A trio of cross-country skiers slid almost silently across the snowy lakefront Wednesday afternoon at Camp Richardson, passing the historic structures at Tallac Historic Site and towards some of the South Shore's most popular beaches.For much of the rest of the year, the same area is bustling, with sun worshippers of all sorts clamoring for a slice of Lake Tahoe's renowned summer.But, on Wednesday, it was just the skiers, the howl of a coming storm and miles of Lake Tahoe stretched out toward the horizon.This solitude is one of the main draws of cross-country skiing and snowshoeing, two activities that new participants will have extra incentives to try this weekend.Several groups around the Lake Tahoe Basin will offer guided snowshoe hikes, information about the area's environment and, in Kirkwood Cross Country and Snowshoe Center's case, free rentals and lessons to guests as part of Saturday's Winter Trails Day.The 18th annual event involves almost 100 resorts and Nordic centers throughout the U.S. and attracts around 11,000 participants, according to organizers.Four hundred people have signed up for a sold-out event at Tahoe Donner Cross Country Ski Resort, one of the bigger gatherings for Trails Day around the nation, said Reese Brown, Nordic program director for SnowSports Industries America.Winter Trails Day was started by snowshoe manufacturers about two decades ago to highlight snowshoeing as a sport and has grown to include cross-country skiing, Brown said.While the nationwide event welcomes people who snowboard and downhill ski, but don't cross-country ski or snowshoe, it is really focused on attracting people who don't participate in any outdoor winter activities, Brown said.Snowshoeing and cross-country skiing are an accessible, less crowded and relatively cheap way for families and individuals to enjoy the outdoors during the coldest months, Brown said.Natural beauty and solitude are two reasons Brown said he heads out on his cross-country skis after work many days.Debbi Waldear, manager at the Kirkwood Cross Country Center, agreed.About 80 people were signed up for Kirkwood's event as part of the trails day Thursday, and there are still openings, the longtime cross-country enthusiast said. She encouraged people to make reservations and recommended beginners take lessons before heading out to take in the sights. But the rewards are plentiful from there, Waldear said.“Personally I just like going out in the winter environment and enjoying it,” Waldear said.
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