Although October was exceptionally wet, temperatures were also unusually warm so snow was late in coming to the Fairbanks area. However, after one false start, the snowpack on the Jim Whisenhant cross country ski trails at Birch Hill Recreation Area and on Fort Wainwright trails is great for both classical and free technique skiing. Thanks to a lot of volunteer brushing work done this fall on the White Bear trail, skate and classical skiing are great. Unfortunately, our fitness isn’t quite in the same shape yet. Here’s what coronary bypass looked like a week ago:
Yesterday we skied from the Sunnyside Trail to Fort Wainwright, where we found that the Army was busily enhancing snow cover on the alpine ski hill making for unusual skiing conditions up the ski slope to the base of the Sonot Connector. However, the classical tracks on the Sonot Connector and White Bear were awesome.
Take a break from snow shoveling and scooping to enjoy the ski trails!
The 31st annual Sonot Kkaazoot just 4 months away.
Easter Sunday for the Sonot Kkaazoot organizers felt like a resurrection after we watched winter melt away during our event Saturday that from start to finish took barely 6 hours. Seeing as none of us wanted to ski out onto the Chena River today, we decided to examine the largest south facing slope whose melting snow helped feed the river flow as yesterday unfolded. The Sonot Connector is south facing and by mid afternoon it was a combination of deep slush and bare ground. This morning, it was icy and the trail rattled beneath our skis. Don missed one of the curves and face planted a foot shy of a tree:
Don was fine and we progressed downhill to where the Sonot Connector joins the Fort Wainwright alpine hill. A slush pond had formed there and Poles (the Eddie Haskell of the SCUM) tried to splash those of us nearby and ended up cooling off in the slush pond.
Notice how no one is offering to assist him. However, demonstrating the flexibility of his bionic knees, Bill rises:
and joins us for a group photo:
and a trek up the alpine hill (the way the Sonot Kkaazoot used to go).
Happy Easter! I hope that you got a solid chocolate Easter bunny in your basket after your great efforts yesterday.
Please send us any photos of the Sonot Kkaazoot you’d like to share.
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.
Today we skied from Birch Hill to the Chena River on the trails that will be used Saturday for the 2016 Sonot Kkaazoot. The preliminary grooming has already created a wide trail on the west side of Ski Road on Fort Wainwright that will allow skate skiers to easily overtake and pass slower skiers on the skate platform. There will still be two road crossings that skiers will traverse but these places will be staffed by volunteers with snow shovels and stop signs.
Here are photos from the trail on the west side of Ski Road today:
Pat on West Ski Road trail
Eric on West Ski Road trail
And here are Pat and Eric skiing up the base of the alpine hill after looking longingly at the rope tow to the left of them:
Pat and Eric on lower end of Sonot Connector
The new snow has really brightened up the ski trails on the Chena River, Fort Wainwright, and at Birch Hill. Skiing is awesome and temperatures are predicted to be springlike. What are you waiting for? Sign up now.
and thank our great groomers again:
To help the first time participant in the Sonot Kkaazoot, here are a few videos of the 40 and 50 km events taken by Dermot Cole in 2015. The first clip is the mass start for the 40 and 50 km freestyle events:
Here is the climb up the Fort Wainwright alpine ski hill to the base of the Sonot Connector:
and 28 km later coming down the same hill:
Remember, if you smile, it’s no big deal.
Here’s Robert Hannon, Sonot military contact AND coordinator for FWW road crossings finishing:
Sign up now for the lowest entry fees. Early registration ends in less than two weeks on 26 February 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.