Working vacation |

Working vacation

Janet Urquhart
Jack Elsey, 16, of Grosse Pointe, Mich., works on splitting a log as other Sierra Club members clear brush from a path near Elk Camp in Snowmass Friday morning.Paul Conrad/The Aspen Times

It wasn’t the typical Aspen/Snowmass vacation.A group of visitors from around the country showed up in Snowmass this week, where they spent their days outdoors, wielding picks and shovels, swinging axes and slapping mosquitos.At the end of a day’s toils, they headed not for a shower, but back to camp, where they shared in cooking and dishwashing duties, and another night in their less-than-luxurious tent accommodations.And, they paid for the privilege.A group of some 20 campers, youths and adults, signed on for the Sierra Club service project, one of countless opportunities to work in the woods offered to club members. The fee, to cover food costs primarily, was $370 for adults and $270 for youths.On the Elk Camp side of the Snowmass Ski Area, the group built a nature trail through in-bounds wooded terrain and improved an existing snowshoe trail for summer use. The improvements will facilitate the Aspen Skiing Co.’s plans for a summer hub in the area of Cafe Suzanne, the mid-mountain restaurant.

It was local resident Linda Gerdenich’s 10th Sierra Club project, and her ninth as a project leader.”We have so much work out here that needs to be done and the Sierra Club has people who want to work,” she explained. “My job is to put them together.”For some in the volunteer labor force, it was a family vacation. For virtually everyone, it was their first Sierra Club service project.”This is our vacation,” said Missouri resident Mark Milanick, participating along with his wife, son and brother-in-law. “It’s nice to feel like you’ve done something. And it’s a great way to meet people in a different context.””Missouri is hot, and its highest peak is 1,752 feet, I think,” added 11-year-old Bill Milanick. “This is fun. You’re doing stuff with other people and you’re not being lazy.”(The group did have a chance to goof off in town on Wednesday – their day off.)

Judy Lamb, a Fort Lauderdale, Fla., resident, was on her fifth service trip, making her the only veteran, but for Gerdenich and an assistant crew leader.Cutting trails on the slopes of Snowmass is more pleasurable than sitting around in the heat/humidity of Florida right now, Lamb said. Plus, she enjoys the multigenerational aspect of Sierra Club projects and hanging out with the teenagers.”It’s wonderful fun,” she said.Jamie Elsey, of Grosse Pointe, Mich., found the work more strenuous than selling construction products – his usual pursuit.”It would be nice if you had more air here,” he admitted. “Yesterday, I ran out of gas. I did a lot of shovel holding.”Elsey arrived with three of his children, who were seeing the Rockies and camping for the first time. The group had access to Cafe Suzanne for meal preparation, as well as its restrooms, however, so it was sort of camping-lite.

“It’s a nice way to ease into the camping experience,” said 16-year-old Jack Elsey. “I definitely would like to do something like this again.”Janet Urquhart’s e-mail address is– see Sierra Club on page A7– continued from page A1

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