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!

Joe Tomasic Joins the Team at Sage Outdoor Adventures

We are pleased to announce a new addition to our team of skilled experts in the outdoor recreation industry. Joe Tomasic has joined Sage as General Manager and will lead the development of several new programs. 

Tomasic is a long-time Vail Valley local, outdoorsman and entrepreneur. In fact, Sage owners Darryl and Cole Bangert worked closely with Tomasic when they founded Lakota River Guides together more than 20 years ago. 

“Joe brings decades of operational and work-integrated leadership experience and we’re thrilled to be working with him once again,” said Sage owner Darryl Bangert. 

A Vail Valley resident for more than 26 years, Tomasic continues to work as a business broker specializing in the sale of resort based businesses, along with niche markets in the software, start-up, outdoor recreation, transportation and oil & gas industries.  

Tomasic has owned, operated and sold many successful businesses. Additionally, he has provided strategic, personalized counsel to individuals and companies in areas of business sales and acquisitions, private debt and equity financing, and succession planning.

With a passion for start-up companies, Tomasic worked with Phil Horsman to build the world’s first large-scale ski rental delivery operation, All Mountain Sports. Later, they built All Mountain Transportation into the largest independently owned limousine service on Colorado’s Western Slope and sold that business in 2008.

At Sage Outdoor Adventures, Joe will focus on developing a newly purchased property near Dotsero, Colorado along the Colorado River. This project will include a large, recreation-based facility to serve Sage’s rafting clients, as well as a rental facility open to the general public. 

The Dotsero outpost, called Colorado River Sports (C.R.S.), will offer daily rentals for bikes, stand-up paddleboards, tubes, rafts and duckies. The facility will offer food service, retail and a large pavilion. A shuttle service will be available along with river rentals

Additionally, Tomasic will be working to develop the newly acquired fishing access on the Piney Valley Ranch. The Piney River flows through the heart of the ranch, and Sage Outdoor Adventures is now the exclusive fly fishing outfitter on the property.  

As Sage continues to grow its services in these areas, Tomasic’s role as General Manager will be to ensure that the company utilizes these resources responsibly, and provides a level of service that sets the bar for all others to be measured by.

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.

Advanced Snowmobile Tours with Sage

Winter was slow to arrive here in Colorado, but snowmobile season is now well underway. Snowmobile tours have been great so far, and even more snow is on the way.

Most of our snowmobile tours are 2-hour beginner and intermediate tours that really teach our guests how to ride and get the most out of their snowmobile experience. However, we frequently receive questions about our advanced snowmobile tours.

Our advanced tour uses 120-horsepower Ski-Doo mountain snowmobiles. These sleds are designed specifically for off-trail riding.

These are incredible machines and on our advanced tours, we teach our guests how to ride in deep powder, climb steep hills and navigate thru trees. This is guaranteed to be the most exciting snowmobile ride you can do!

Just like our beginner and intermediate snowmobile tours, this is not a “follow the guide and keep up” kind of experience. We operate with very small guide-to-guest ratios. Each tour is personalized, and we take the time to make sure our guests are learning, having fun and really experiencing the thrill of the Colorado backcountry.

In addition to some exciting advanced snowmobiling terrain, we have 10  free-ride meadows scattered throughout the 6000-acre ranch. These wide-open spaces allow everyone to get their throttle therapy. With our high-end grooming equipment, these free-ride areas are groomed on a regular basis.

The snowmobiling experience here is different. On a 6,000-acre ranch that’s bigger than Vail ski area, there are no other tour operators. You’ll have the place to yourself with more than 100 miles of custom-designed trails! Our three snowcats keep trails in prime condition, so that you can enjoy the thrill of the ride. From the ranch, you’ll enjoy views of seven mountain ranges, the continental divide and the 2,400-foot chasm into the Eagle River Canyon.

For more information on snowmobile tours with Sage Outdoor Adventures, please explore the rest of our website at SageOutdoorAdventures.com or call us now at 970-476-3700.

Press Release: Sage Outdoor Adventures Boasts Major Snowmobile Area Improvements

The team at Sage Outdoor Adventures is thrilled to announce broad new improvements to an already highly rated snowmobile program; in fact, it’s the top rated outdoor activity in Vail, according to TripAdvisor.

New improvements this year at Sage Outdoor Adventures include a totally redesigned trail system, and a new state-of-the-art snowcat for improved trail grooming and maintenance.

Over the past several months, the guides and designers of Sage’s snowmobile trail system have been hard at work. The team recently completed the redesign and building of a new network of trails.

“We considered the area’s geology, vegetation, wind patterns and snow deposition zones,” said head trail designer Darryl Bangert. “Other major factors that went into this trail redesign included trail flow, view corridors and some of our guides’ favorite places to discover with guests.”

Sage operates on a private ranch near Vail, a property that covers more than 6,000 acres. The area has proven to be an ideal base of operations for snowmobile tours, with 2,500 feet of vertical relief on a north-facing mountain. Sage’s base area sits at 8,100 feet above sea level, the same as Vail and Beaver Creek.

The terrain here lends itself to incredible riding trails, and the area is actually larger than the Vail ski area.

“Imagine being able to design the ski runs on Vail Mountain, and then consider that we get to design snowmobile trails on an even bigger area,” Bangert commented. “We are all passionate about riding and discovering the most fun routes. Our extensive background hiking and cross country skiing gives us great insight into the intimate feel of the land.”

Sage Outdoor Adventures has over 100 miles of marked trails and 25 different loop routes. Sage also has more open meadow riding than the combined bowl area of Vail Mountain.

Also new this year, Sage has purchased a 2018 Prinoth Husky Snowcat. This state-of-the-art cat will be added to Sage’s grooming fleet, and will allow the team at Sage to maintain the best possible trail quality.

Guests in Vail and Beaver Creek expect a high-level product, and Sage’s grooming efforts are second-to-none.

“We want our guests to learn the machines and to enjoy the views, not fight with poorly groomed terrain,” Bangert concluded.

About Sage Outdoor Adventures: Headquartered in Vail, Colorado, Sage is a client-focused organization, whose goal it is to facilitate creating memories, connecting with family and friends, and most of all, just plain having fun. Offering whitewater rafting, ATV tours, horseback riding, fishing, sporting clays and snowmobiling, everything is planned and executed with one goal in mind: the guest experience. Learn more at sageoutdooradventures.com.