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New ski film from Vail-area locals John Spriggs and Taylor Seaton to play Thursday at Edwards Riverwalk

A shot from “Must Be Nice,” a new ski film from Vail-area athletes John Spriggs and Taylor Seaton. The movie was filmed by Ed Clem and will make its local debut on Thursday at the Riverwalk theater in Edwards.
Courtesy photo

In detailing his “miles of styles,” the rapper Freddie Foxxx once said you must be out your brain to think he’s not the nicest in the game.

Using the same vernacular, Vail-area locals Taylor Seaton and John Spriggs have done something similar, through a new era of ski film which has disrupted the old model so rapidly, and so intensely, that anyone who was part of that bygone era now viewing these modern capabilities can only say “well that must be nice.”

Spriggs, Seaton and filmer Ed Clem called in a small crew of skiers (and snowboarders, with Spriggs himself showing off some impressive skills on a bindingless ‘pow surfer’) to help with their newest project, and if you expect to keep up with that crew then, well, you’d better be nice with it, in a Freddie Foxxx kind of way.

Therein lies a few of the many entendres revealed in the title of Seaton and Spriggs new short film, “Must Be Nice.”

John Spriggs in “Must Be Nice.” The short film details the local skier’s painful season in 2021.
Courtesy image

But the film is more than a showcase of the crew’s miles of styles — through his lens, Clem is able to tell the story of Spriggs’ simple satisfaction with the fact that he’s at this point of his career, only to realize just how fleeting the moment might be.

The film is dedicated to Johnny Kuo, a close friend of Spriggs, who was killed in an avalanche in East Vail while Spriggs was in Montana creating the film.

“Must Be Nice“ will make its local premiere on Thursday at 7:30 p.m. at the Riverwalk theater in Edwards. It will also feature two other short ski films just released this fall, and your $12 ticket will enter you into a raffle where ski-related gear will be given away between films.

“Must Be Nice“ movie poster.
Courtesy image

‘Now we’re big boys’

“Must Be Nice” features incredible big mountain lines, large jumps, and camera angles and shots which were only possible with a massive budget just 10-15 years ago.

Spriggs was part of that era in his early 20s; he was featured in five Warren Miller films between 2005 and 2009, and continued to film into the 2010s with high-profile companies like Teton Gravity Research.

“You had to film with a film company that had all the gear, all the filmers, all the budgets,” Spriggs said. “You were there to ski, and they made the movie.”

Now in his mid-30s, Spriggs still has the skills to attempt to earn those big film parts, but has chosen to go the independent route in recent years.

“We learned from those big film companies, it taught us a lot,” he said.

A first-person point of view from John Spriggs in 2021 as the Vail-area skier performed for the camera in “Must Be Nice,” which plays at the Edwards Riverwalk Thursday at 7:30 p.m.
Courtesy photo

Spriggs says while working with a small crew of friends makes for a much bigger workload in getting to a finished product, he finds it more rewarding. He also said his crew has matured to the point where they’re able to afford more of their own personal time and money to invest in the project.

“Now we’re big boys and we can fund our own gear and fund our own seasons without having to rely on these meager budgets that their sponsors might give you,” Spriggs said. “We’re older now, we can get our own sponsors, do our own thing and have our own freedom.”

John Spriggs airs off a cliff in “Must Be Nice,” a new short film making it’s local debut at the Riverwalk theater in Edwards on Thursday.
Courtesy photo

Freedom to fly

The creative freedom of independent filmmaking allowed Spriggs and Seaton to incorporate into “Must Be Nice” something you don’t see in ski movies anymore: A halfpipe segment.

Seaton, a member of the U.S. Ski Team with Olympic dreams in the competitive arena of the halfpipe, shows off the many axis points and rotational directions a skier can flip and spin in the halfpipe in “Must Be Nice,” while discussing how that has helped him in other realms of skiing.

Taylor Seaton airs out of the X Games halfpipe in 2019.
Benton Inscoe/Courtesy photo

In 2018, Seaton became the first X Games competitor ever to land halfpipe run that contained five 900s spun in different directions.

“Taylor is not your average halfpiper and I’m glad we were able to show how much variety he brings to that discipline,” Spriggs said.

While there’s been halfpipe skiers to make movies in recent years, Seaton said it’s been more than a decade since a ski movie featured a halfpipe segment.

“The last one I know of is Tanner Hall ‘The Massive’ from 2008,” Seaton said. “My friends are like ‘What? You got to make a professional halfpipe segment for a ski movie? Must be nice!“

Fans to return to X Games Aspen 2022 with required proof of COVID-19 vaccination

Media and athlete support stand in an otherwise empty spectator corral during the women’s ski big air final at the base of the course during the 2021 X Games Aspen at Buttermilk in January.
Kelsey Brunner/The Aspen Times

Fans will return to X Games Aspen in 2022, ESPN announced Tuesday. After last year’s event was held for the first time without spectators because of the coronavirus pandemic, they’ll be allowed to return for January’s contests, although attendees will be required to wear a mask indoors when not eating or drinking, and will be required to show proof of full COVID-19 vaccination for admittance.

“X Games Aspen 2022 will welcome spectators back to competition viewing and X Fest areas with proof of full COVID-19 vaccination, and masks must be worn in all indoor X Games event areas except when eating or drinking,” the news release said. “Fans 11 years old and under may attend without vaccination if accompanied by a vaccinated adult and must wear a form-fitting face mask at all times except when eating and drinking.”

The news release made clear that Buttermilk Ski Area, which is set to host X Games for the 21st straight year, will be open to regular skiing and snowboarding during X Games under Aspen Skiing Co. guidelines, and proof of vaccination won’t be required to access the mountain. Vaccines are only required for those wanting access to the competition viewing areas and X Fest areas.

X Games is scheduled for Jan. 21-23, and once again, it looks like it will be a slimmer version without any of the motorsports, although the Special Olympics Unified competition will return. The announced competitions include superpipe, slopestyle, big air and knuckle huck for both skiing and snowboarding.

The 14 disciplines between men and women will include 13.5 hours of live coverage on ESPN and ABC, with additional coverage found through ESPN’s social media platforms.

ESPN has already announced an extensive list of invited athletes, including Aspen’s own Alex Ferreira, who won gold in halfpipe skiing in both 2019 and 2020. Plenty of other familiar superstars were listed as having been invited, including snowboard icon Shaun White, who hasn’t competed at X Games since 2017. He had intended to compete in 2021 but withdrew from the competition after hurting his knee during training.

Jamie Anderson holds her seventh gold medal in slopestyle after winning the 2021 women’s slopestyle final at X Games Aspen at Buttermilk on Friday, Jan. 29, 2021.
Kelsey Brunner/The Aspen Times

Jamie Anderson, Henrik Harlaut, Scotty James, Gus Kenworthy, Chloe Kim and Mark McMorris are all among the A-list names on the invitation list so far. McMorris, the Canadian snowboarding superstar, was the biggest name to miss X Games 2021 after he tested positive for COVID-19 ahead of the contests.

X Games Aspen will likely be the final competition for the athletes ahead of the 2022 Winter Olympics, scheduled for Feb. 4-20 in Beijing. Unlike many of this year’s skiing and snowboarding competitions leading up to X Games, including Dew Tour at Copper Mountain in December, X Games is not an Olympic qualifier for U.S. athletes.

Big day out: Halloween fun abounds Saturday with Avon fun run, pumpkin carving, polar plunge and Minturn trick-or-treating

It was fun for the whole family during the Avon Pumpkin Fun Run Saturday in Avon. Pumpkins were also available for carving.
Madison Rahhal/Courtesy photo
Kids collect candy during the annual Minturn trick-or-treat event Saturday in Minturn. Residents get very involved in decorating houses.
Chris Dillmann/Vail Daily
Costumes and decorations were plentiful during the annual Minturn Trick-or-Treat Saturday in Minturn.
Chris Dillmann/Vail Daily
Buckley the dog donned his butterfly costume for the Avon Pumpkin Fun Run Saturday in Avon. Costumes were highly encouraged for the fun run.
Madison Rahhal/Courtesy photo
Jack, 9, and Liam, 7, Spiegelhalter of EagleVail emerge from the Polar Plunge benefiting the Special Olympics Saturday in Nottingham Lake in Avon. The event has been held in February in the past, but participants still said the water was quite cold.
Chris Dillmann/Vail Daily
Members of the Avon Police Department emerge from the waters of Nottingham Lake during the Polar Plunge Saturday in Avon. The department raised more than $1,000 for the Special Olympics.
Chris Dillmann/Vail Daily

 

Three U.S. Olympic qualifiers announced for freeski and snowboard ahead of ’22 Games

Aspen's Alex Ferreira competes in the men's freeski halfpipe final at the U.S. Grand Prix and World Cup on Sunday, March 21, at Buttermilk Ski Area in Aspen. It was the first of the Olympic qualifiers ahead of the 2022 Winter Games.
Austin Colbert/The Aspen Times archive

U.S. Ski & Snowboard on Monday announced three freeski and snowboard Olympic qualifying stops ahead of the February Winter Games in Beijing.

Steamboat Springs will kick off the season with the Visa Big Air at Steamboat Resort from Dec. 2-4. This will include snowboard big air qualifying on Dec. 2, freeski big air qualifying on Dec. 3 and finals for both events on Dec. 4. It will be the first and only big air qualifying event ahead of the Olympics; snowboard big air is making only its second appearance at the Games, while freeski big air will be new to this year’s Olympics.

“Steamboat’s Olympic heritage runs deep and we’re excited to honor our longstanding partnership with U.S. Ski & Snowboard in hosting the Visa Big Air presented by Toyota event leading up to the 2022 Olympics,” said Rob Perlman, president and COO of Steamboat Ski Resort, in a news release. “Producing Olympians is part of who we are, so this was a natural fit for Steamboat to kick off the qualifying event calendar ahead of the Winter Games.”

The U.S. Grand Prix at Copper Mountain will return from Dec. 8-11 with the first halfpipe competitions. Freeski halfpipe qualifications are Dec. 8 and the finals are Dec. 10. Snowboard halfpipe qualifications are Dec. 9 and the finals are Dec. 11. Copper Mountain also is scheduled to host Dew Tour from Dec. 16-19, although that contest hasn’t been announced as an Olympic qualifier, as it was ahead of the 2018 Games.

Finally, the U.S. Grand Prix will return to Mammoth Mountain in California from Jan. 6-8, with both halfpipe and slopestyle Olympic qualifiers. Mammoth had been scheduled to host the first Olympic qualifying events last season, but those contests were canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic.

That’s when Aspen stepped in to host the first Olympic slopestyle and halfpipe qualifiers last March at Buttermilk Ski Area, right after it hosted the world championships.

“The Toyota U.S. Grand Prix has been the beacon of Olympic qualification fervor for more than two decades, and we are thrilled to bring this series back to Copper and Mammoth’s amazing terrain,” U.S. Ski & Snowboard Freeski and Snowboard Director Jeremy Forster said in a news release. “Those two resorts combined with the Olympic history and top-notch facilities at Steamboat Ski Resort for the Visa Big Air presented by Toyota will make for an outstanding Olympic qualifying process. We can’t wait to announce the athletes who will represent Team USA in Beijing this winter.”

All events are contingent on local and state health guidelines surrounding the pandemic. No information has yet been announced on whether or not fans will be able to attend in person.

Crested Butte’s Aaron Blunck competes in the men's freeski halfpipe finals of the U.S. Grand Prix on Sunday, March 21, at Buttermilk Ski Area in Aspen.
Austin Colbert/The Aspen Times archive

The 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing are scheduled to begin Feb. 4. According to the U.S. Ski & Snowboard press release, “additional Olympic selection events will be announced prior to the start of the 2021-22 season.”

Snowmass Ski Area had been one of the Grand Prix and Olympic qualifying stops ahead of the 2018 Winter Games. Buttermilk remains scheduled to host ESPN’s annual X Games from Jan. 21-23; X Games is not an Olympic qualifier.

Last spring’s world championships in Aspen were not directly part of the U.S. Olympic qualifying process.

Evoke Outdoors offers bike maintenance classes

Brady Schlichting, the owner of Evoke Outdoors, helps a customer adjust her helmet.
L. Marie Media

This week, the Evoke Outdoors bike shop in Vail Village is offering a number of bike maintenance classes tailored towards women, children and aspiring bike mechanics to teach people how to keep their bikes in good shape and be prepared for repairs on the trail.

Brady Schlichting, owner and head mechanic at Evoke Outdoors, said the goal of the classes is to get people more comfortable interacting with the mechanics of their bicycles, both in and out of the shop.

“Before I owned a bike shop and I was going to get my bike worked on, it was very intimidating to go and talk to a bike mechanic,” Schlichting said. “There are so many parts on the bike that have specific names, and it can be hard to describe what’s going on.”

Evoke Outdoors is offering three different courses: a bike maintenance clinic for women on Sept. 19, a maintenance clinic for kids over 8 on Sept. 19 and 26, and an introduction to becoming a bike mechanic on Sept. 18.

The women’s and kid’s clinics will focus on teaching the basics of bike maintenance, including going over each part of the bike, learning how to change a flat tire and brake pads, how to adjust suspension, fix a chain on the trail and other foundational skills.

Schlichting is offering the women’s course to make participants feel more comfortable.

“It will be a very open class — women only — and that way I hope women won’t be intimidated, because they will be with their peers,” Schlichting said. “If a big man who knows everything about bikes is sitting there, they might think ‘I don’t want to ask a stupid question.’ In the bike world, there really aren’t any dumb questions, and if there are, I’ve already heard them, and I won’t laugh at you. These classes are a place where I hope people can come and feel comfortable to ask any questions that they have.”

The women’s and kids’ clinics will focus on teaching the basics of bike maintenance, while the introduction to becoming a bike mechanic offers a deeper understanding of the form and function of their bicycles.
L. Marie Media

As a father of two young kids, Schlichting also believes it is valuable for children to be prepared with the tools and techniques to take care of their bikes.

“Even if they don’t do it on the trail, if they have the proper stuff with them and they get a flat, they can ask for help,” Schlichting said. “Even if they’re just trying, that makes a huge difference.”

The course on becoming a mechanic is geared towards people who are already comfortable with the basics and are looking to delve into a deeper level of understanding of the form and function of their bicycles.

“The people who would sign up for that maybe already know how to change a flat, but might be asking questions like, ‘What does a bottom bracket look like, what does it do, why is the right side cross-threaded and the left side normal-threaded?,’” Schlichting said. “Things like that, where we actually take off a cassette and look at the free hub, take it apart to really learn about why these things work and how they work.”

Schlichting has been a Vail resident and avid biker in the area for over 20 years, and he started Evoke Outdoors this past May in the wake of the pandemic.

“It was finally my time,” Schlichting said. “I saw a need last summer, a lot of bike shops were out of bikes and guests were having to go from store to store just to learn that they were rented out. I’ve always wanted to start my own business, and the pandemic kind of put things into perspective for me, like now is the time. If things are going to change, I might as well change too, and if you’re going to do it, now is the time to give it a shot.”

It may seem counterintuitive for a bike mechanic to be sharing his tricks of the trade, but Schlichting is motivated to make his shop and craft an inclusive space for everyone.

“Making people feel comfortable coming into the shop is the main goal,” Schlichting said. “If I can teach people a few little things that they can do at their house, then when they need those bigger things done I would hope that they would come to me because they feel comfortable coming into my shop and asking me questions.”

The classes are 90 minutes long and cost $50 per person for the women’s and kids’ clinics and $75 for the bike mechanics course. The price includes a free Evoke hat and 15% off retail at the shop. Reservations can be made at EvokeOut.com. Evoke Outdoors will remain open through the month of September, and customers can reserve bikes in-store or through the online booking system.

Colorado duo bring elusive climber to the big screen in ‘The Alpinist’

Colorado director Nick Rosen and climber Marc-André Leclerc while filming "The Alpinist"
Scott Serfas/Red Bull Media House

It’s not easy to capture lightning in a bottle.

Colorado directors Peter Mortimer and Nick Rosen had to do just that while making their newest documentary, “The Alpinist.” The duo followed climber Marc-André Leclerc for two years, trying to chronicle his astounding free solo alpine climbs while overcoming his need to roam and aversion to publicity.

“One of the characteristics of Marc that drew us to him in the first place was how elusive and off the radar he was, and how no one knew about these incredible ascents that he was doing,” said Mortimer. “Our goal as filmmakers was (to figure out) how would we capture that.”

Leclerc, a rock climber and alpinist, is best known for the first winter solo ascents of the Torre Egger in Patagonia and the Emperor Face of Mount Robson. That meant he scaled both huge, ice-covered mountains without a partner or a rope, using only ice axes and his grip to make his way up. Then, he would take a picture at the top, the mountains spread out behind him.

“Being on location in these massive mountain environments with Marc, filming with him, was the most memorable thing for me,” said Rosen. “The great thing about what we do is we make films about these amazing people who do things in these amazing places. Being there is really seared into my memory.”

Though word of his accomplishments spread among serious climbers, they only spread to the wider community in the form of occasional blog posts. It was one of those posts that first caught the attention of Mortimer, founder of Sender Films and director of the well-known climbing documentaries “The Dawn Wall” and the Emmy Award-winning “Valley Uprising.” Wanting to know more about the climber, he tracked down Leclerc through some climbing friends and talked to him about making the documentary.

Rosen co-directed “Valley Uprising” with Mortimer, as well as the Emmy-nominated series “First Ascent.”

“He was a diligent studier of climbing history, and he knew the films we made,” Mortimer said. “I think there was some level of respect for us.”

As time went on, however, even that respect couldn’t overcome his hesitation at being constantly followed by film crews.

“I think there were parts of it that were just cramping his scene a little bit, and so he would take off,” said Mortimer. “When we was ready for us, when he felt comfortable having us around, he would invite us back in.”

That was when Mortimer and Rosen made the unusual decision of including themselves in the documentary.

“A year into the process, we were ending up filming scenes of ourselves calling each other, calling producers and talking to people in the film trying to track him down — and we’re like, ‘This is how you capture how elusive Marc is,’” said Mortimer. “It’s the meta-narrative of that story.”

That wasn’t the only story the duo was trying to tell, however. Free solo climbing is one of the most dangerous forms of climbing, with many well-known free soloists such as Derek Hersey and Ueli Steck dying in the mountains. Alpine free solo climbing, Leclerc’s specialty, is even more dangerous.

“The alpine realm, where Marc did his greatest work, is such an unpredictable, transitory, and dangerous environment,” said Rosen. “The ice and snow and frozen rock that he’s climbing on is such an unpredictable and unstable medium, there’s just a tenuousness to it that I think really kind of makes your palms sweat.”

It’s a feeling that both he and Mortimer strived to capture accurately.

“It was something Pete and I really had to really wrestle with – really trying to authentically portray just how bold this stuff was that he was doing,” said Rosen.

Even after they finished shooting, Mortimer and Rosen still needed to put the movie together before they would know if they’d accurately captured Leclerc onscreen.

“There were two different sort of stages of editing it,” said Rosen. “We were getting into the edit room and starting to craft, and it really was a straightforward adventure story about us following this elusive and brilliant climber in this sort of two years where he made climbing history.”

Then, Leclerc went up to Alaska, and the duo realized that there was still more of his story they needed to figure out how to tell.

Once we came back from Alaska and were finally ready to come to terms with what to do about the film, it was a question of looking back at the film we were making and how we would change it,” said Rosen. “The journey we were on really didn’t change very much – it was just about reconciling with what happened at the end of the film.”

Mortimer agreed.

It just became a more somber and more serious endeavor, in the end,” he said. “There was an onus to tell the story right and to do Marc justice.”

As part of that, he hopes what people remember most about the movie is Leclerc’s light.

“I know it’s sad, but I think the way Marc lived his life was so inspiring to the people around him and to us,” said Mortimer. “The simplicity with which he lived, his pure focus, his dedication to these things that he loved. He just had this big vision for what he wanted to do here with his time. I think people can take that into their own lives however they will.”

 

The Water Cycle bikers embark on 2,000-mile journey along the Colorado River

The Water Cycle began their three-month bike trip Sept. 3. The route started at Rocky Mountain National Park and will finish in mid-December at Reserva de la Biosfera Alto Golfo in Mexico.
The Water Cycle/Courtesy photo

This Tuesday, the Walking Mountains Science Center is presenting a science and storytelling event with six members of The Water Cycle, a 2,000-mile, women-led bike trip that is traveling along the Colorado River watershed to collect stories and engage local residents in science education programs.

The Water Cycle was created by Kate Trudeau, a recent graduate of Walking Mountain’s two-year Foley Graduate Fellowship in Natural Science and Education. While completing her master’s degree at the center, Trudeau came across a book about the Colorado River that didn’t sit right with her.

​​”I felt like the book was kind of disparaging towards people,” Trudeau said. “It really reinforced the concept that the Colorado River is steeped in conflict, and I know that it is, but can we change that narrative to one of collaboration and connection? I read it, and was like, ‘I want to write a rebuttal.’”

Her rebuttal has taken shape in the form of a three-month bike trip that started Sept. 3 at Rocky Mountain National Park and will finish in mid-December at Reserva de la Biosfera Alto Golfo in Mexico. The route follows the path of the Colorado River from source to sea, and Trudeau and her team will be stopping in communities connected to the river to provide watershed education programs and collect personal stories.

“I’ve learned that biking is a great way to get to know people, especially because we want to get to know all the people that live in the watershed,” Trudeau said. “By biking, we’re more likely to have those connections.”

All of the members of the bike trip are women, which Trudeau said is an intentional choice.

“So many of the big names that speak about the Colorado River are men, and so it was very intentional to have an all-female group,” Trudeau said. “A lot of the narratives that we saw previously were black and white — rafters versus ranchers — and our hope is that with an all-female trip we will be able to collect more nuance.”

Trudeau has received multiple grants to support the trip, including an Early Careers grant from National Geographic that officially designates her group as National Geographic explorers, and a filmmaking grant from the No Man’s Land Film Festival that will support the filming and production of a documentary film on The Water Cycle.

In addition to the storytelling elements of the trip, environmental education plays a central role in Trudeau’s mission. Putting her master’s degree to work, Trudeau and her team are engaging with schools and student groups all along the watershed to provide science education programs, while also initiating a pen pal program between riverside communities.

“Kids upstream are writing to kids downstream about what they love about the river and how they relate to their landscape,” Trudeau said. “Children are really open to these ideas of collaboration, and if we’re going to change the narrative we might as well start young.”

Trudeau has a mail box strapped to her bicycle that carries letters written between students who live along the Colorado River.
The Water Cycle/Courtesy photo

On Tuesday evening, Walking Mountains is hosting a free community event where the team members of The Water Cycle will share their experiences so far, describe the upcoming sections of their trip and educate about the Colorado River. The group will also be holding a storytelling booth that will allow attendees to share their own stories about their connection to the river to add to the larger narrative.

The storytelling booth was inspired by rider Molly Delandsheer, a Colorado native who has grown up with the river and seen it transform over the years.

“She said that in her lifetime she’s seen the river really change with the drought, and that one day it’s going to be irrevocably different, so we might as well capture a snapshot of what it’s like today and record these stories while we still can,” Trudeau said.

Jaymee Squires, the graduate programs director and senior faculty adviser at Walking Mountains, oversaw Trudeau’s education as a graduate student, and is happy to see the program’s alumni making an impact.

The Water Cycle is engaging with schools and student groups all along the watershed to provide science education programs.
The Water Cycle/Courtesy photo

“A big part of our program is to develop professionals in the field and to help professionalize the field of environmental education, so the more that we are able to see our graduates out there doing exciting things and contributing to the solution, it just continues to empower the program,” Squires said. “To see them out there taking action, and doing it in a way that is thoughtful and based in good educational strategies that they’ve learned and practiced, it’s just everything that we imagined.”

Science and Storytelling with the Water Cycle takes place from 6-8 p.m. Tuesday at the Walking Mountains Science Center in Avon. Admission is free, but capacity is limited so reservations must be made at WalkingMountains.org.

For more information about The Water Cycle, visit WaterBicycle.org.

To donate to the project, search WaterCycle Education Project on GoFundMe.com.

If you go …

What: Science and Storytelling with the Water Cycle

When: 6-8 p.m.Tuesday

Where: Walking Mountains Science Center, 318 Walking Mountains Lane, Avon

Admission is free, but capacity is limited so reservations must be made at WalkingMountains.org.

 

Outside Scoop: Autumn Signs

Just on cue, as the children go back to school, the natural signs of fall begin to emerge. This past week the high mountain peaks got a dusting of snow, and overnight temperatures dipped well into the 40s in most backyards. However, there are many other clues that autumn is around the corner.

The most obvious sign of fall is the cooler temperatures and shorter days. This is also what leads to the colors changing in the leaves. Maybe some of you have noticed yellow leaves in your driveway or yards this past weekend? Or, you might have seen dew appear on the lawn from the colder nights. And, there is a smell of crispness to the air that is distinct to autumn.

Many families have added backyard bird feeders, including numerous hummingbird feeders to their landscapes increasing bird activity. Around this time, and leading up to Labor Day, enjoy many of these colorful birds because they will begin their descent south. Hummingbirds and other backyard favorites cannot handle the nighttime temperatures and will begin departing.

For food foragers, this might be one of the most plentiful times of the year. Berries are ripe for the picking, and pine trees might begin to release cones with nuts — think the coveted pine nut!

 

RiverWonderGrass float trips on the Colorado River combine rafting, paddleboarding and kayaking with live music

RiverWonderGrass float trips on the Colorado River combine rafting, paddleboarding and kayaking with live music performances every Saturday through the end of August.
Special to the Daily

Those looking for a dose of WonderGrass music ahead of the 2022 festival will be thrilled to learn that in addition to the multi-day RiverWonderGrass float trips through Dinosaur National Monument, the team at Bonfire Entertainment has announced a series of single-day RiverWonderGrass experiences running weekly on Saturdays through Aug. 28.

These single-day trips combine a river float expedition with live music performances, and will run from Rancho del Rio down to State Bridge, just outside of Vail. Capacity will be limited to 25 people per trip, and feature music by the likes of Tyler Grant, Pickin on the Dead, a Yarmony Float, Buffalo Commons, the Sweet Lillies and more.

“The inspiration and influence that the upper Colorado River basin has bestowed upon my life is immeasurable,” said festival founder Scotty Stoughton. “The days of living in a teepee above State Bridge, and managing the musical program starting in the late ’90s, led to the creation of WinterWonderGrass, Bonfire Entertainment, and now RiverWonderGrass. Those days saw travelers from all over converging Sunday afternoon at what was once a lodge. River runners, bikers, hunters, ski bums, ranchers, hippies, yuppies, fisherman and all characters in between would come together and get down dancing under the stars. We’re excited to bring back that energy!”

Remaining dates for RiverWonderGrass Rancho include Aug. 7 (Tyler Grant and Friends), Aug. 14 (Yarmony Grass Presents Andrew McConathy and Friends), Aug. 21 (Pickin on the Dead) and Aug. 28 (Wood Belly).

For more information, visit bonfirentertainment.com/all-events.

Salomone: Small Streams

Rain has slammed into the valley, changing the whole picture when it comes to our local rivers. The low-water, high-temperature Eagle River that has been under an afternoon closure is now swollen from bank to bank. The Colorado River has seen its fair share of temperature issues this summer and now suffers from the effects of muddy runoff in burn scar areas. The reasons are many for seeking out small streams for fly-fishing success.

When it comes to small streams, Colorado has water everywhere. It doesn’t have to be at lung-searing altitude either, although our high country has some pristine areas that just beckon a dry fly. A couple prime examples that are close to the I-70 corridor would be Upper Piney Creek above Piney Lake. A well-worn trail leads to some of the most picturesque angling around. Gore Creek flowing right beside Interstate 70 through Vail is a unique, small-water stream where knowledgeable anglers can catch a grand slam: a rainbow, brown, brook and cutthroat trout in one day. And a little farther downvalley in Eagle is a cherished small water stream, Brush Creek. With East and West Brush Creek nestled in the alpine country, the lower section of Brush Creek flowing through the town of Eagle has some surprisingly good dry fly water.

Gear for small streams is catered to the size of the water and the fish. 2, 3 and 4wt fly rods fit into the small spaces little water possesses. Short fly rods from 6’ to 7 ½’ maneuver through the tight conditions that overshadow small water. Small, light rods load quickly for technical casting situations. Small streams will challenge your casting skills.

The fish in small streams are often brook and cutthroat trout. These fish are small in scale but voracious in appetite, devouring dry flies with a competitive spirit. Unexpected challengers can appear and test your fly rodding skills with roots, cut-banks and branches trying to dislodge your fly from the fish.

Marc Barnwell with a cutt in hand.
Special to the Daily

Casting skills need to be on point for small stream success. Overhanging obstacles tempt dry fly casts to where they reach out and grab your errant cast. If you aren’t losing a few flies to the trees and bushes, you aren’t pushing it enough. Wrapping a fly around a willow hanging over a grassy bank is easily retrieved when you continue wading upstream. You will end up spooking out that hole but there is always another spot around the next bend.

Dry fly is the only way on small streams. Sure, you could catch fish with nymphs and small streamers, but little water is made for dry fly fishing. The summertime window closes quickly in the high country. Throw the dry flies while you can. Small rods, light tippets and dry flies are the only tools high country, small water anglers need for success.

The fish in small streams are often Brook and Cutthroat Trout. These fish are small in scale but voracious in appetite devouring dry flies with a competitive spirit.
Marc Barnwell, Special to the Daily

Another benefit of small streams is the opportunity to wet wade like a kid again. A pair of old wading boots and some neoprene socks is really all an angler needs. Once in the stream, anglers can walk easily along the rocky bottom. Standing in the water can give anglers a better angle to cast around challenging obstacles. Climbing over logs, feeling the cold water caress your toes and splashing through shallow riffles will make you smile. Watching a painted-up brook trout devour your high-floating dry fly never gets old.

Small streams are a great alternative to the current river conditions anglers are negotiating. Challenging casting conditions create unique situations to overcome. High numbers of dry fly-eating trout reward tight presentations anglers are required to make for success. Wet wading like a kid again is always enjoyable. And the vistas where anglers throw dry flies on small streams are breathtaking. The rewards from small-stream fly fishing go on and on.