Rafting – FAQ

Why should I go rafting with Sage?TX

With the combination of our three convenient locations near the rivers we run, our brand new equipment, super fun guides, and our 40 years experience here in the Vail Valley, we guarantee you will be 110% satisfied with your Colorado whitewater rafting trip. Come see for yourself why we’re one of the best whitewater rafting companies in Colorado.

Do you provide a wetsuit?TX

Yes, in fact we provide everything at NO EXTRA COST: helmet, wetsuit, splash jacket, splash pants, PFD, wetsuit booties, and neoprene gloves for the real cold days.

When is the rafting season/best time to raft in Colorado?

The season starts Mid May and goes through the end of September usually.
Gore Creek and the Eagle River are spring only rafting, usually Mid May through Early to Mid July. Here is a useful video to see our river seasonality: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hCfWjj_yXY4

What should I bring rafting?

We will equip you with all the necessary cold water rafting and safety equipment. Here’s what to wear white water rafting in Colorado: a swimsuit, sunscreen, and if you have glasses, wear croakies with them – there is always a chance you will swim and lose your glasses. Also bring cash to tip your guide, and a change of clothes is nice after the trip.

Is tipping customary?

Gratuity is never expected but always appreciated!

Do I need previous rafting experience?

No, we offer trips for all levels of rafting, experienced or not, from ages 2 through 100! We’ll paddle you through some of the best beginner white water rafting in Colorado. For higher class rafting swimming may be required.

Will I swim?

Possibly, and we don’t charge extra for the out of boat experience!

Is transportation from my accommodation in Vail or Beaver Creek provided?TX

Yes, on some trips, No on others. Be sure to check what you are booking. Some of our trips have you meeting at our river outposts. We have outposts on the Arkansas River, the Eagle River, and the Colorado River.

How many people will there be per raft?

Our small boats that are used on most class III, IV, and V hold 6 people plus the guide. On the class I-II sections the boats hold 8-10 ppl.

How do I make a rafting reservation?

Call our friendly office and set up your trip, 970-476-3700 or book here on the website.

What is the cancellation policy?TX

48 Hour Cancellation Policy – Any Cancellation within 48 Hours is non-refundable.

How far in advance do I need to make reservations?TX

As early as you like. It is a first come, first serve basis, so reservations guarantee you a spot on the river.

What if it rains (or snows)?TX

We go rafting no matter what the weather is doing. The saying in Colorado is, “if you don’t like the weather, wait ten minutes!” Rafting is a “get wet” activity anyways, we have all the proper equipment to keep you warm whether the sun is out or hiding!

What else do I need to know? Is there any kind of criteria for rafting?TX

Yes, here is a good thing to read before considering rafting:

All participants in the party understand that rafting is an activity that requires involvement.

Each person will be paddling, using muscles in their legs, core, shoulders, and arms. Participants must have the ability to follow instructions. Falling out of the raft is a possibility. This is not Disneyland where rafts are on tracks in the river. Whitewater Rafting takes teamwork from the guide and the paddle crew. This is an ADVENTURE!

an unusual and exciting, typically hazardous, experience or activity.

Paddling skills, whitewater swimming techniques, and more will be taught during the trip.

Though you do not need to be an athlete to participate in rafting, it should be understood that some physical exertion will be required during this activity. After the briefing and paddling orientation, participants will have the opportunity to forego the rafting adventure, and will receive a full refund if that is their choice. Such participant may have to ride along in the shuttle vehicle until the end of the trip duration, Sage may not have the ability to return guest to their transportation or accommodation.

You should ask yourself a few questions before booking a rafting trip:

1.) Can I be in a seated position with no back rest for up to 2 hours at a time, and balance on the raft in this position, using my feet as anchor points in the boat?

2.) If I end up falling into very cold water, will I be able to deal with it in a collected manner, physically and mentally?

3.) Can I assist fellow passengers back into the raft if they have fallen out by grabbing the shoulder straps of their PFD and pulling them back into the raft?

4.) Can I have a great time enjoying mother nature and its rivers, at the water levels I may see, low or high, on the day I go rafting?

5.) Will I respect my guide and fellow rafters around me in all my behaviors?

If you answered yes to these questions, you are probably a good fit for a whitewater adventure!

Each participant will be required to read and sign a release of liability, assumption of risk, and indemnification agreement before being allowed on the water.

What are rapids like? Is there a description of different classifications of rafting?TX


There are six categories, each referred to as “Grade” or “Class” followed by a number. The scale is not linear, nor is it fixed. For instance, there can be difficult grade twos, easy grade threes, and so on. The grade of a river may (and usually does) change with the level of flow. Often a river or rapid will be given a numerical grade, and then a plus (+) or minus (-) to indicate if it is in the higher or lower end of the difficulty level. While a river section may be given an overall grading, it may contain sections above that grade, often noted as features, or conversely, it may contain sections of lower graded water as well. Details of portages may be given if these pose specific challenges. A summary of river classifications as presented by the American Whitewater Association:[1]

Class I:
Fast moving water with riffles and small waves. Few obstructions, all obvious and easily missed with little training. Risk to swimmers is slight; self-rescue is easy. Black Fork Mohican River.jpg
Class II:
Straightforward rapids with wide, clear channels which are evident without scouting. Occasional maneuvering may be required, but rocks and medium-sized waves are easily avoided by trained paddlers. Swimmers are seldom injured and group assistance, while helpful, is seldom needed. Rapids that are at the upper end of this difficulty range are designated Class II+. Madawaska River Whitney.JPG
Class III:
Rapids with moderate, irregular waves which may be difficult to avoid and which can swamp an open canoe. Complex maneuvers in fast current and good boat control in tight passages or around ledges are often required; large waves or strainers may be present but are easily avoided. Strong eddies and powerful current effects can be found, particularly on large-volume rivers. Scouting is advisable for inexperienced parties. Injuries while swimming are rare; self-rescue is usually easy but group assistance may be required to avoid long swims. Rapids that are at the lower or upper end of this difficulty range are designated Class III- or Class III+ respectively. WataugaTheBigHole.jpg
Class IV:
Intense, powerful but predictable rapids requiring precise boat handling in turbulent water. Depending on the character of the river, it may feature large, unavoidable waves and holes or constricted passages demanding fast maneuvers under pressure. A fast, reliable eddy turn may be needed to initiate maneuvers, scout rapids, or rest. Rapids may require “must make” moves above dangerous hazards. Scouting may be necessary the first time down. Risk of injury to swimmers is moderate to high, and water conditions may make self-rescue difficult. Group assistance for rescue is often essential but requires practiced skills. For kayakers, a strong roll is highly recommended. Rapids that are at the lower or upper end of this difficulty range are designated Class IV- or Class IV+ respectively. Rafting PescadosRiverClassIV VeracruzMexico.jpg
Class V:
Extremely long, obstructed, or very violent rapids which expose a paddler to added risk. Drops may contain large, unavoidable waves and holes or steep, congested chutes with complex, demanding routes. Rapids may continue for long distances between pools, demanding a high level of fitness. What eddies exist may be small, turbulent, or difficult to reach. At the high end of the scale, several of these factors may be combined. Scouting is recommended but may be difficult. Swims are dangerous, and rescue is often difficult even for experts. Proper equipment, extensive experience, and practiced rescue skills are essential.Because of the large range of difficulty that exists beyond Class IV, Class V is an open-ended, multiple-level scale designated by class 5.0, 5.1, 5.2, etc. Each of these levels is an order of magnitude more difficult than the last. That is, going from Class 5.0 to Class 5.1 is a similar order of magnitude as increasing from Class IV to Class 5.0. Green wall.JPG
Class VI:
Extreme and Exploratory Rapids
Runs of this classification are rarely attempted and often exemplify the extremes of difficulty, unpredictability and danger. The consequences of errors are severe and rescue may be impossible. For teams of experts only, at favorable water levels, after close personal inspection and taking all precautions. After a Class VI rapid has been run many times, its rating may be changed to an appropriate Class 5.x rating.

What are some river hazards? What are some river terms to be aware of?TX


Cubic feet per second is a volume of water measure, which is commonly used to describe most rivers. It is measured by a water gauging device.


Protected from the main current, these smooth sections of water are found behind obstacles (e.g., boulders or bends in the river).


When water falls over an object (e.g., a rock or ledge), the falling water creates a depression. Surrounding surface water rushes to fill in the depression and forms a hole. These can sometimes be very strong and can suck a person or boat toward the bottom of the river.


An obstacle in the river that allows water to pass through, but not a person or boat (e.g., a tree with its limbs partially submerged).


A series of standing waves perpendicular to the main current.


A feature where water flows under an overhanging cliff, and swimming into this would be very dangerous or deadly. Picture an underwater room in the cliff or rock that has no exit.


Easily avoidable if you keep your feet away from the river bottom, and your body horizontal if you are swimming in water that has any current. A foot entrapment is where a persons foot gets wedged in the river bottom, usually in rocks, and the current then forces the persons head under water.