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: contact@sonotkkaazoot.org 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!


Chena River groomed again yesterday!

Work on your spring time tan by skiing on the Chena River. Sonot Kkaazoot 20 km course has been groomed by Bad Bob Baker to perfection. Here’s his first hand report submitted yesterday afternoon:

What a nice day to ski the Chena River, as I just finished grooming it at 3:00 pm today.  I groomed the start/finish area right up to the centennial bridge and it turned out much better than I thought it would, very flat and plenty wide for a SONOT START.   I also roughed in the 20 km turnaround,   The whole CHENA RIVER is groomed at least 16 FOOT WIDE, and wider in some places.  It’s very safe for skiing right now, as long as one skis atop the grooming.  There is bad gravel and ice under the STEESE HIGHWAY BRIDGE and the FT. WAINWRIGHT BRIDGE.  Taking you skis off for both of these are a must.  SO, Please, everyone get out on the CHENA RIVER and test out the SONOT KKAAZOOT course!

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).


Ski the Chena River portion of the Sonot

Bad Bob Baker is the Man when it comes to grooming the Chena River for the Sonot Kkaazoot. You can now ski the entire 20 km Sonot Kkaazoot trail. Here is Bad Bob’s report for today:

I dragged the Chena River again today…  I also found a path thru the bad ice near the START/FINISH area.  You can now ski the whole SONOT route on the River…  Looks real nice, just  as always…….stay on the groomed trail!   It’s looking good on the CHENA. It’s was 19 degrees on the river this afternoon.  Bare ice under the Steese Hwy bridge, and a little bumpy in just a few spots, but it’s definitely worth skiing/skating….no classic track, most the river is groomed 16′ wide.




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.

Ski the Sonot Connector in November

Although our September skiing at Birch Hill didn’t last long, we have made up for our slightly late start with an abundance of snow in November. The snow cover is so good that the SCUM (Sonot Kkaazoot organizers) skied the south side classical only trails in mid November. Today, we skied the Sonot Connector on piston bully groomed trails and tracks, which our SCUM groomer tells us is a first for this time of year. The packed platform is about 5 inches thick on the inside corners.

Poles & Dermot on Sonot Connector

The winds accompanying the chinook on Friday removed the snow burdens from the birch and spruce trees lining the trails but the piston bully did a great job of grinding up the ice and mixing it with the abundant power snow.

Early registration for the 29th annual Sonot Kkaazoot is open now. Make the commitment to skiing 50, 40, or 20 km on March 26, 2016, and register online at the Nordic Ski Club of Fairbanks secure site.


Then get out and enjoy the wonderful trails. Please make sure that you donate what you can to help support our wonderful skiing conditions.



More volunteers responsible for the “Miracle on Snow”

Reports from Sonot Kkaazoot participants (both local and from Anchorage) were that the  trail conditions were fantastic in spite of the record heat during the week prior to the 28th annual Sonot Kkaazoot. Here are some photos of the heroes behind those trails at work and the final results of their efforts:

Bill digging

Bionic Byron hauling snow

Jeff's trail reroute over bunny hill


Although most skiers were too tired when they got to the crest of the bunny hill to look up at the slope that had melted away as a river of water on Friday, Sonot Kkaazoot skiers really owe their great day to Jeff Skeels who bulldozed this alternate route for them.

All photos by Chris Broda, Fort Wainwright alpine hill crossing volunteer and leader of Nordic Ski Club of Fairbanks “Ladies of Leisure”


Updates from the Sonot Kkaazoot course from trail crew

As of 7 a.m Saturday, the Kilometers signs are out, and we are still planning to have the Sonot on the river.

At 4:30 p.m. Friday, the Fort Wainwright (FWW) alpine hill melted so rapidly that a very large and fast RIVER of water came gushing down the slope taking most of the SONOT course out with it. Bad Bob and Jeff, the Fort Wainwright groomer, watched this phenomenon take place. Jeff said that he would reroute around it and put the SONOT course up and down the bunny hill. There is some water at the base of the hill but skiers should be able to ski around or through it.

Update from Tom Helmers, head groomer for the Nordic Ski Club of Fairbanks (NSCF) at 4:00 a.m. Saturday. Creek on FWW down hill is still flowing, The cat tail pond as you leave ski area parking lot has some water in it but not a problem yet. There is water at top of Sonot Connector just below road half way across trail, at gate pretty wet all the way to white bear.  Was 29 deg at base of hill and 36 here at the stadium,  heading out for second lap on WB.