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Baldy Cleanup Turns Out to be a Treasure Hunt
Tuesday, June 28, 2022


I laughed when Jenna Vagias told me that Sun Valley Resort was considering a cleanup day on Bald Mountain. In the 20 years I’d hiked Sun Valley’s famous ski mountain, I couldn’t recall ever seeing so much as a gum wrapper.

Contrast that with Bogus Basin where I have found a ten-dollar bill, copy of “War and Peace,” combs and hairbrushes, makeup kits, watches and more keys than a custodian packs around under the chairlift.

Despite my protestations that Bald Mountain was the cleanest de la crème, mountain manager Peter Stearns and others at Sun Valley went ahead with the cleanup. And with good reason, it turned out.

Gregory Darley-Emerson would go on to win a prize for lugging an abandoned snowboard down the mountain while someone else hauled down a lone Blizzard ski. There were enough cell phones found under the chairlifts to stock the local Verizon store and plenty of Mardi Gras beads for anyone planning a trip to New Orleans.

Scott Slonim and Cole McCauley found a coin from Panama while 7-year-old Grace Darley-Emersen, who was outfitted for the occasion in her Junior Ranger jacket, found a holey seat cushion. And Cheyanne Stopol, part of a Higher Ground team, found a glass paperweight trophy that she bequeathed to the resort rather than take home to her own trophy case.

About 150 adults and children took part in the clean sweep on what was a beautiful morning with temperatures in the 60s and 70s. They gassed up on coffee, muffins and rolls provided by the resort.

“It’s a give back thing,” said Gail Dwyer, who worked several years as a Yellow Jacket in Guest Services.

“Sun Valley has been so supportive of our program that we wanted to come out and support them,” said Kate Dobbie, who led the team from Higher Ground.

“We want to clean Baldy—it’s a good thing to do,” said Cole McCauley, part of a team of four elementary school students organized by Hemingway STEAM School teacher Scott Slonim.

I cashed in a lift ticket that the resort provided me and hopped aboard the gondola with Pete Peter who was headed for Easter Bowl. Peter said he hiked Bald Mountain all the time and thought this an opportunity to make the hike a little more interesting.

“I don’t expect to find a lot of trash in Easter Bowl, but you never know,” he said. ”It’s just such a fun opportunity to give back to our community and to a mountain that has given me so much pleasure.”

I disembarked near the historic Roundhouse restaurant and began trekking down Guntower Lane enroute to the Seattle Ridge area. It was a breeze at first—I spotted only one tiny piece of paper. But then I began running into wooden stakes that had apparently been smashed to smithereens by the snow groomer.

I collected a couple handwarmers under the Seattle Ridge chairlift, along with a boot heater and a couple broken ski pole baskets. The big find was a rib cage of a deer, which I left, thinking it make a nice “Look, Ma,” moment for some family from Toledo, Ohio, who isn’t used to finding bones on their walks.

The Mayday Chair appeared to be the mountain’s party chair, given the number of beer cans lying around. I picked up a bunch of paper fragments there, two Epic passes, two Sun Valley ski pins, a name tag belonging to Carol Murphy, a years-old Sun Valley ski pass and--yes—a face mask.

There’s always a face mask littering the trails nowadays.

By the time I started my climb up Broadway my bag weighed a good 15 pounds, and the smashed stakes were starting to stick out of the trash bag jabbing me in the back as I slung the garbage sack over my shoulder.

I climbed up Lefty’s Bowl past bouquets of arrowleaf balsamroot and an occasional yellow wallflower as two paragliders circled above. And, when I paused to take a picture of a deer that bounded across the Bowl a few feet above me, the weight of the bag shifted nearly knocking me downhill.

The Pioneer Mountains in the distance were a dazzling green as I descended on the Lupine bike trail, although the lupine the trail is named for hadn’t yet come out.

I hadn’t seen another soul over the course of three hours despite the good turnout, which just goes to show how large the ski area is.

Back at the River Run Plaza, the cleanup crew had covered a table with a pile of finds that looked as if they’d delved into a pirate’s treasure chest. They included a squirt gun, avalanche beacon, walkie talkie, sardine can, a couple tennis balls, a stuffed moose with purple antlers and a shoe sole.

Gregory Darley-Emerson was awarded a prize for finding the most valuable item—the snowboard. Prizes for the Most Interesting Item went to Cheyanne Stopol for the paperweight that had been awarded to Dain Rauscher from the Regional Directors Council and to Mary Miller for a vintage Gillette Shaving Cream can in foamy lemon lime flavor.

The Higher Ground team, which scoured Seattle Ridge, was honored for the Most Trash Collected. And Pete Peter—my gondola seatmate—had gone on to win the 2022/23 Challenger season ski pass.

“Thanks to everyone we filled an entire six-yard dumpster with trash and are kicking off the summer season with a cleaner, healthier playground,” said Lauren Bourgeau, events and community partnership manager at Sun Valley Resort.

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