Yes, it’s been a cold winter in Interior Alaska. However, the cold nights have thickened the Chena River ice so that the traditional Sonot Kkaazoot start looks VERY promising. With World Masters canceled this year because of the coronavirus, Bad Bob Baker is in town to pack down the abundant new snow so that the river ice will continue to thicken as race day approaches.
From the NWS Fairbanks Facebook page:
Register now for the 33rd Denali State Bank Sonot Kkaazoot. Also, contribute to the Birch Hill trail grooming fund so that we can enjoy skiing on the abundant snow this spring.
Thursday, February 14. This recent snowstorm has caused more havoc on the RIVER. The weight of the snow forced up more overflow, making many parts of the Sonot trail on the Chena, under overflow. The Yukon Quest actually shut down the finish line at the Morris Thompson Center downtown because of all this overflow, and Quest Mushers are now finishing 12 miles or so, up River.
Skiing or traveling on the Chena River anywhere on the SONOT race course is NOT ADVISED. We have colder temperatures moving back in tonight, and hopefully that will improve things. I plan to get back on the CHENA on Sunday or Monday, with the next update… Meanwhile…enjoy the great skiing at all the NON RIVER areas.
Bad Bob Baker, Sonot Kkaazoot director, sends this Chena River update:
I got down onto the Chena River yesterday afternoon… I successfully completed the entire 20 km course.. I did not take my drag down on the river at all, just the snow machine. Although I was able to get from one end to the other……THE CHENA RIVER IS NOT SAFE TO BE ON especially from the Sonot Kkaazoot start through the Island Homes section. The YUKON QUEST has put in a trail marked with wood lathe stakes and their trail is NOT SAFE either…
I advise all to STAY OFF THE CHENA RIVER at this time .
We have 7.5 weeks to go before the Sonot Kkaazoot and the Chena River can change a lot between now and then. Bob will continue to work on the Chena River trail portion of the Sonot.
Until further notice, ALL SKIERS SHOULD STAY OFF THE CHENA RIVER.
Photos by Chris Broda and Johnna Underwood
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.
About a km into the 20 km Sonot Kkaazoot, skiers were sliding their feet across water as well as snow in these two video clips taken by Chris Broda:
Bad Bob Baker just called. The river is good. He’s 99% confident that it will be fine in the morning.
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.
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.