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Schneider: sustainable scavenger

FRISCO – Mark Schneider didn’t plan to live in Summit County when he came here with friends in 1997.

“I came to mountain bike for one month,” the 29-year-old St. Louis native said. “I had a job waiting for me back home as a firefighter.”

But things don’t always go as planned.



“Little did I know there was a place that wrapped up so many of the things that I considered mere dreams,” Schneider said. “This is the greatest place – it has so much that I’ve looked for.”

His friends returned to the Midwest, but he stayed on.



Schneider lived in a tent behind Copper for the first eight weeks. Since then, Frisco has been his primary residence, though there were stints in Leadville and Blue River.

Frisco has “a different character – it’s the quaint mountain town, without the rat race of (Breckenridge),” he said. “Breck can be such a city.”

Many say the beauty and the mountains of Summit County is what drew them here, but for Schneider, it was the vitality of the people.

“It was like an extension of my youth,” he said. “When I saw 70-year-old people that were so healthy, I knew I would develop into this area.”

He loves that he can bring his dog everywhere he goes, “which has made her such a young dog.”

Schneider also loves the county’s “colorful people.”

Though Summit County is not known for its diversity, Schneider said he’s always felt the people here are more accepting of others, even if their lifestyles and ideas are not mainstream.

“People are very accepting and forgiving with one’s personal desire for forging (his or her) own way.”

The path Schneider is creating for himself is not one many travel.

He performs custom tile installations as a trade, but his love is scavenging building materials and studying sustainable building.

“The amount they remodel in Summit County – there’s such a waste of building materials.”

Unafraid to ask for old building materials that are on their way to the landfill, Schneider already has a collection of materials for the home he plans to build one day, including redwood decking scraps, about 1,600 square feet of metal roofing, more than 50 double-pane, sealed windows and 10 sliding glass doors.

He admits it’s become more than a hobby.

“It’s an obsession, absolutely,” Schneider said. “Let’s call it a passion, though. I’ve used Summit County as a resource for recyclable building materials in an effort to create sustainable and natural housing.”

The home Schneider plans to build for himself will have straw bales for insulation, adobe walls and floors to trap solar heat and solar panels to generate electricity. And, of course, it will be built of recycled building materials.

But it won’t be in Frisco – or Summit County, even. Schneider said he plans to build his house in southern Colorado, where property is more affordable.

Though it is inevitable Schneider will eventually leave Summit County to make his home elsewhere, it seems likely he’ll stay in Colorado, as there are so many things he loves about it.

“I learned to dance in Colorado,” he said. “In Colorado, people aren’t judging you on your groove.”

He also loves it for the ease and safety of hitchhiking, he said. And the snowboarding – particularly the north chute of Buffalo Mountain and the south chute of Quandary Peak.

“One of the greatest gifts life in the mountains has given me is to directly confront the man climbing the mountain parables – one step at a time, breathe deep, keep going, you’ll eventually reach the top. The important part is you’ve identified the mountain.”

Schneider hopes his hobby of scavenging materials and sustainable building will become more than a passion.

“I would love to travel the world and be involved with local, sustainable living practices as true investments,” he said.


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