Snowpack Update & Summer Rafting Forecast

Summer Season Rafting

Well, it was an awesome winter season here in the Vail Valley…at least until a certain global pandemic put a halt to everyone’s plans. We’re sharing in the disappointment of so many, who’s vacations were cut short or didn’t happen at all. But much more importantly, we are concerned about the safety of those in our community and around the world. As we all work together to confront it, we will remain optimistic that in a few months, we will again be enjoying the great summer outdoor activities here in Colorado.

Snowmobiling throughout the 2019/2020 season has been a ton of fun. We had excellent snow conditions, from very early on in the season. But now, we’re excited that spring is around the corner. The abundance of snow means that we will have an incredible whitewater rafting season!

Snowmobile Tour

As we look forward to spring and the summer rafting season, we can’t help but get excited. After a snowy start to the season and then a particularly stormy February, the Snowpack in the Colorado high country is in great shape. That means great rafting conditions ahead!

Right here in the Colorado River basin, the current snowpack is nearly 110% of normal with more storms on the way. With the above-average snow level in the high country, we can expect a particularly good season for Gore Creek and the Eagle River, which are some of Colorado’s best early summer rafting.

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, this will be a great year to do it!

Colorado Rafting trip

Meanwhile, over in the Arkansas River basin, snowpack is right at normal levels. 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 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 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.

But boasting about ‘a private mountain’ 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 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.

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.

Rafting Season Update and the Latest River Conditions

Summer Season Rafting

Rafting season has arrived in Colorado, and we’re looking forward to a great summer of fun on the water. Snowpack statewide topped out at over 130% of normal this year! That’s a ton of snow that’s now creating ideal rafting conditions.

Here in the Vail Valley and the rest of the Colorado River basin, runoff has begun and water levels are on the rise. We’re seeing great conditions on some of our favorite local waters, including Gore Creek and the Eagle River.

Colorado Rafting trip

Over in the Arkansas River basin, high water season is definitely here! Flows on the Ark are big, and getting bigger by the day. With all the snowpack coming down off the mountains, this is going to be a memorable peak season.

While summer temperatures are warming up, and runoff is brining higher water levels, there is still a ton of snow yet to melt up in the high country. Not only did we have a bigger than average snowpack in Colorado this year – but it’s also hanging on longer than normal.

Current snowpack in the Arkansas basin is more than double the average for this time of year. And in the Vail Valley, the Colorado River basin is holding on to more than three times the average amount of snowpack for mid-June.

All that to say, it’s going to be a long, fun season of rafting around here! If you’re planning a trip to Colorado this summer, rafting should be on your itinerary. Rafting conditions don’t get much better than this.

We offer a variety of different trips to suit families or groups of all ages. From big rapids and whitewater trips, to float trips that are appropriate for the entire family, we can help you plan the perfect Colorado mountain adventure.

To learn more about rafting with Sage Outdoor Adventures, please explore our Rafting Page. You can book or chat with us online. Or give us a call at 970-476-3700 to begin planning your trip. We hope to see you on the river this summer!

Not To Be Missed: Catch Peak Season on the Eagle River

Whitewater Rafting Trip

The months of May and June are peak season on the Eagle River. If you’re going to be in Colorado during these months, this is a rafting opportunity that you should not miss!

During its brief but intense season, the Eagle River is home to some of the best whitewater in the country. From the wild upper section that includes the famous Dowd Chute, all the way down to the playful lower section into the town of Eagle, the Eagle River may not be Colorado’s most famous rafting – but could easily be the most underrated.

“True river enthusiasts visit the Eagle River in droves during peak season,” said Sage owner and guide, Cole Bangert. “If the Eagle had a longer peak season, it would easily rival the Arkansas River in the number of visitors annually.”

The Eagle River is powered by snowmelt, resulting in a rafting season that runs from May through June and sometimes into early July. The excellent rafting is in large part due to a massive elevation drop. This steady gradient produces awesome rapids throughout the entire stretch.

Between the Upper Eagle, the Middle Eagle and the Lower Eagle, we offer three different rafting experiences during this peak runoff season. Here’s a look at each of those rafting trips:

The Upper Eagle and Dowd Chute

The steep gradient of the Eagle River is most obvious in is upper section. Beginning near the town of Minturn, the steady drop creates an epic rafting experience that includes nearly 10 miles of waves and big rapids. This is a serious rafting adventure that’s suitable for ages 16 and up.

The Eagle River’s most famous stretch is found in this upper section – and that’s Dowd Chute.

“This section of the Eagle River is class 4-plus,” Cole commented. It’s a fast, steep, fire hose type of rapid. By the time we clear the last wave, paddlers in the front of the boat might be siting in the laps of the folks in the back of the boat”

Check out the following video to learn more about our rafting trips on the Upper Eagle.

The Middle Eagle River

After Dowd chute, the fun continues. From the bottom of Dowd Chute to the town of Edwards, paddlers enjoy 10 miles of outstanding class 3-plus whitewater. This is a great rafting experience for adventurous paddlers ages 13 and up.

The Middle Eagle River comes to a crescendo with the “Edwards Mile”, a mile-long class 4 rapid with big waves the entire way.

To learn more about rafting trips on the Middle Eagle, take a look at this brief video:

The Lower Eagle

Rafting trips on the Lower Eagle River begin near the town of Wolcott and end in the town of Eagle. Like the rest of the Eagle River, this stretch features a continuous wave train of rapids. The big waves on the lower stretch are a ton of fun, and this is a great trip for families ages 10 and up.

Like the rest of the Eagle River, the peak season on this lower stretch runs during the months of May, June, and occasionally into early July. Paddlers will enjoy awesome scenery, floating through the dramatic red rock walls of the Eagle River canyon. The trip finishes off in the new whitewater park right in the town of Eagle.

Take a look at the video below to learn more about rafting trips on the Lower Eagle River.

If you’d like to learn more about rafting the Eagle River during peak season this year, please visit the Rafting Page on our website or call us at 970-476-3700. Runoff this season is going to be epic, so jump on the opportunity to raft the Eagle River this year!

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!