Plans for additional Chena River grooming

Bad Bob Baker is back in Alaska and reports that the Chena River will be groomed better by Monday night. By then, he’ll also have done ice drilling necessary to determine where the precise start and finish will be for the 30th annual Sonot Kkaazoot.

So if you plan to ski on the Chena River before Monday evening, proceed with caution.

Special hat for 30th anniversary Sonot Kkaazoot skiers

30th Sonot hat!

If the cold weather has you doubting whether you want to ski the 30th annual Sonot Kkaazoot, we offer you further enticement. Margo Klass and Frank Soos (shown above wearing their creation) have designed as special 30th anniversary Sonot Kkaazoot hat that will be given to the first 300 skiers to sign up and pick up their race bib. This hat will be only available to skiers and volunteers (who brave the cold to groom, time, or serve as road crossing guides on race day).

Register now, or you might have to wait 10 years for next special Sonot Kkaazoot swag.

Motivation to sign up for 2017 Sonot Kkaazoot


Bad Bob skiing 45 km race–photo by Dave Edic

Having a heart attack (and medically dying) just 9 months ago hasn’t stopped Bad Bob Baker. In training for the 30th annual Sonot Kkaazoot, he’s in Switzerland at the World Masters where he’s raced in the 30 and 10 km classical events and the 45 km freestyle one. He is scheduled to ski in the M2 (age 35 to 39) relays today and do the Engadin Marathon (42 km) on Sunday.

Here are some excerpts from Bad Bob’s account of his 45 km freestyle race, in which he experienced the scary scenarios that keep skiers up at night.

We woke to beautiful  blue sunny skies and cooler temperatures, around  28 degrees.  I lined up with 59 others my age, but actually, many did not show up…but 59 had signed up to skate. 

We started our 3 X 15 km loops with a bang.  My skis felt great, but I would not know how I would feel until another 200 meters.  Sure enough, at around the 200 meter point, I had pushed too hard and found myself off to the side, allowing all except one other racer to go by.  At the top off the first little uphill, at about 1/2 km, I was ready to shoot downward on a straight easy tucking fast section for perhaps 1/4 of a km.  By the time we got down that hill and crossed the bridge out of the stadium area, I had moved up at least 6 or 7 places.  Ahead was a few kilometers of easy fast flat race trail.  I thought I should move up even more. physical state just would not allow it.  I felt very tired and winded, and found myself dropping most of the positions I had just gotten back. BUT..the weather was spectacular and took my mind off the race a bit and how I was feeling. 

Next up was the first big climb.   I did not fare well, still dropping in position. By the time I got to the top,  I was probably nearly last, and feeling the worse I have felt yet.  NO energy and stopping several times to catch my breath.  I even felt a little pain in my chest perhaps…So, I just took it easier.  As I made my way around that first  15 km lap, it became the same pattern as all the other races, fall behind on the uphills and catch back up on the downhills. By the end of the first lap, I had settled in to my pace, but with much more pain and effort than the previous races.  My first lap was one hour and 2 minutes….

My next lap got a little better as far as breathing went, but suddenly my left leg became sort of useless, hard to explain, it was not cramping, more like aching and uncoordinated.  I found myself starting to double pole instead of skate, trying to bring my left leg back to usefulness.  Somehow I was climbing better/stronger on this lap, and actually caught several other M6’s on the uphills???  AND, I still had my downhills to gain ground.  At the end of the 2nd lap, my time was about 2 hours and 5 minutes.  I had only lost about a minute from my first lap time, which surprised me, cause I felt like I had overall, slowed much more, even though some of my uphills we going better. 

The 3rd and final lap was one spent thinking a lot about how nice it was to be on the final lap, and that I could not wait to finish, as the effort was taking all of my experience to keep moving.  I never totally bonked, but I did feel very, very slow, but I was still gaining of my closest competitors. Also, the weather had gone from bright sun, blue skies and fast snow, to cloudy skies, mushy, slower snow and a lot less spectators on the course. I finally made it to the highest point on the course, on the 3rd lap, at the 39 kilometer point. From here it’s mostly downhill, with only 3 notable ups, none of which match the earlier ones. At the top of the last little uphill, I passed by Dave Edic, still out there cheering me on, and asking me if I needed anything.  From that point (42 km) on, the last 3 km included a full kilometer of a downhill tuck at 30+ mph  followed by a gradual downhill into the finish.

Believe it or not, several times in the last 2 km, I had trouble skating, mostly from fatigue. The final turn into the stadium had turned into 6 inches of sugar snow, but I managed to actually put on a little sprint in across the finish line. My time was 3 hour 9 minutes and 46 seconds.  My goal at the top of the hill back at the 42 km mark, was to beat 3 hour 10 min. I knew it would be close, and I would have to push hard… SO…overall, it was my toughest race, and the race I felt the worse, but, it was the most satisfying to finish. 

I was over an hour behind the best skiers in my division……that’s hard for me to imagine.  They almost lapped me.   The winner of the M6, was around 2 hours and 4 minutes.The thing that immediately came into my head was that 45 kilometers is about 28 miles, so I skied a sub 3 hour marathon pace, so if I were running, that sounds pretty fast to me.  MOST importantly, I know I can still do this, this racing thing, and I have no doubt, I’m only going to improve.

Fairbanks Sonot Kkaazoot skiers and volunteers,  Chris Puchner and Bruce Jamieson, who are M7 skiers, skied 2 laps in their  30 km World Masters freestyle race. They finished in 2:19.31 and 2:19.50 respectively, and will be in the 50 km Sonot Kkaazoot.

So what is keeping you from joining Bad Bob, Chris, and Bruce at the start line of the 30th annual Sonot Kkaazoot?

(For more about Bad Bob’s amazing recovery, listen to part 1 of Robert Hannon’s Northern Soundings interview on KUAC-FM at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, 14 March 2017. Part 2 will air on March 28).

Sonot Kkaazoot course on the Chena River is in!

Today Bad Bob Baker, Chena River groomer, packed and dragged the Sonot Kkaazoot course from the start line to the first Fort Wainwright road crossing.

BAD BOB writes, “The Chena for the most part is VERY   SMOOTH  this year…no jumble-ice at all…There are a few icy spots and even some wet overflow in a few spots…but after dragging…they should harden back up well…”

Check it out and then sign up for the 2017 Sonot Kkaazoot:

Thank you to Sonot Kkaazoot sponsors and volunteers

On 26 March 2016, the 29th annual Sonot Kkaazoot was successfully completed in spite of the unanticipated break-up of a section of the trail along the Chena River. The organizers thank our title sponsor, Denali State Bank, who has provided continuous support to the Sonot Kkaazoot since 1988. In addition, Doyon, Limited, Fairbanks North Star Borough Parks and Recreation, Fort Wainwright, U.S. Army Alaska, and the Nordic Ski Club of Fairbanks are critically important collaborators in this unique ski event that begins in downtown Fairbanks, traverses the Chena River to Fort Wainwright, and follows Fort Wainwright trails to Birch Hill Recreational Area before returning to the start downtown.  This year, new sponsor, TRaX Outdoor Center, provided ski waxing and music at the Sonot start, and contributed to our trail grooming costs.

Special recognition goes to Tanana Middle School ski coach, David Frey, who with a feed station parent, provided detour guidance around the washed out section of the Sonot Kkaazoot trail until race volunteers could mark the detour and provide additional staffing.

This year’s El Nino brought record warm winter temperatures to Alaska, and contributed to the unprecedented number of skiers from outside the Fairbanks North Star Borough. We hope that these skiers from Anchorage, Galena, Manley Hot Springs, Minto, Nenana, Soldotna, and the lower 48 and Canada will return next year.

Enthusiastic volunteers provided timing and course work; in addition, they staffed feed stations, road crossings, bib pick-up and registration, and the post-race awards ceremony. Volunteers are absolutely essential to the Sonot Kkaazoot, and we could not do this event without you.

We thank all the skiers who participated in the 2016 Sonot Kkaazoot and look forward to seeing you at the 30th annual event.

With sincere thanks,

Sonot Kkaazoot organizers

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!

Nordic Skiing is GREAT in Fairbanks

With a little more than two weeks left to register for the Sonot Kkaazoot at regular entry fee rates, what are you waiting for? The skiing has been great and some skiers were even pacing the dogs today on the Tanana River (photo by Jerome Jackson).

Poles catching dog team

Yesterday at Birch Hill, some of us were avoiding a coronary bypass

Coronary bypass

while others were skiing without a hat to avoid a system meltdown:

Hatless skiing in Fairbanks

This warm El Nino winter has been great for skate skiing in Fairbanks. So make the commitment now to ski the 2016 Sonot Kkaazoot. Check out the 154 skiers who have already registered on the Entries page ( and then go to the Register page ( and join them.