I grew up here; I moved to Donner Summit in the late ’50s. As a child, I would often behold the occasional “piece of art” on a rock on old 40, visible from the road, sometimes so close that you could park the car and touch it. The designs would profess someone’s love for another, a heart with scratched initials here or there. Back then I didn’t consider it to be graffiti. Back then it wasn’t so prolific, and these “artists” certainly weren’t scribbling everywhere.

Nowadays, if you want to see this kind of “art” you can just walk over to the ASI building which now houses Sugar Bowl employees (it was the Cal Trans building way back when). And there you go, hundreds of works of “art.” Masking the beautiful granite. All over the historic train sheds. Now, it’s everywhere.


My mom told me hate was a bad word, but I do truly hate this art. I don’t think it’s art, I think it’s the product of some human who was not taught how to love our surroundings.

TAGGED: Someone’s art is someone else’s eyesore. Photo by Court Leve

Several years ago I had many social media discussions with folks I believe were taggers, who, more often than not, defended these actions. It was incredibly frustrating to hear people say they think it’s OK to spread this art all over our mountain.

Graffiti is an expensive problem. According to, the United States spends more than $12 billion a year cleaning up graffiti. Teenaged males were found to be the most common culprits, and those who create graffiti as kids are at an increased risk of other crimes as adults. These vandals often become addicted to creating graffiti.

Summer is the most popular graffiti season, and the statistics database finds that boredom and unemployment are commonly factors in graffiti especially in teens.

Photo by Court Leve

Who thinks this is OK? Who is raising kids to think this is OK?

But those are not even the hard, societal questions, which I cannot seem to find answers to. We need solutions. How do we stop this madness? How do we catch these people? Would they stop if we told them we will paint the entire interior of the tunnels black if there is any more graffiti outside? Would they care?

The statistics database found that if graffiti is removed promptly, reoccurrences decline. I don’t know how we tackle this issue on the summit specifically, but something needs to be done. Some argue that the tunnels are OK to tag, or that we should reserve special designated spots for these “artists,” but I believe this may just lead to more unwanted “artwork” on this beautiful rock I call home.

~ Mitzi Hodges was born in Aspen, Colorado while her dad was stationed in the army near there. She moved to Jackson, Wyoming out of high school, and would come to the area to help with Donner Ski Shop, owned by her parents, in the early ’90s. She now co-owns that shop and runs a snow removal service in Soda Springs.