Winter Trails 2009, a snowshoe and cross-country ski fest supported by a coalition of snow sports organizations, will occur Jan. 10 at most locations across the country.

Each Winter Trails event is run by a local organization or business.The heart of the event is an opportunity to try snowshoeing or cross-country skiing free of charge.

The hope of organizers is that one taste of the joys of winter fun will be enough to keep people coming back for a lifetime.

Supporters include Snowsports Industries America, PSIA-AASI, National Ski Areas Association, and the Cross Country Ski Areas Association.

Sponsors include Atlas Snowshoe Co., Tubbs' Snowshoes, MSR, Yukon Charlie and 16 other outdoor products companies and equipment makers including Rossignol and Leki.

Media sponsors include OnTheSnow.com.

Sunday River Cross Country Ski Center in Maine, Weston Ski Track in Massachusetts, Bretton Woods Nordic Center in New Hampshire, Windham Mountain in New York, and Woodstock Inn and Resort in Vermont are among the 24 venues participating in this year's event.

A complete list of all participating venues in the Northeast is available on the Winter Trails 2009 Events Web page.

All participants must sign a release form, available online.

The event is driven by more than hope, as market research shows broad interest in snow sports in general among consumers.

A market analysis prepared for SIA states, "Snow sports shoppers are willing to spend their money on snow sports equipment, apparel and accessories even when the overall economy is significantly down. August to October snow sports sales of $507 million were up 9 percent overall bolstered by very strong sales of carryover equipment and gear for juniors."

Kelly Davis, director of research for SIA, a not-for-profit industry trade group, said, "Snow sports shoppers went out looking for bargains and they were willing to buy when they found them."

The report stated, "August to October 2008 retail sales in the snow sports industry were driven by pre-season clearance sales. Sales of carryover gear accounted for a significant portion of the observed increases in snow sports equipment sales."

The report also stated, "The Internet channel continued to grow at an astounding pace gaining 27 percent in dollars and 36 percent in units compared to August to October 2007. Overall, consumers spent $131 million on snow sports equipment, apparel and accessories online. Internet sales comprised 26 percent of all the dollars consumers spent on snow sports products in the United States between Aug. 1 and Oct. 31, 2008."