Later, litter: Major progress in stopping sled trash at Spooner Summit

League to Save Lake Tahoe
November 15, 2023

Food wrappers, plastic bottles, broken sleds, and diapers. Each winter, plastic trash and human waste pile up at Tahoe’s unmanaged, unofficial sledding hills. Nowhere is the pollution problem worse in the winter than the sled hill at Spooner Summit. 

At least as far back as 2017, League volunteers, Take Care Tahoe and other partner groups have rallied to clean up hundreds – and sometimes thousands – of pounds of litter left at Spooner Summit each year. For those who donate their time and energy cleaning up the mess, it’s a labor of love. 

A Tahoe Blue Crew leader and the sled litter she gathered

A Tahoe Blue Crew leader and the sled litter she gathered

“It doesn’t matter what day of the week it is, I’m out here taking care of the place I love most,” said Geoff Miller, a cleanup volunteer and leader of one of the League’s Tahoe Blue Crews. “I don’t mind devoting my time and energy to bringing this place back to how beautiful it is naturally.” 

“I kind of look at this as a reverse treasure hunt,” said Ongkar Khalsa, leader of Team Uppaway, a Tahoe Blue Crew. “I look at this Tahoe area, Lake Tahoe, as a treasure. And so, when I go out picking up trash, it’s like I’m leaving a treasure behind.” 

To get an idea of how serious the winter litter problem is at Spooner Summit, here are a few stats: 

During the winter of 2020/21, a single Tahoe Blue Crew, Team Uppaway, collected 2,000 pounds of trash from Spooner Summit. And that wasn’t all of it. Other volunteers, along with the fine folks from the Clean Tahoe Program, collected another 1,000 pounds. 

To tackle the sled hill’s litter problem, the League paid for a dumpster and two portable toilets to live at the unofficial Spooner sled hill for two consecutive winters, 2021/22 and 2022/23.  

And lo and behold, it worked! In 2021/22, Team Uppaway collected only 126 pounds of trash from the site. The dumpster and toilets intercepted 2,000 pounds of would-be litter. 

A dumpster and two portable toilets in the snow.

Facilities like these at Spooner Summit help prevent litter at popular winter recreation sites.

Clearly, Spooner Summit needs better facilities. For three years, the League persistently lobbied the site’s managers – the Nevada Department of Transportation and USDA Forest Service – to take steps to fight litter.  

Persistence pays off. This winter (December ‘23 – April ‘24), the Nevada Department of Transportation is paying for a dumpster, two portable toilets and litter collection by the Clean Tahoe Program! 

Thank you to NDOT and the Clean Tahoe Program for taking action to fight litter in the Basin. Thank you to the Tahoe Fund and Take Care Tahoe, our collaborators in the Tahoe sled corral program, for their dedication to the cause. Most of all, thank you to the Tahoe Blue Crews and all volunteers for your commitment and passion. You truly Keep Tahoe Blue. 

Our team at the League will keep an eye on the sled hill at Spooner Summit. And we’ll continue organizing opportunities for Tahoe-lovers to clean up winter litter hotspots. Sign up for our emails, check our events page, and follow us on social media to join in. 

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