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.

A Look at Our Early Season Rafting Favorite: Gore Creek

Rafting Gore Creek in Vail

As we look forward to summer rafting, we’d like to introduce you to one of our favorite early season trips: Gore Creek, our local favorite here in the Vail Valley. If you’ve never had the opportunity to raft Gore Creek, you need to make time!

Why Gore Creek is our Favorite

Gore Creek is special for a couple of reasons. First, it flows right through the heart of Vail Village, and the scenery is spectacular. Second, the rafting season on Gore Creek is relatively short. You have to catch it during its brief window each year.

Gore Creek is fed only on snowmelt. The season gets underway as soon as the snowmelt and runoff begin. May and June are the ideal times to experience the incredible whitewater on Gore Creek.

Gore Creek features awesome Class III rafting from East Vail to Lionshead Village. This river epitomizes what we refer to as, “playboating”. In addition to the fun rapids, this stretch features holes and waves along the way, including the well-known International Wave in Vail Village. These areas provide opportunities to “surf” the raft and swing in and out of rapids. It would be difficult to have more fun in a raft than you’ll have right here in the heart of Vail.

The scenery all the way through the upper Vail Valley along Gore Creek is what really makes this trip memorable. The towering cliffs, waterfalls, aspens, and wildlife along this stretch are incredible.

Getting to and from Gore Creek

Finally, one of the nice things about rafting Gore Creek is the quick transfer times. If you’re staying in Vail, you’re already on the river and just minutes from the put-in. At the takeout in Lionshead, you can easily walk right back into town. If you’re staying in Beaver Creek, you can expect a quick, 15-minute drive to and from the river.

With such easy access and world-class rafting right here in Vail, it’s no wonder we love this short but sweet season on Gore Creek!

To learn more about our whitewater rafting adventures, please check out the Rafting Page .

Start planning your trip now! You can call us at 970-476-3700 or you can contact us online.

How to Prepare for Your White Water Rafting Adventure

This year’s runoff is shaping up to be a memorable one! There’s a ton of snow in the high country and recent storms have continued adding to our snowpack. Statewide throughout Colorado, the snowpack is currently over 140% of normal. Here in the Colorado River basin, the snowpack is currently 138% of normal. And over in the Arkansas River basin, it’s 148% of normal! It’s going to be a long, high water season on our rivers.

What to Bring on a White Water Rafting Trip

As you prepare for your summer rafting adventure, there are a few things to think about. The first is what to bring. The list is pretty simple but you’ll want to make sure you have a few key items. Here’s the rundown.

On every rafting trip, we provide a helmet, a wetsuit on cool days, a splash jacket, a PFD, and wetsuit booties.

You should bring your swimsuit, and wear it underneath your street clothes for the ride to the river. On hot, sunny days when we’re not wearing wet suits and splash jackets, you might want to wear a cover shirt for sun protection. We also recommend that you wear and bring sunscreen and chapstick. If you plan to wear your sunglasses on the raft, don’t forget Croakies or Chums to keep them in place! Finally, bring cash to tip your guide (18% is normal).

Check out this quick video, as Cole and Kyle explain what to bring and why:

Questions to Ask your Rafting Guide

With your bags packed, you are all set for your whitewater rafting adventure. It’s going to be an epic season here in Colorado, and we hope to see many of you on the river. As you prepare for the trip, how about some questions you might want to ask your guide? Here are a few things you might want to ask while you’re on the river:

  • How does this water compare to other times of the year?
  • What animals may we see on the water today?
  • What’s your favorite part of being a rafting guide?
  • What do you do during the off-season?
  • What other stretches of the river do you run?
  • Where is the best swimming hole?
  • Ask about the history of the area.
  • Ask for any crazy river guiding stories they have!

If you’d like more information on rafting with Sage Outdoor Adventures, please be sure to check out our Rafting Page. And explore the rest of our website to see all the other fun activities we offer, including horseback riding, ATV tours, and fly fishing!

For details, availability and booking call us at 970-476-3700 or contact us online.

Colorado Snowpack Update from the Vail Valley

Snowpack here in the Vail Valley and along the Colorado River watershed has been excellent so far this season! After a dry winter last year, we are happy to experience great early season conditions into the New Year.

Current Snowmobiling Conditions

Snowmobile guests are having a blast here at our Mountain Base. Snowpack in the Colorado River basin is currently over 100% of normal, and better than 150% compared to last year. We’ve enjoyed great snowmobile conditions so far this season, and storms keep bringing new snow.

Vail Snowpack Update

Our Custom-Designed Snow Trails

Our mountain base of operations is home to 2,500 feet of vertical. We have more than 100 miles of trails on a mountain larger than Vail ski area. These trails were custom-designed by the team at Sage, specifically for our guests. And with the best grooming equipment in the business, trails are always in prime condition.

Our snowmobile trails wind through a variety of expansive Colorado backcountry habitats. Our guests enjoy sweeping views of the Vail Valley and the Eagle River Canyon. It’s the perfect place to escape from the crowded ski slopes on a real mountain adventure – especially with snowpack like this!

Snow-packed trails in Vail, Colorado

Sage’s Modern Snowmobiles

With great snow conditions and a fleet of new Ski-Doo snowmobiles, we’re ready for you! By the way, in case you haven’t been on a snowmobile recently, these are not your grandfather’s smelly, noisy machines. New 4-stroke snowmobiles are extremely quiet and fuel-efficient. It is a great way to experience the Colorado backcountry. See our recent blog post about modern snowmobile technology to learn more.

To join us on a snowmobile adventure this winter, please give us a call at 970-476-3700. Or, explore the rest of our website to learn more about what we offer.

Early Summer Rafting and Runoff Explained

Summer whitewater rafting

By Cole Bangert

Undammed rivers have a unique river flow when the weather warms up and the snow melts, one that can often be confusing to visitors. But since we get to watch the river on an hourly basis from our office on the bank of the Eagle River, we’ve become experts at predicting when river levels will be perfect for whitewater rafting.

How Winter Snow Impacts Summer Rafting

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, and on warm days it 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: a clear sign that it’s time for summer whitewater rafting to start.

Summer Weather and River Water Levels

Early Summer Rafting in ColoradoIn 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 of the day, around 2:00 PM.

As days warm up or cool down, 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 rainstorm, we can predict a drop in river levels the next day.

This often seems backward to many visitors. Rain should equal higher river levels, right? But here’s what happens: that rain actually becomes 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, creating incredibly powerful whitewaters.

Peak Summer Rafting Conditions

The peak flow is different every year, which means whitewater rafting conditions are 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.

Enjoy Summer Runoff Whitewater RaftingAs 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 groundwater 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 the river. The low height of bridges or the severity of rapids can make some areas impassable.

Luckily, with decades of rafting experience under our belts, we have a good sense of the best times to enter the whitewater based on your rafting experience level and goals. Navigate to our rafting page to find more information on our rafting tours, or contact us today for a chat on river conditions and guided tours!