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.

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 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.

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

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!

Epic Colorado Combo Trips: Snowmobile and ATV Adventures

ATV and Snowmobile Combo Trip

What’s better than one kind of adventure? Two, of course! We’re now offering some awesome Colorado combo adventures. It’s a unique opportunity for combination side-by-side ATV and Snowmobile trips.

It continues to be a bizarre winter in the Vail Valley, with unseasonably warm temperatures and low snowpack. But that doesn’t mean we’re not having fun around here! In fact, we’re having an absolute blast here at Sage.

For our visitors in the Vail Valley and Beaver Creek areas, there’s no shortage of awesome things to do. We are still offering beautiful winter horseback rides. And we’ve now added something even more unique.

For a very limited time, we are offering side-by-side ATV and snowmobile trips! These adventures allow guests to explore this 6,000-acre private ranch with more than 100 miles of custom trails. That’s an area larger than Vail ski area.

These trips take guests through big open meadows, old growth timber, stunning aspen groves, and jaw-dropping views over the 2,400-foot deep Eagle River Canyon. From up here we’ve got views of seven different mountain ranges. It’s simply a spectacular experience.

Trips start at our base of operations, just a short ride from Vail or Beaver Creek, where we offer free hotel pickup. From the base, guests get to drive our high-end, side-by-side Maverick UTVs up the mountain and through one of the most historic ranches in the valley.

When the snow starts getting deep, guests then hop onto one of our new Ski-Doo snowmobiles and continue the tour through this magical winter wonderland.

Our side-by-side UTV tours are regularly a higher cost than the snowmobile trips. But because we have to improvise this winter, we’re allowing guests to drive these $20,000 machines for the same price as a regular snowmobile tour!

Wildlife near Beaver Creek

Not only is the ranch beautiful right now, but also it’s loaded with wildlife. Our guests are seeing deer and coyotes daily, including some rare predator/prey interactions. Because of the low snowpack this season, the deer herds have not needed to migrate further down the Vail valley floor. They’ve stayed here on the ranch, and that’s keeping coyotes and other wildlife around too. In fact, some of our guests have been lucky enough to see mountain lion tracks.

These wildlife interactions have been a daily treat for our guests. While the weather certainly hasn’t been what we expected this season, it has been a memorable one. If you’re visiting the Vail or Beaver Creek area this winter, be sure to give us a call and join us on one of these Colorado backcountry adventures!

For more information, check out our website at SageOutdoorAdventures.com. You can call us at 970-476-3700 or contact us online.

Thanks for a Great Summer Season – See You on the Snow!

Sage Outdoor Adventures is officially closed for the summer season. We’d like to give a shout out to all of our summer guests – thank you for joining us on a Colorado outdoor adventure this year! We enjoyed meeting each one of you and we look forward to seeing you again.

The summer of 2017 was a memorable one. With huge snowpack coming into the spring, we enjoyed some incredible rafting trips.  From right here in the Vail valley on Gore Creek and the Eagle River, down to the Colorado River and even the Arkansas, water conditions were ideal this year.

All that spring moisture also meant that we had a beautiful wildflower season on the ranch near Vail. Our horseback riders and side-by-side ATV riders had the opportunity to enjoy huge fields of wildflowers and green conditions throughout most of the summer. There’s no bad time to explore the ranch on horseback or ATV. But when there are flowers popping everywhere, it’s sure hard to beat.

As the summer season is now closed, we are anxiously looking forward to snowfall! We will open our winter snowmobiling operation just in time for Thanksgiving. If you’re planning a holiday trip to Vail or Beaver Creek, be sure to give us a call. Snowmobile rides are a ton of fun for the entire family. This historic ranch is larger than Vail ski area! And the views of the valley are absolutely incredible. So take a few hours away from the bustle of the ski areas and enjoy a peaceful, backcountry ride through this winter wonderland.

For more information on our snowmobile trips, please check out our snowmobiling page. For details or to reserve your trip, don’t hesitate to give us a call at 970-476-3700 or contact us online.

See you on the snow soon!

The Spring Melt is Underway

Another late blast of snow across the Rockies last week dumped more than a foot of wet spring snow in some locations. This week, temperatures are back up into the 70s in many places across Colorado. The smaller creeks are filling up and water is starting to rise. The spring melt is underway!

Even this late in the year, the state’s snowpack currently stands at about 105% of normal. Runoff is just beginning and there’s still a ton of snow up high. Depending on how rapidly summer temperatures arrive, runoff this year could last weeks longer than normal. At its peak, this season will bring some epic whitewater rafting conditions!

In fact, much of the Arkansas River and the Colorado River are already at the low end of their runnable levels. It won’t be long before we’re entering prime rafting season! This will be a rafting season not to be missed. Give us a call at 970-476-3700 to reserve your spot. Or check out our rafting trips.

While the rafting community is celebrating an outstanding year of whitewater conditions, fly fishing enthusiasts might be less enthralled with the prospect of an extended high-water season. However, many veteran anglers will tell you that runoff is not the time of year to sit on the sidelines.

Among many in the fly fishing world, runoff gets a bad rap. Water is high, often muddy and many of your favorite holes might be unrecognizable. But that doesn’t mean the fishing isn’t great. I just means you have to fish it differently.

In some ways, runoff provides advantages that help offset the challenges. During high water, fish concentrate in predictable locations. They tend to get pushed out toward the banks and into any slack water where they can find reprieve. You may not be able to wade during runoff, but you probably don’t need to. With fish in these more reachable locations, they can be easily targeted from shore. Check out our fly fishing page for more information.

No matter what you find yourself doing this spring, whether you’ve got a paddle or a fly rod in your hand, have fun and enjoy all that Colorado has to offer! If you have questions about trips with Sage Outdoor Adventures, call us at 970-476-3700 or send us a message.