Colorado Snowpack & What it Means for Summer Rafting

Summer Season Rafting

We’ve enjoyed a fabulous winter season here in the Vail Valley. Snowmobiling has been a ton of fun with excellent snow conditions. But we’re also excited that spring is around the corner. All this snow means we’re going to have an incredible whitewater rafting season!

First, a big thanks to everyone who has joined us this winter on a snowmobile tour! We’ve enjoyed meeting and riding with each of you. Thanks to you, it has been an epic snowmobile season, exploring our private mountain at Castle Peak.

Snowmobile Tour

As we look forward to spring and the summer rafting season, we can’t help but get excited. After a relatively dry winter last year, the Snowpack in the Colorado high country is deep. And that means great rafting conditions ahead!

Currently, statewide snowpack is at 115% of normal levels. Right here in the Colorado River basin, we’re sitting at 113% of normal. With this much snow in the high country, we can expect an extended season for Gore Creek and the Eagle River. With the weather outlook, we expect both the Eagle and Gore Creek to run in prime conditions through mid-July.

When the Eagle River is at its peak, it’s some of the best whitewater in the country. If the prime season on the Eagle ran longer into the summer, it would rival the Arkansas River in use numbers. 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, this will be the year to do it!

Colorado Rafting trip

Meanwhile, over in the Arkansas River basin, snowpack is currently at about 124% of normal. After the spring thaw begins, we’re going to see a long, and memorable summer of whitewater rafting on the Ark.

The world-famous Pine Creek and Numbers sections of the Arkansas 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 2019 rafting season in Colorado is shaping up to be a memorable 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 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 ranch, an area larger than Vail Ski area.

But boasting about ‘a private ranch’ may not mean anything at first glance. So what does that mean in reality? 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 of operations. Our guests arrive to a cozy lodge. You’ll be able to suit up in your snowmobile duds in comfort. And yes, we have real restrooms!

But the benefits of a private ranch 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.

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.

Snowmobile Tour

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

The Summer Season is a Wrap – Time to Think About Snow

Summer Season

Fall is in the air and we are already getting stoked for snowmobiling season here in Colorado! But before we jump straight into winter sports mode, we want to say thank you to everyone for a wonderful summer season!

Thanks to each of our guests to joined us this summer for a whitewater rafting adventure, a side-by-side ATV thrill ride, a memorable day of horseback riding, or some incredible fly fishing. We enjoyed meeting folks from all over the world and it’s truly our greatest pleasure to have the opportunity to share in your adventures. Thank you!

Summer Season Rafting

A big shout out also goes to our summer staff. Without these energetic and outgoing folks, your adventures wouldn’t be possible. We’re proud to have some of the best staff in the business here at Sage Outdoor Adventures. And we are thankful for their hard work this summer!

Our 2018 summer season was very memorable. We enjoyed great weather throughout the summer, perfect for enjoying the beautiful mountain scenery here in the Vail Valley and surrounding areas. These hot summer days were perfect for rafting trips down Gore Creek and the Eagle River, down to the Colorado River and even the Arkansas. All around, it was a fun rafting season.

Side-by-Side ATV Ride

Our horseback riders and side-by-side ATV riders had the opportunity to enjoy plenty of wildflowers and wildlife throughout the summer. There’s no bad time to explore the ranch on horseback or ATV. But when the weather cooperates, it’s very hard to beat.

With the summer season behind us, we can now look forward to snowmobiling and a fun season of winter activities! We plan to open our winter snowmobiling operation in time for Thanksgiving. If you are planning a vacation to Vail or Beaver Creek during the holidays, please give us a call.

These snowmobile rides are a blast. We can easily accommodate families and even large groups. We operate on a large, historic ranch that’s actually larger than Vail ski area! You’ll have this pristine landcape all to yourself, along with its incredible views. Get away from the hustle and bustle of the ski runs, and join us for a backcountry ride through this winter wonderland.

To learn more about our snowmobile trips, please check out our snowmobiling page. For specific availability or details, give us call at 970-476-3700 or send us a message.

See you when the snow falls!

Early Summer Rafting and Runoff Explained

By Cole Bangert

Undammed rivers have a unique quality when the weather warms up and the snow melts. We get to watch the delayed reaction on an hourly basis from our office on the bank of the Eagle River.

Snow accumulates throughout the winter at elevations between 8,000 and 14,000 feet. In the spring, the lowest snow melts first. Waterways become murky and levels are boosted, but not to floatable levels. On cold days, the water level goes down. On warm days is rises, but this fluctuation is minor, since the amount of snow melting at lower elevations is not very substantial early in the spring.

As spring progresses, the deeper snowpack at higher elevations begins to warm and melt. This is the time period when you will see the rivers start to have dramatic changes. The water will be muddy, cold, and fast.

In the Vail Valley, we watch the Eagle River fluctuate on a 12-hour cycle. For example, the river will be at its highest flows at about 2:00 a.m. Just 12 hours prior, that snow was quickly melting during the hottest part the day, around 2:00PM.

As days warm or cool, we can almost always predict what the river levels will do the next day. For example, if the river has been steadily rising for five days, and then we get a cold rain storm, we can predict a drop in river levels the next day.

This often seems backwards to many visitors. Rain should equal higher river levels, right? But here’s what happens: that rain is actually snow up at high elevations. Instead of the snowpack melting and raising the river, the storm actually re-freezes the snow and the water levels will drop the next day.

So, what happens when the weather is the opposite? When we get an absolute scorcher of a day, we expect to see a massive jump in water flows the very next day. The hot weather heats and quickly melts the snowpack. We have seen the river go up by over 30% overnight.

The peak flow is different every year. It is totally dependent on how much snow fell over the winter. After the peak, the water will slowly diminish in volume. The river will drop in level much slower and more gradually than when it rises with snowmelt on its way up to the peak.

As we get into July, the only snowpack remaining is on the highest peaks. At this time of year, our fluctuations mellow out. Summer temperatures are more stable and warm, so a consistent melt rate occurs. Eventually, all the snow melts, and the water you see in the river is a result of ground water seeping out of the earth and running down the riverbed.

Moderate snow levels and moderate river levels are actually ideal for our summer rafting guests. When the rivers are “cranking” with tons of snowmelt, river access can be tricky. Flood levels can even close some stretches of river. The low height of bridges or the severity of rapids can make some areas impassable.

The winter of 2017-2018 was below average for snowpack in the Vail area. But that does not equal sub-par rafting. In fact, it’s exactly the opposite. We expect this summer to be one of the best rafting seasons ever!

New Guided Fly Fishing Expeditions on The Famed Piney River

Here at Sage Outdoor Adventures, we are extremely proud to announce that we now have access to the famed Piney River near Vail for guided fly fishing trips! 

Sage is opening up new private water for the first time ever. We are now the sole fly fishing outfitter on the Piney Valley Ranch. Sage Outdoor Adventures now leases the exclusive fishing rights to this pristine stretch of private water and will begin offering guided fishing trips this summer! 

The Piney River is a classic, Colorado backcountry gem. With its headwaters at Piney Lake at the foot of the rugged Gore Range, this freestone river tumbles through a roadless wilderness canyon for 25 miles until its confluence with the Colorado River. 

As the Piney River approaches its confluence with the Colorado, it flows right through the heart of Piney Valley Ranch, a sprawling, 30,000-acre mountain paradise. Our guests will have exclusive private access to a stretch of water has never been available to the public.

The team at Sage Outdoor Adventures was able to secure this premier fishing lease thanks to a longstanding relationship with the owners of Piney Valley Ranch, who previously owned Castle Peak Ranch. Castle Peak is where we offer ATV tours, snowmobiling, horseback riding and sporting clays. There were several reputable fly fishing businesses knocking on the door for the Piney River lease. But after seven years of working together at Castle Peak, and knowing first-hand the quality of Sage operations, the owners chose to sign with Sage.

Starting this summer, we will offer full-day trips to this remote, private stretch of the Piney River. Trips will include side-by-side ATVs to navigate the ranch, high-end fly fishing gear, and a gourmet lunch. Like all of our adventures, transportation to and from Vail and Beaver creek is also included. 

The ranch will be limited to very few fishing guests each day to maintain a high quality experience. As with everything we do, we place a high priority on the quality of the fishing, the undisturbed wilderness experience, and the quality of guest service. 

In addition to the incredible Piney River fishery, Sage guests will have access to two private lakes on the Piney Valley Ranch. These lakes offer the perfect location for a day of fishing, canoeing, hiking and experiencing the scenic Colorado backcountry with family or friends. Just minutes from the Vail Valley, these mountain lake getaways are also well suited to corporate events and other groups. 

The exclusive fishing lease on the Piney Valley Ranch also includes a premier section of private water on the Eagle River. This will allow us to offer premium half-day trips just a few minutes from Vail and Beaver Creek.

In addition to these new private waters, Sage Outdoor Adventures will continue to offer guided float trips on the Eagle and Colorado Rivers.

If you’d like to learn more, please visit our Fly Fishing Page. If you’d like to chat with us in more detail or check availability, you can call us at 970-476-3700 or contact us online.