Local Spotlight: Scott and Beau Toepfer, stewards of the great outdoors
Father-son duo clears bags of trash from Snowmass open space; still more work to be done
You could say that Beau Toepfer knows his way around Snowmass Village. After all, the 15-year-old has lived on the Anderson Ranch campus for the past 13 years — nearly his entire life.
So when he and his friend, 16-year-old Nicolai Trainor, discovered an abandoned camp while exploring the open space near home base, Toepfer said he was surprised to find that something had existed so close, for so long, without him realizing it.
“From the way the sun hits it and the way it’s built, you don’t know anything’s there,” Toepfer said. “It caught me off-guard that that had been there all the time I’ve lived on Anderson Ranch.”
The site was strewn with waste covered in a layer of forest debris: an old lawn chair, broken glass, at least five forms of plastic trash, a collapsed treehouse. Toepfer shared the findings with his dad, 65-year-old Breckenridge resident Scott Toepfer, and the two soon hatched an idea to clear out the space as volunteers with the town’s Parks, Recreation and Trails department.
“Especially with where we live in such a wonderful area, that trash just doesn’t really belong out there,” Beau said. “It kind of ruins the landscape, in a sense, because it’s kind of taking away natural beauty.”
In just one late-October cleanup, the pair packed out four 55-gallon trash bags packed with detritus from the camp, plus the lawn chair and other objects too large to fit in a bag. The cleanup took two trips each from father and son, with repeat visits for future cleanups likely.
“It would be really nice to never find stuff like this again,” Scott said, but the unfortunate reality means that there’s still more work to be done. The older Toepfer is a longtime steward of outdoor spaces; the retired avalanche forecaster has also spent more than two decades as a ‘hutmaster’ maintaining backcountry warming huts with the Summit Huts Association.
“I kind of have this thought in my head that it brings me good karma,” Scott said. “I go on an adventure or something like that, I will have good weather and good luck if I have this karma of picking up other people’s garbage from out in the woods.”
Scott hopes that education about mountain ethics — and the promise of good karma — will encourage more adventurers to be mindful of the trash they produce and consider packing out more than they pack into the mountains. Preserving the appearance of a natural, untouched landscape is paramount to the experience, he said.
“There’s something special about being out in our environment,” Scott said. “Even if you know that other people have been there, there’s no sign that they’ve been there. … It feels much more special than if you’re out there and there’s a cigarette butt, there’s a plastic water bottle, there’s a fire ring.”
Beau agrees. For him, care for the environment and personal responsibility are part of the outdoor experience. To continue his own mission of outdoor preservation in Snowmass village, he plans to continue site cleanups in nearby open space as weather allow.
“It just isn’t the same to know that people have been there before you,” Beau said. “Trash just brings that to another level because of those people — you see the people that have been there before you just don’t care about it.”
To volunteer with the town’s Parks, Recreation and Trails department, email Parks and Trails Manager Starr Jamison at email@example.com or call 970-922-2249. Opportunities range from track pickups and recreation path cleanups to corridor clearing and wood staining.
Kaya Williams can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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