National Winter Trails Day & the Lakes Basin 15K

Depressed about the current lack of snow situation around here?

I have been able to stay motivated and upbeat because I am still skiing on great conditions up at Tamarack. It is going to take a good, old-fashioned three footer to open all the trails in the Lakes Basin, but never mind that for now; the 15 kilometers that are open have good coverage and are manicured every night as if by magic.

And, you can’t beat the warm, sunny days for being outdoors in winter.

National Trails Day is being celebrated at cross-country ski areas across the country this weekend, so this might be the time to take a break from the slopes, skip the gym, or just get off the couch to find out what all the excitement is about.

Tamarack Cross-Country Ski Center has ski and snowshoe trails and top of the line rentals for both activities.

I am an aerobic junkie and get my daily endorphin dose by skating or kick and gliding the Lakes Basin trails.

I love the rhythm of skiing steadily uphill, the sound of my breathing in my ears, and one of my many technique mantras running through my brain.

The flat stretches of trail are for cruising and looking at the scenery flying by.

The reward at the end of the hard work is flying down the hills that took such concentration and effort to climb. It really is exhilarating.

The beauty of cross-country skiing is that it can be done at any pace. That blur of green and brown that I see in my peripheral vision while out skating is actually a forest of individual trees.

When I slow down, I see lodgepole pines, red fir and the occasional juniper. The view of the Mammoth Crest and Crystal Crag is quite lovely from Lake Mary when I take the time to pause on my skiing jaunts through the basin.

Not a skier? Snowshoeing is easy and especially fun if you get off the beaten path and wander through the forest on one of Tamarack’s snowshoe trails. Tamarack offers free Naturalist Tours on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays at 11 a.m. and will offer an additional snowshoe tour at 1 p.m. on Jan. 11 as part of the Winter Trails Day celebration.

Take advantage of this opportunity to learn about the local geology, trees, and more in a beautiful winter setting from our knowledgeable naturalist staff.

Abundant creatures, from chickadees and pine martens to coyotes and bears, make their habitat in the Lakes Basin and leave tracks and other signs for observant passers-by.

I am seriously considering dusting off my spandex on Sunday for the Lakes Basin 15K. 

I just got word that the race will take place in the Upper Basin, with the start/finish at Pokonobe Lodge. 

The course is three laps of the Lake Mary Loop plus the bottom of Coldwater run counter-clockwise. 

Sounds like a blast: one short climb and descent and a lot of fun, gradual terrain.

I am glad I won’t have to race those fast Mammoth junior racers, as they will do just one lap for 5K.

The youngest skiers will have a 1 or 2 kilometer course, so there is something for the whole family.

Even if you have never done a cross-country ski race, this is a great event to take part in. There is a convivial community vibe at Tamarack’s races and in the end, just finishing a race is highly rewarding.

If you have been putting in the K’s all winter, and you know who you are, I expect to toe the line with you Sunday morning!

Don’t be late to sign up, as the race will begin promptly at 10 a.m. Registration is currently open at the cross–country ski center, but will close at 9:15 a.m. on Sunday.

I am counting on Jeremy DeCell, head of Tamarack’s outdoor operations, to produce a fast and smooth surface for skating on Sunday. He has done a magnificent job blowing, blading and tilling the trails at Tamarack these past weeks, so if you see him around, be sure to thank him for his hard work and creativity.

I am officially putting out the challenge to visit Tamarack Cross Country this weekend for the National Winter Trails Day on Saturday or for the Lakes Basin 15K on Sunday. 

See you on the trails!

Nancy Fiddler is a cross-country skier who competed in two Winter Olympics. She currently coaches at Tamarack Cross-County Ski Center and can be reached at Her column reflects her own views and not necessarily those of the Mammoth Times.