When people go skiing or snowboarding at their favorite ski resort they rarely think about the trash that lays beneath the layer of snow they are carving over en route to the bottom of the mountain.
However, when the weather starts to warm up and the ski resorts close for the season the trash that has been hiding during the winter months starts to rise to the surface.
Keystone Ski Resort and Friends of the Dillon Ranger District sought to solve this issue on Friday, June 17. The two entities partnered together to hold a mountain cleanup event in order to clean the mountain and prepare the resort for on-mountain summer activities starting on June 24.
Around 9 a.m on Friday, June 17 around hundred Keystone employees alongside members of the Summit County community gathered at the River Run Gondola and prepared for several hours spent on the mountain picking up trash and debris.
After a quick introduction from Chris Sorensen, general manager and vice president of Keystone Ski Resort, and Doozie Martin, program director of Friends of the Dillon Ranger District, participants loaded the gondola to start their day from the Summit House on Decrum Mountain.
Once reaching the top, participants were then tasked with hauling trash and recyclables from Summit House all the way down to the Mountain House base area.
The run, depending on the way you take, is notoriously known at Keystone as being made up of mostly beginner terrain but spans over three miles.
The long trek down was made worthwhile with unique items being found along the way and community members forming new connections with other participants.
“I think it’s the community element,” Martin said of his favorite part of the event. “We live in such a special place and to see so many people value their public lands and come out to help keep them clean, is inspiring. It makes it a very easy place to live.”
For many, the Keystone mountain cleanup event is an annual occurrence and something participants look forward to every year. Many reminisced about their best finds in previous years: engagement rings, iPhones, pristine winter gloves and money, to name a few.
Others remembered the time the whole mountain of volunteers received the alert that a fire had broken out on Buffalo Mountain in Silverthorne on June 12, 2018.
After trekking down to the Peru Express lift from Summit House almost everyone had already filled an entire bag full of trash and recyclables. The most common items found were liquor bottles, cans, water bottles, and vape pens with a few rare findings of Airpods, credit cards and abandoned ski passes.
Part of the joy of the event was looking for those unique items. For many, it felt like an adult scavenger hunt.
“It was my first time, it was great to get outside to clean the mountain,” Summit County resident Matthew Bailey said.
After passing the top of the Peru Express lift, a group with Jim Diehl of Keystone Resort Property Management trekked underneath the lift until they decided to take the Lower Go Devil run in order to get to Mountain House.
“It was an adventure,” Diehl said of the final trek to the Mountain House base area.
Diehl and his group spent the last half hour attempting to safely traverse Lower Go Devil, which is used in the winter for local and regional ski slalom competitions.
In the summer the run is riddled with loose gravel and berms which make it hard to safely progress down.
Diehl and his companions, after crisscrossing their way across the run, eventually reached the Mountain House base area, exhausted and sweaty but energized by the promise of lunch and cold water.
Inside the Mountain House lodge, participants talked about their findings throughout the morning which included lost ski poles, snowboards, skis and matches.
Bags of trash and recyclables sat at the bottom of the mountain showing the participants’ hard work throughout the morning.
“Anytime you get that many people rallied towards one single effort you can have a huge impact,” Martin said. “It takes an effort like that to clean up a mountain with that many people using and that much trash around. We were delighted to be part of it and have to give credit to Keystone and Vail Resorts for setting it up.”
Keystone Ski Resort will open for on-mountain summer activities on June 24. On-mountain activities on Decrum Mountain include the bike park, scenic gondola rides, hiking and summer snow tubing.
For a full list of summer activities offered at Keystone Resort, visit KeystoneResort.com.