When people go skiing or snowboarding at their favorite ski resort, they rarely think about the trash that lies under the layer of snow they dig up on the way down the mountain.
However, when the weather begins to warm up and the ski resorts close for the season, the trash that was hiding during the winter months begins to come to the surface.
Keystone Ski Resort and Friends of the Dillon Ranger District sought to resolve this issue on Friday June 17th. The two entities have partnered to host a mountain cleanup event to clean up the mountain and prepare the resort for summer mountain activities starting June 24.
Around 9 a.m. on Friday, June 17, about 100 Keystone employees alongside members of the Summit County community gathered at the River Run Gondola and prepared for several hours up the mountain picking up garbage and debris.
After a brief introduction from Chris Sorensen, General Manager and Vice President of Keystone Ski Resort, and Doozie Martin, Program Director of the Friends of the Dillon Ranger District, attendees loaded up the gondola to start their day from Summit House on Decrum Mountain.
Once at the summit, participants were then tasked with transporting trash and recyclables from Summit House to the base area of Mountain House.
The race, depending on which path you take, is notoriously known in Keystone as being mostly beginner terrain, but stretches over three miles.
The long descent was made worthwhile with unique items discovered along the way and community members making 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 enjoying their public lands and going out to help keep them clean is inspiring. This makes it a very easy place to live.
For many, the Keystone Mountain Cleanup Event is an annual event and something attendees look forward to each year. Many remembered their best finds from previous years: engagement rings, iPhones, pristine winter gloves and silver, to name a few.
Others remembered when the entire mountain of volunteers received the alert that a fire had broken out on Buffalo Mountain in Silverthorne on June 12, 2018.
After riding the Peru Express elevator 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 finds of abandoned Airpods, credit cards and ski passes.
Part of the joy of the event was finding these unique items. For many, it looked like an adult scavenger hunt.
“It was my first time, it was great to get out and clean the mountain,” said a Summit County resident. said Matthew Bailey.
After passing the top of the Peru Express lift, a group with Jim Diehl of Keystone Resort Property Management walked under the lift until they decided to take the Lower Go Devil trail to Mountain House.
“It was an adventure,” Diehl said of the final hike to the Mountain House base area.
Diehl and his group have spent the last half hour trying to safely cross Lower Go Devil, which is used in winter for local and regional ski slalom competitions.
In the summer the trail is riddled with gravel and berms which make it difficult to descend safely.
Diehl and his companions, after plowing their way through the race, finally reached the base area of Mountain House, exhausted and sweaty but energized by the promise of lunch and cold water.
Inside the Mountain House Pavilion, attendees talked about their discoveries throughout the morning, including lost ski poles, snowboards, skis and matches.
Bags of garbage and recyclables were laid out at the foot of the mountain, showing the hard work of the participants throughout the morning.
“Anytime you bring that many people together for a single effort, you can have a huge impact,” Martin said. “It takes an effort like that to clean up a mountain with so many people using it and so much trash around. We were thrilled to be a part of it and have Keystone and Vail Resorts to thank for putting it together.
Keystone Ski Resort will open for summer mountain activities on June 24. Mountain activities on Decrum Mountain include the bike park, scenic gondola rides, hiking, and summer snow tubing.
For a complete list of summer activities offered at Keystone Resort, visit KeystoneResort.com.