Vail Colorado: A Summer Playground

Summer Rafting near Vail, Colorado

Feeling a tinge of cabin fever? We’ve got you covered. This summer, we will be back to enjoying our favorite summer activities here in Vail, Colorado. Just minutes from both Vail and Beaver Creek, we’re ready for whitewater rafting, fly fishing on the Piney River, side-by-side ATV rides, and horseback rides. Make plans to get busy this summer on your Colorado summer playground!

Summer Rafting Trips

We have 40 years of experience here in the Vail Valley and we operate from three great locations for each river destination. Our guests enjoy brand new equipment and outstanding river guides that will make your trip both safe and a ton of fun.

Learn more about our rafting trips here.

Summer Whitewater Rafting Trip

Side-by-Side ATV Trips

Come drive your own ATV as we explore a 6,000-acre private mountain with an adjoining 14,000 acres of public land near the Castle Peak Wilderness Study Area. We’re talking about an expansive chunk of wild country where you can feel the wind in your hair.

Learn more about the ATV trips here.

Side-by-Side ATV Trips near Vail

Guided Fly Fishing Trips

When you fish with us, you get exclusive access to some of the best water in Colorado. The Piney River begins high in the Rugged Gore range and flows through a wilderness canyon to the Piney Valley Ranch. Here’s we have private access to seven miles of incredible trout water. Sage Fly Fishing guests are the only anglers on this sprawling 30,000-acre ranch. The experience here is simply unbeatable.

Learn more about our fly fishing trips here.

Fly Fishing on the Piney River near Vail

Colorado Horseback Riding

Here at Sage, we rarely stick to trails and we avoid riding nose-to-tail. Come explore this 6,000-acre private mountain with breathtaking views of Castle Peak and the Vail Valley.  Ride through fragrant Sage meadows, towering aspen groves, and dense pine forests. This is like no other horseback ride you’ve ever experienced!

Learn more about our horseback rides.

Colorado Snow Update & White Water Rafting Forecast

Summer Season Rafting

Well, it has been an awesome winter season here in the Vail Valley. Even a global pandemic can’t stop all these smiles! Sage owner Darryl Bangert said it best, “COVID has led to a huge demand to get outside and reconnect with nature,” he said. “Seeing our guests come alive during these trips is very rewarding for our staff.”

An outdoor snowmobile adventure is the ultimate socially distanced activity and we have excellent safety protocols in place. Snowmobiling throughout this season has been a ton of fun. Recent storms have led to great snow conditions. And now, we’re excited that spring is around the corner. Before we know it, we will be making the transition from snowmobiling to rafting season!

Snowmobile Tour in Vail, Colorado

Colorado’s White Water Rafting Season

As we look forward to spring and the summer rafting season, we can’t help but get excited. This winter was unique with big early-season storms during the late fall – followed by a relatively dry period around the holidays. Fortunately, we’ve had a snowy February and early March. Snowpack across the state is catching up. Lots of snow on the mountains means great rafting conditions ahead!

Gore Creek and Eagle River Rafting Conditions

Right here in the Colorado River basin, the current snowpack is about 85% of normal with more spring storms in the forecast. With a near-average snowpack in the high country, we can expect good early season rafting on Gore Creek and the Eagle River, which are some of Colorado’s best early summer trips.

In fact, when the Eagle River is at its peak, it’s some of the best whitewater in the country. But what makes the Eagle River is unique, is the steady downward gradient. The upper section from Minturn to Avon features a consistent elevation drop, essentially creating a 10-mile long wave train.

If you’ve never experienced Gore Creek or the Eagle River, don’t wait – come experience it this year!

Colorado White Water Rafting Trip in March

Arkansas River Rafting Conditions

Meanwhile, over in the Arkansas River basin, the snowpack currently sits about 90% of normal. This is the most famous stretch of whitewater in Colorado for good reason. Once the spring thaw begins, we’re in for a memorable summer of whitewater rafting on the Ark.

The world-famous Pine Creek and Numbers sections of the Arkansas River boast some of the best class IV and V whitewater rafting in the country. Further downstream, Browns Canyon National Monument offers a trip through an incredibly scenic gorge with 10 miles of class III rapids. Add to this a backdrop of 14,000-foot peaks and rocky desert landscapes, and it’s easy to see why the Ark is a popular rafting destination.

The 2020 rafting season in Colorado is shaping up to be a great one. If you’re planning a trip to Colorado this year, be sure and reserve dates early for your whitewater adventure.

To learn more, visit our Rafting Page. If you have questions or to book a trip, please call us at 970-476-3700 or contact us online.

The Snowcats of Sage Part 2: How to Operate a Snowcat

Snowcat Grooming

One of the things that make our snowmobile trips among the best in Colorado, is our fleet of snowcats and our grooming operation. Here on this 6,000-acre private mountain, we enjoy an incredible trail system of custom-designed snowmobile routes, all maintained for ideal riding conditions.

In case you missed the first part in this series, go check it out here. In this second part, we’re talking with Sage Outdoor Adventures owner and director of operations, Cole Bangert, on what it takes to drive a snowcat.

Driving a Snowcat

What’s Happening Behind the Wheel of a Snowcat

If you’ve ever seen snowcats grooming a ski hill, driving up and down the mountain, you might have no idea what goes into operating and maintaining these machines. And it’s probably more than you think!

According to Cole, the blade on the front of the machine is the most crucial part, that is the workhorse of the cat – of course aside from the motor and hydraulic pumps that drive it. But the more you can do with the blade, the better.

“The blade is made to roll snow and introduce heat into the snowpack through the rolling motion,” Cole told us. “Then, the snow passes underneath the tracks that pack the fresh snow downward. Finally, the tiller on the back of the machine reprocesses the snow and the plastic flaps leave the nice corduroy lines that you’re used to seeing on the ski hill. In one pass, going about 8 to 10 miles an hour, you can take a rough road or a very sloppy road, and turn it into a nice and firm, smooth surface.”

Grooming Snowmobile Trails for Pristine Driving

How much does a Snowcat Cost

Aside from the initial upfront cost of buying a snowcat, the expense of putting them on the snow is pretty high.

“We estimate that it costs about $400 every time you start and run the snowcat, even if it’s only for an hour,” Cole explained. “Of course the hourly expense goes up the longer that you’re out grooming. If you are grooming a lot, that means there’s tons of snow on the ground and that is a very good feeling. But it’s also a big cost to keep up with.”

Why so expensive to operate? A number of factors drive up the cost. From complicated parts to rough winter conditions, it’s not easy to keep a snowcat on the snow.

“Snowcats are mighty machines in a small package,” Cole added. “They run off diesel motors, usually Mercedes or Cummins diesel motors. And all the new snowcats also have an EPA-required regeneration system on the exhaust that tends to be very problematic.

“What’s more, the hydraulic pumps that power the tiller, the blade, and the drive tracks are extremely temperamental. Even one small droplet of water entering that hydraulic pump system can destroy a $35,000 hydraulic pump.”

Sage's Snowcat

Consider the fact that snowcats operate in sub-zero temperatures almost all the time. When you add very cold temperatures, very high pressures, and small moving parts, along with lots of snow and ice, it all adds up to frequent problems.

“Overall though, snowcats are very cool tools,” Cole emphasized. “And honestly, they are quite fun to drive.”

How to Drive a Snowcat

Make no mistake; it takes a very skilled driver. When driving a snowcat, many things are happening all at the same time.

“If you can pat your head and rub your tummy, then you’re a fraction of the way to being able to drive a snowcat,” said Cole. “You’ve got your drive sticks on the left-hand throttle, with your right foot on the windshield wiper and your left foot controlling the blade and tiller operations, while your right hand is on the joystick. And all the while, you’re trying not to run into trees and rocks or get stuck…and don’t forget the big one – trying not to dig holes!”

Driving a Snowcat takes a lot of focus

An easy way to spot a rookie snowcat driver is if you go on a trail that has the feel of a rollercoaster, up and down, up and down.

“It’s important to look ahead, judge your momentum, the snowpack, and snow density,” Cole explained. “You must cut where you need to cut, deposit where you need to deposit, but not overdo it because if you continually dig a hole and then deposit and then dig another hole and deposit, you’re just making one big roller-coaster trail. And it’s very difficult to fix once this has happened.”

It may be complicated. And it’s certainly not easy. But there’s no question that we’re extremely proud of our grooming operations here at Sage. In large part, it’s what makes our private mountain experience a fantastic one for our guests.

If you’d like to learn more about our guided snowmobile trips, please take a few minutes to look through the information on our Snowmobiling Page, and don’t hesitate to contact us with questions. We’d love to help you plan an unforgettable backcountry mountain experience!

The Famed Snowmobile Operator

The Snowcats of Sage Part 1: How to Maintain a Mountain

Snowmobile Trail Grooming Equipment

Here at Sage, we’re extremely proud of our fleet of professional snow grooming equipment. Not only do we offer an incredible variety of snowmobile trails across a 6,000-acre private mountain. But we also take great care in our trail design and grooming operations. Come ride with us on this mountain and we guarantee to put a big grin on your face.

While most snowmobile guide services rely on shared Forest Service trails with very little control over the conditions, we’re fortunate to operate on a private mountain larger than Vail ski area. Here, guests of Sage Outdoor Adventures have the whole place to themselves.

Grooming Mountain Snowmobile Trails

How to Maintain Groomed Mountain Trails

Operating on a private mountain means we’re able to custom-design our trail systems. And as soon as the snow starts flying, our snowcats keep those trails in excellent riding condition. But grooming trails and operating a snowcat it’s not as easy as turning a key and hitting a throttle. It takes practice and some serious snow-know-how.

We recently caught up with Sage Owner and Director of Operations, Cole Bangert, to talk about snowcats and grooming…and why it’s harder than it looks!

Sage’s Mountain Grooming Equipment

“This snowcat (pictured below) is a smallish-sized cat to fit our unique trails,” Cole began. “The size of this cat allows us to groom trails through aspen groves and in some unique places. We do have a bigger snowcat as well, like the size you would see up on the ski hill. We use that larger cat for our play meadows and some of the bigger trails with deep snowdrifts and more powder.”

Mountain Grooming Equipment

The snowcat pictured here is a Prinoth Husky. Sage purchased it brand new for $215,000.

Operating a Snowcat: Trees, Trails, and lots of Snow

“But getting the equipment is only the first step,” Cole told us. “Having someone capable of driving it is a whole other thing. These things have 12-way blades, plus the tiller operation. Once you master those, there’s the trick of actually driving it without hitting trees. Grooming trails in a snowcat takes multi-tasking to a new level.”

It certainly isn’t easy or cheap to operate a fleet of snowcats. But it’s a necessary investment to keep these snowmobile trails in prime condition.

“When grooming, the driver is always making assessments based on a variety of factors,” Cole explained. “You have to consider snow deposition, density, and wind direction. A good cat driver must also consider ‘snow farming’ or where we increase snow depth for future use. Whenever we’re pushing drifts around, we’re planning ahead for the springtime so that we can maximize trail depth as the days get longer and temperatures get warmer.”

Grooming Snowmobile Trails

These practices make for great snowmobile experiences throughout the winter, and they help extend our snowmobile season into the beautiful spring months here in the Colorado high country. There’s no doubt that driving a snowcat and grooming trails takes practice and skill. A great driver takes all these factors into account, all without running into trees along the way!

But according to Cole, the real secret and all you need to be the world’s best cat operator is right here:

What it takes to be a snowcat operator: a donut and coffee

If you’d like to learn more about our guided snowmobile trips, please take a few minutes to explore our snowmobiling information. We’d love to help you plan a memorable backcountry snowmobile adventure here in Colorado!

The Best Snowmobile Experience in the Vail Valley

It’s a bold statement. But we will gladly make it. We truly believe that we offer the very best snowmobile experience in the Vail Valley, period.

Make no bones about it; this high country snowmobile tour is not like any other.  What’s the difference-maker? It’s that we operate on a beautiful and historic private mountain, an area larger than Vail Ski area.

Family Snowmobile Tour

Why is Snowmobiling on a Private Mountain in Vail Special?

But boasting about ‘a private mountain’ may not mean anything at first glance. So what does that mean in reality?

Permanent and Comfortable Structures

First, most snowmobile operations are based on Forest Service land, where they aren’t permitted to build permanent structures. That means you’ve got a port-o-potty on the side of a logging road.

Here at Sage, we are blessed with a comfortable base. Our guests arrive to a cozy lodge and our base of operations. You’ll be able to prepare for your snowmobile adventure in comfort. And yes, we have real restrooms!

Customized Snowmobiling Trails

But the benefits of a private mountain experience don’t end there. We’ve got a lineup of serious grooming equipment and more than 100 miles of professionally groomed trails! Operations on Forest Service land are forced into existing designated trails and don’t have the ability to customize rides for snowmobile tours.

Sage Outdoor Adventures Snowmobiles

Our many varied trails were designed and are maintained for snowmobiling. They aren’t just old logging roads. You’ll experience open sage flats, giant stands of aspen, winding turns through spruce forests, and jaw-dropping views from the edge of the Eagle River canyon, tumbling more than 2,400 feet below you.

We also groom and maintain 10 sprawling meadows, specifically for playing on snowmobiles! With 6,000 acres to explore and backcountry views of six different mountain ranges, it doesn’t take long to realize why this really is the very best snowmobile experience in the Vail valley.

For options and pricing, please check out our Snowmobiling Page. You can also call us at 970-476-3700 or contact us online.

Snowmobiling in Vail Colorado