Don’t let your inner environmentalist hibernate through the rest of winter |

Don’t let your inner environmentalist hibernate through the rest of winter

More people than ever are recreating outdoors in Summit County’s spectacular mountains. Unfortunately there is ample evidence of that traffic strewn from the backcountry bowls along the Wasatch to the forest trailheads in the Uintas.

Granted, cold temperatures and intermittent blizzards add a sense of urgency to even the most mundane tasks while skiing, snowboarding or snowmobiling. On-site tune-ups of equipment or an engine must be done quickly and efficiently, despite freezing fingers and foggy goggles. But that does not mean that simple environmental ethics should be tossed by the wayside.

Motorized recreation enthusiasts can be blamed for the spilled oil and transmission fluid along with cast off oil cans and broken parts, but human powered snow sport enthusiasts are not completely blameless. Spent wax sticks, used up hand warmers and energy bar wrappers mark their trails.

There may be a misperception that a fresh coat of snow will make the litter disappear, but anyone who sticks around for the spring thaw knows that is not true. Temporarily out of sight, maybe, but by no means decomposed.

There may also be some misguided sentiment, since nothing is growing and there is very little wildlife moving about, that a little recreational rubbish won’t hurt anything. That is not true either.

Of most concern are the ingredients needed to keep snowmobiles and ATVs running. Antifreeze is especially poisonous for wildlife.

Some ski/snowboard waxes contain perfluorochemicals (PFCs). Per ski, the amount of PFCs is probably negligible but multiply that but several thousand skiers at a resort and they start to add up.

It is also important to remember that in many communities, today’s powder is next summer’s drinking water. The litter dropped or poured out along those high mountain trails will likely wash down into town this spring.

The same "leave no trace" principles that campers adhere to during the summer should be followed during the winter too, at the resorts and in the backcountry.

A few years ago the National Ski Area Association adopted an environmental charter, "Sustainable Slopes," that deals with everything from grounds maintenance and snowmaking to printing trail maps on biodegradable paper. It’s time for those who play on those slopes to follow through with their own winter environmental credo and to encourage their friends to do the same.

Here are a few things you can do: Pack out whatever you pack in, use a tarp to catch oil spills and ski or snowboard wax shavings and give wildlife extra consideration as they are probably low on calories.

Most of all, keep in mind that the fresh, untrammeled beauty of winter is fragile and requires everyone’s commitment to maintain.

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