Volunteers gather on Wednesday to look at unique trash items found on the hill, ranging from full beers to a medical inhaler, during the annual trash cleanup at Stevens Pass. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Volunteers gather on Wednesday to look at unique trash items found on the hill, ranging from full beers to a medical inhaler, during the annual trash cleanup at Stevens Pass. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Stevens Pass cleanup nets beer, jeans and a 20-year-old pass

Garbage is left behind when the snow melts. Nearly 150 people joined the annual event on Wednesday.

STEVENS PASS —Dozens of people gathered at Stevens Pass ski resort Wednesday, but boots, poles and skis were nowhere to be seen.

Instead of schussing down the slopes, volunteers met at the resort 65 miles southeast of Everett to scour the mountain for trash left behind during the winter ski season.

By 10 a.m., long lines formed to hop onto the Hogsback ski lift. Once aboard, passengers glided over green tree tops with a clear view of others already at work on the mountain.

The annual cleanup, hosted by Stevens Pass Resort, the National Forest Foundation and the U.S. Forest Service, began in 2011. More helpers joined in this year than ever before, nearly 150, compared to the usual 90.

Resort staff pick up trash throughout the year, but this is the main event to clean up the slopes when everything is visible, said Jennifer Carlson, assistant manager of the Commitment to Zero program at Stevens Pass. It’s part of an idea by owner Vail Resorts to make all of its properties zero emission by 2030.

“It gets buried in the snow, and in the summer it melts out,” Carlson said of the trash and debris.

For Cody Reed and Josefina Gonzalez, program coordinators for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Puget Sound, it was their first time cleaning up the mountain. They brought along four others in the program. All live in King County.

The pair said they try to choose activities the children may have never experienced.

“The children we work with, a lot of them are facing adversity and don’t have the opportunity to go snowshoeing or go hiking, just due to their family background and socioeconomics,” Gonzalez said.

Sanjog Patel holds an old and faded ski pass he found during the annual Stevens Pass cleanup. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Sanjog Patel holds an old and faded ski pass he found during the annual Stevens Pass cleanup. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Big Brother Sanjog Patel and 13-year-old Chance Dillard get together once every few weeks. Both were looking forward to volunteering on the mountain.

Dillard was excited to hike, but has a mild fear of heights.

“I wasn’t excited to get on that ski lift, I did not want to get on that,” he said.

The fear was short lived.

Once the first ride ended, he wanted to take another.

Jeri and Barry Elslip decided to join the cleanup after seeing a listing in the newspaper.

Since retiring a year ago they’ve been trying new activities. They recently helped Habitat for Humanity build a house in Gold Bar.

“I’d like to give back to my community whenever I can,” Barry Elslip said.

Both have lived in the Lynnwood area for most of their lives. They met in middle school and reconnected years after graduating from Lynnwood High School.

Neither had been to the ski resort in decades. They noticed changes. Two ski lifts, the Brooks and Daisy, are now being renovated.

The Elslips wandered down the mountain on the Lichen It trail, a course used by mountain bikers in the summer.

Jeri and Barry Elslip walk along the boardwalks looking for trash. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Jeri and Barry Elslip walk along the boardwalks looking for trash. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Construction equipment hummed in the background as they plucked garbage from patches of purple and white wildflowers. Grey mountain peaks stood out against the clear blue sky.

Some volunteers found rusted metal pieces, others found wire and rope. One boy found an arrow from a recent archery event.

All of it was placed into either a green or white bag, depending on whether it was recyclable.

It took people about 90 minutes to make their way down the hill.

By day’s end, the most interesting finds began to pile up on a picnic table outside of the lodge. The most unique piece of trash earned a $50 gift card.

Last year, wind chimes got the nod. This year’s unusual haul included a pair of jeans, a Frisbee, an old Colt 45 malt liquor can and two glass bottles of Corona, unopened.

This year’s winner?

A credit-card sized annual resort pass from 1999.

Stephanie Davey: 425-339-3192; sdavey@heraldnet.com; Twitter:@stephrdavey.


Talk to us

Please share your story tips by emailing editor@seattleweekly.com.

Volunteers comb the hillside for any trash left behind from the ski season at Stevens Pass. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Volunteers comb the hillside for any trash left behind from the ski season at Stevens Pass. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

More in News & Comment

School lunch. File photo
School district distributes thousands of extra meals amid pandemic

Congress hasn’t renewed the program, which provided twice as many student meals for free last spring.

Puget Sound renters will need housing assistance

Nonprofits, activists are expecting greater need as workers are laid off.

The Enumclaw Health and Rehabilitation Center, which is located by St. Elizabeth hospital, a senior living community, and a nursing home. File photo
Inslee lifts visitation ban at long-term care facilities

Starting Wednesday, a four-phase plan will allow restrictions at nursing homes to gradually be relaxed.

Screenshot from Gov. Jay Inslee’s press conference on Aug. 5, 2020.
Inslee says schools in virus hot spots should stay closed

King County among high-risk counties; several school districts will have remote learning in the fall.

King County Election headquarters in Renton on Aug. 4 for the primary election. Haley Ausbun/staff photo
Inslee and Culp lead governor race; incumbent Dems ahead for Congress | Statewide results

Early results for governor, state schools chief, attorney general and more.

Democrats dominate King County legislative races | Election results

Here are the latest results for King County legislative candidates in the… Continue reading

Primary election 2020: Who will emerge as Inslee’s challenger?

Voting ends Tuesday in an election without big rallies and fund-raisers and face-to-face debates

Sex ed, local control at heart of race for WA state schools chief

Incumbent Chris Reykdal faces five foes who argue he’s pushing too many state policies on school districts.

Kent man charged with Seattle murder

July 21 at a motel along Aurora Avenue North

Screenshot from Gov. Jay Inslee’s press conference July 23, 2020.
Governor tightens restrictions on restaurants, bars, weddings, funerals

Staff reports Washington Gov. Jay Inslee said Thursday (July 23) he is… Continue reading

Abortions could stop at Virginia Mason if merger is approved, reproductive rights advocates say

Hospital representatives said “certain services” would cease, but wouldn’t give specifics.