Snow Update & Summer 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

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!

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 Rafting trip

Meanwhile, over in the Arkansas River basin, 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 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: Operating a Snowcat

Snowcat Grooming

One of the things that makes 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 operate a snowcat.

Operating a Snowcat

If you’ve ever seen snowcats grooming a ski hill, cruising 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 that 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

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.”

Groomed Snowmobile Trails

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.”

But make no mistake; it takes a very skilled driver. When operating 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 on the joy stick. 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!”

Snowcat

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!

Snowmobile Trail Grooming

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 Snowmobile 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!

“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 snow cat 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 snow drifts and more powder.”

Snowmobile Trail Grooming Equipment

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

“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.

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!

Kick Your Holiday Plans Up a Notch with A Snowmobile Adventure

This winter, there may be no better way to celebrate the Holidays than with a big mountain snowmobile adventure! With ski areas requiring reservations and operating at limited capacity, come enjoy the Colorado mountains on a backcountry snowmobile ride. This is the perfect year to elevate your holiday plans, and join us for your own little slice of heaven out here on the snow!

Our private mountain is larger than Vail ski area and home to more than 100 miles of trails. Social distance isn’t an issue and we take sanitizing between each ride very seriously.

From our private mountain, you’ll enjoy towering views that overlook the Eagle River canyon. Feel the wind as you gain speed through open meadows, winding through sage and mountain mahogany. Get a real taste of the Colorado backcountry, riding beneath impressive stands of aspen and spruce. The snowmobiling experience here is unforgettable.

We offer family-friendly guided tours with multiple start times each day. We offer transportation to and from your hotel in Beaver Creek, Vail or Avon. That leaves plenty of time for your other holiday plans. It makes a perfect family event. Our outstanding guides will make sure that beginners and advanced riders alike will have a great time.

Not sure what to bring? Check out our recent blog post to learn more about what you’ll need to bring and how COVID protocols are affecting our gear rentals.

For details and to book your Colorado mountain snowmobile adventure, check out our Snowmobile Trips Page or call us at 970-476-3700. See you on the mountain!

A Driver’s Side Look at Our Side-By-Side ATV Tours

ATV tour near Vail, Colorado

This is like nothing you’ve ever experienced. When you feel the open air and the excitement of these 4×4 vehicles, riding on wild trails throughout our 6,000-acre private mountain, it will leave you speechless. Your summer adventure isn’t complete until you experience a side-by-side ATV tour.

Right here in the Vail Valley and close to Beaver Creek, we offer side-by-side ATV adventures on an area that’s larger that Vail ski area – and it’s exclusively for Sage guests. We have the entire place to ourselves, to explore and to take in this wild, Colorado mountain experience.

Our side-by-side trails are custom-built, specifically for this purpose. Unlike some tours out there, these aren’t just old borrowed Forest Service trails. We’ve designed a trail system to maximize your experience on this epic mountain. We’ll cruise through open meadows full of wildflowers. We will twist and turn through aspen and spruce forests. And we’ll take in jaw-dropping views of the surrounding peaks and valleys.

Side-by-side ATVs

The mountain is home to elk, deer and a variety of wildlife. From here we can enjoy views of seven different mountain ranges, including the continental divide. We can even hike out to the rim of the Eagle River Canyon, and look off into the 2,400-foot gorge. It’s a special place, and we can’t wait to share it with you!

If you’d like to learn more about our side-by-side ATV tours, please click here where you’ll find pricing and the ability to book online. If you’d like to speak with someone here at Sage, don’t hesitate to give us a call at 970-476-3700.

See you on the mountain this summer!

ATV Tours in Colorado