Opinion Pieces

Forecast: Litter with a chance of snow

Tahoe Daily Tribune
March 5, 2021

Meteorologists love to get our hopes up for huge storms and heavy snows in the Lake Tahoe Basin. More often than not, their optimistic forecasts fall flat. What is promised as 14-21 inches ends up as no more than a light dusting — not even worth getting out the shovel. Locals just shrug.

But whether Tahoe sees sunshine, snow, sleet or rain, you can always count on fresh accumulations of litter in the basin. Coming across trash on Tahoe’s slopes, beaches, trails and streets is far more disappointing than missing a big storm. Unlike the weather, litter is something we can control, and in doing so, Keep Tahoe Blue.

While pollution in the basin is a big, diverse and complex issue, snow throws a bright spotlight on one of the largest winter-time culprits: plastic sleds. Like the plastic utensils, sauce packets and to-go containers we can’t seem to escape during the pandemic, plastic sleds are basically single-use, unlike the indestructible wood and metal versions I used as a kid in South Lake. With today’s sleds,it only takes one wrong bounce for that electric yellow disc to explode in a hundred neon-colored shards.

It only takes one bad bounce for a plastic sled to explode into several pieces.
Remember, plastic doesn’t biodegrade. It just breaks down into smaller and smaller pieces. If those pieces aren’t picked up, they travel downhill — just like that sled — and eventually wind up in Lake Tahoe. This doesn’t mean sledding is bad; it simply means everyone needs to practice good #slediquette to protect our Jewel of the Sierra.

If a customer, a new acquaintance you just met, or family members here from out of town are planning a sledding adventure, remind them to practice good #slediquette by following this simple checklist.

    • Rent a sled. Or buy a more durable wood or metal one.
    • Only sled at designated hills. Spare Tahoe’s sensitive environment.
    • Bring home everything you brought with you. Yes, even those tiny straw wrappers.
    • Wear a mask, stay six feet apart and protect public health.
    • Avoid a parking ticket (they’re no fun). Don’t park where you shouldn’t.


And most importantly, be safe and have fun. By following these tips you’ll ensure that the next adventurer can have fun too.

Take Care Tahoe has excellent resources for your next small hill adventure, including links to Tahoe’s official sled hills and sled rental locations: TakeCareTahoe.org/sleds.

If you want to do more than spread the good word about litter prevention, it’s easy. Help us Keep Tahoe Blue by joining our #TahoeBlueGooder family in three simple steps: 1) Visit CitizenScienceTahoe.org to download the free app, 2) pick up any litter you find while you’re out and about, and 3) use the app to tell us what kind of trash you found and where.

Your reports give us the hard data to push for policies that will prevent litter altogether. To get even more involved, visit keeptahoeblue.org/tbc.

As people who cherish Tahoe, we all have a role to play in protecting it. Practicing good #slediquette is one small but important step toward preserving this special place, so our kids and grandkids can know and enjoy its beauty too. Together we will Keep Tahoe Blue.

Darcie Goodman Collins, PhD, is CEO of the League to Save Lake Tahoe.

Read the article at the Tahoe Daily Tribune.

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