Different Types of Rafts and Why We use Them

Whitewater Raft

If you’ve been on a guided rafting trip, you may have noticed that rafts come in a variety of different setups. Some rafts have the guide using oars in the center. Others place the guide and oars in the back. And some rafts are paddle boats with no oars at all. Each type of boat has its own advantages and disadvantages.

Here’s a quick overview of the different types of raft configurations, and why we use them.

Center-Mount Frame Raft

First, consider the raft with a center-mount frame. According to Sage owner and guide, Cole Bangert, these types of rafts are extremely agile, since the pivot point of the raft is in the center. You’ll most often see this type of setup on overnight camp floats for their ability to navigate big or technical rapids with large loads of gear.

Rafters can choose from a variety of boats

Back-Mounted Frame Raft

Next is the raft with its frame and oars mounted at the back. This makes a great paddle-assisted setup, where the guide rows and calls commands to the crew equipped with paddles.

“The paddle crew and guide work together to move the boat,” Cole said. “This is ideal for commercial outfitters. The guide can do most of the work but guests are still heavily involved. It’s a great setup for family trips with younger kids, as the guide has the ability to move the boat without much power from guests.”

Rafts without an Oar Mount

You have probably seen a paddle boat with no oars. This is the way you see most commercial trips structured. This heavily involves the customers, as they must come together as a team to move the raft efficiently.

Certain Rafts encourage teamwork more than others

“The guide and guest have to create a trust factor,” Cole told us. “The guide usually could not navigate certain whitewater without the performance of his paddle crew, and the paddle crew must trust that the guide knows how to command the boat. This is fun for the guide and guests alike. There is a lot of teaching and learning.”

Sage’s Custom Rafts

Sage uses a mixture of boats, but primarily SOTAR rafts. SOTAR and Sage have actually teamed up to produce an innovative raft design that’s ideal for our whitewater situations. We worked with SOTAR to build these rafts specifically for maximizing performance and fun.

“These custom rafts are 13.5 feet long and they track well, meaning they move in the direction you point the boat amid heavy waves and currents,” Cole commented. “They are balanced and stable with the 19-inch tube diameter, which is slightly larger than a standard 13-foot raft. The tubes diminish from 19 inches to 15 inches on the tip of the bow and stern to enable the raft to “punch” through big waves without getting stalled out.”

SOTAR also used a high-end material on our custom rafts that, when inflated, turns very stiff. This is crucial to have in hard whitewater. It makes the boat more predictable, faster, and stable for the paddlers. Sage's custom rafts are made in partnership with SOTAR“The height of the bow is also custom,” Cole concluded. “We set it to have a good mixture of speed, anti-deflection, and wetness…because cause let’s face it, when waves cover the raft, it’s the best feeling ever!”

For more information on rafting trips near Vail and Beaver Creek with Sage Outdoor Adventures, please visit our Rafting Page. To book your trip, call us now at 970-476-3700.

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!

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. 

Joe Tomasic’s Local Experience

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.

Joe’s Role as General Manager at Sage

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.

An epic tour of Colorado's backcountry

Epic Winter Activities No Matter the Weather

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.

Our visitors will find 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.

What to Expect on a Snowmobile & ATV Combo Trip

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.

Epic deep powder snowmobilingTrips 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 usually 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

Spot Colorado’s Unique Wildlife

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, 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.