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Life in the Rockies – Leave No Trace

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Did you know, hiking burns 200 calories per hour for an average 10-year-old. Mountain biking, even more. Add up a day of these activities in the Colorado high country and the sum is a whole lotta Lara bar wrappers, apple cores and plastic bags from the peanut butter and jelly sandwich bags. Not to mention the unmentionable waste that such consumption triggers among outdoor adventurists for both human and canine.


That is just one impact of Rocky Mountain recreation for families to consider when spending their summer at one of the Colorado Ski Country USA (CSCUSA) member resorts or beyond. There’s also the art of approaching—or avoiding—wildlife, and the increasing opportunities to give back while carrying a backpack.


Stories abound of just how much trash piles up in the Himalayan mountains, with volunteers picking up 3 tons in just 2 weeks this May! While the Rocky Mountains have different litter than oxygen tanks and sleeping bags – wrappers, paper products, and other garbage are still an issue here.


“Pack-in, pack-out” is still the time-tested adage around here, and that includes dog poop bags. Families can substantially reduce the risk of leaving paper behind by wrapping snacks in aluminum foil that can be crumpled and recycled at the trailhead.


In the summer, once the skiers and snowboarders have retreated from the slopes, some of the state’s most majestic wildlife appears; elk, bears, moose and more. As the experts at Colorado Parks & Wildlife reminds us, our elk population is larger than that of any other state or Canadian province. But just because a herd of harmless-looking, fuzzy-headed creatures happen to wander into a resort town, that doesn’t mean they need a beer and a burger, or any other human food for that matter. Hikers and bikers should strictly avoid feeding any wildlife and should be prepared to encounter animals while on the trail.


If wildlife gets too close, Colorado Parks & Wildlife reminds kids to be “SMART”:



Make yourself look big

Announce firmly, “Leave me alone!”


Tell an adult


Once families have mastered the practices of ‘Leave No Trace’, they can do even better by making a mark—a positive one — by volunteering. Ski areas offer year-round opportunities for all ages, and Volunteers for Outdoor Colorado seeks kids as young as 6 to help restore mountain trails and other natural areas.


“It’s a good chance for doing good while creating bonds”, says Boulder-based author Jeff Blumenfeld. “For parents reluctant to allow their children to travel out of the United States alone,” he writes in his new book, Travel with Purpose, “many are considering taking their children along on multi-week trips to the Rockies that are more educational than a typical vacation, and as such offers opportunities to instill important volunteer values.”






Sarah Tuff Dunn

Sarah Tuff Dunn recently moved to Louisville, Colorado, with her husband, Carlton, and their two children, Dillon, 12, and Harper, 10. They’re looking forward to exploring the world-class skiing in Colorado, aided by the Colorado Ski Country 5th and 6th Grade Passport Program. Sarah has been writing professionally for nearly 25 years and her work has appeared in The New York Times, SKI, Skiing, and Powder, among other publications. Read more of Sarah’s stories here and follow along with her Colorado skiing journey here