Snowpack & SCUM going down fast

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.

Tucking on a downhill (shorter distance to fall) —photo by Dan Johnson
Joanna–photo by Dan Johnson
Bernardo–photo by Dan Johnson
Dr. Dermot Cole (upright and confident) —photo by Dan Johnson

The spring warmth also encourages skiers to seek their own trails through the crust-covered snow, researching stories to inform and educate us.

Dr. Cole investigating a trail less traveled
Why Dermot was missing from the group SCUM photo—photo by Dan Johnson

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.

Congratulations, Dermot!

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

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.


Chena River groomed again today

The Nordic Ski Club of Fairbanks groomers dragged the Chena River again today. Then Bill Husby and friends skied the new corduroy as captured by Bill’s phone:

Here Carl and Jerome are approaching the Fort Wainwright bridge:Approaching FWW bridge on Chena River.jpg

and here is the birthday boy enjoying the sunshine and fast snow:

Birthday boy below FWW bridge on Chena River


Chena River ski trail UPDATE

Bad Bob Baker finished regrooming the 20 km Sonot Kkaazoot course this morning at midnight. The course has been groomed 20 feet wide including the 20 km turnaround area. Up and down the Chena River, the course is as much as 40 feet wide. Because Bob was grooming in the dark, he wasn’t able to see if there were areas with dirt or rocks showing.

Ken Coe and Bill Husby hauled two loads of manmade snow down to the Fort Wainwright bridge and combined with river bank snow. Here are some photos from Tuesday morning taken by Bill after their work and that of Bob last night. The Nordic Ski Club of Fairbanks groomers plan to groom the river tomorrow so we’ll get an updated report. However, as of now, it looks like no snow enhancement work party will be needed.

Photo from under the foot bridgeChena River narrow spot

ENJOY the fantastic spring skiing! Urge your friends to sign up for the Sonot Kkaazoot now.

This year’s conditions are perfect for those skiing their first Sonot Kkaazoot. Please note that on race day, classical tracks WILL BE SET on both sides of the skate platform.

Also, remember grooming doesn’t come free. Please donate to the Birch Hill trails fund:

We also are looking for more race volunteers so if you would like to support the Sonot Kkaazoot and the efforts made to groom the Chena River, please sign up at:


Sonot trails on Fort Wainwright are fantastic

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:

Trail on West Side of Ski Road

Pat on West Ski Road trail

Eric 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 & Eric on Lower Sonot Connector thinking about rope tow

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:

2016 Sonot trail on WEST side of River Rd

If you have ventured out on the Sonot Kkaazoot trail from the Chena River to the Fort Wainwright Alpine area, you may have noticed that the ditch on the east side of the road where we’ve skied for the past 2 years, was far from ideal. This year the Fort Wainwright Birch Hill Ski and Snowboard area will be closing before the Sonot Kkaazoot weekend. Thus, the Sonot Kkaazoot trail will be on the west side of River Road over the pond to Ski Lodge parking lot. Then the trail will ascend the lower part of Alpine Ski hill before joining up with the Sonot Connector Trail.

With the wonderful new snow, the trails should be absolutely awesome.

Remember, regular registration for the Sonot Kkaazoot ends on Friday, 18 March 2016.

Update on Sonot Chena River Trail

Friday night, Bad Bob Baker took a skid-steer down to the Chena River and put a 10 foot wide snow path under the Steese Highway Bridge over the ice and rocks. The snow didn’t adhere well to the slick icy surface. Bad Bob will groom the river when he gets back to Fairbanks after Spring Break. In the meantime, there is now a snow path under the Steese Highway Bridge.

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!