distance Race #2, scheduled for 11 a.m. on 17 January 2015 at Birch Hill will be rescheduled to allow the Birch Hill Recreation Area trails to be used for the two Besh Cup Races.

We’ll post the new time and date when available. You’ll have a little more training time before the 20 km CL test that the Distance Race #2 will provide.

Grooming transforms tracks after winds for Alaska writer laureate

Winter weather finally arrived in Fairbanks, but thanks to the elevation of the Birch Hill Recreation Area, temperatures today were roughly 20 degrees warmer than the official airport temperature hovering around -20 deg F. Unfortunately, Friday night winds in excess of 25 mph toppled leaves, twigs, and birch seed onto the trails, and the classical tracks as the lowest depression in the trail surface collected the most debris. Several of the SCUM (Sonot Kkaazoot organizers) had attempted to ski at Birch Hill on Saturday and commented that it was more like hiking on skis.

Once the winds had passed, the Birch Hill groomers started at 5:30 a.m. Sunday to drag out the tracks and reset them on almost all the trails. Sunday morning when we started at 11:00 a.m., the tracks were virtually 96% free of vegetative debris–an awesome improvement over Saturday. Below Jerome skis in the clean classical tracks while Kent overtakes him on the skate portion of the trail.

Kent & Jerome on White Bear

So as a reminder, grooming doesn’t just take place when we get new snow or when races are planned. Groomers reset tracks when Mother Nature soils them. Groomers make snow that they haul to downhill corners where skiers have worn down the snow by snowplowing. While you were still sleeping (or leisurely drinking that first cup of coffee) this morning, the grooming crew had already begun their magic. Fuel, equipment maintenance, and some salary support comes from your trail donations. Please consider giving or adding to your gift so that we can continue to have the best ski conditions in the Interior (and thanks to the crazy winter weather, probably in the entire state right now). Weren’t the clean tracks today (and the 20 deg F temperature inversion) worth the cost of a latte or a beer? Think about it. How much was today’s ski worth to you?

Here’s the link to make your donation:

Happy New Year!

On 29 January 2015, Frank Soos, a primordial SCUM (and Sonot Kkaazoot volunteer in charge of registration and bib distribution) will accept the Alaska State Writer Laureate award for 2015 and 2016 at a banquet in Juneau.

Therefore, during our first ski in 2015, the SCUM honored our first SCUM Laureate (kneeling in front with red boot covers and the black SCUM hat) with the SCUM ski pole salute.???????????????????????????????

At a Fairbanks Arts Association reading and reception held Saturday, 3 January at the Bear Gallery in his honor, Frank read the following piece that expresses well the importance that ski trails play in our lives beyond sports.

Congratulations, Frank!



Enjoying 2014 Boxing Day snowfall

Interior Alaska nordic skiers had their Christmas wish granted as 4 or more inches of snow fell onto the hard and icy trails at Birch Hill and elsewhere in the Fairbanks area. Although groomers had a challenging time keeping up with the steady snowfall when skiers were out trying to ski their age in km on Friday; today all the trails had been groomed and tracked making for happy skiers.

With an abundant cushion of snow, even the downhills on the black loops were less challenging, and we helped pack down the uphills that were still somewhat soft from the most recent snowfall.

Black Cross downhill Happy Black loop hill Frank black uphill

The leader of the LOL (ladies of leisure) group was doing her sampler of the Birch Hill trails taking cutoffs where they met her fancy. Having chosen classical skis, Chris was striding straight up the hills in the tracks rather than helping with the grooming like the skate skiers were doing.

LOL leader

We were all having fun!