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Meet the 72-year-old Vail man who placed 43rd in the Boneyard Boogie

Perhaps the secret to Nicholas Fickling’s multi-decade running career is that his passion has never been anchored to the ethos of achievement inherent to sport.

As evidenced by his remarkable 43rd place overall finish at Vail Recreation District’s Boneyard Boogie on May 20, where the 72-year-old finished the 13-kilometer course in 1 hour, 20 minutes and 46 seconds (a time which would have been good for seventh in the 30-39 age-group, by the way) he’d be justified to indulge in a little self-glorification.

“I believe egotism doesn’t help at all in any of this,” he bluntly stated after keeping up with young whipper-snappers one-third his age.

From his athletically anonymous high school days in Great Britain, spent struggling to break five minutes in the mile while also participating in the 880-yard and 440-yard hurdles — to a now-well-established ownership of his beloved VRD’s trail run series senior age-group divisions, he’s always held fast to a much purer motivation when it comes to putting one foot in front of the other.

“Basically, it’s for enjoyment,” he said.

“Looking back, I’d say I enjoy competing, but if you don’t win it’s not the end of the world. And if you have a bad day, you’ve had a bad day. If you fall during a race, you fell during the race — it’s just one of those things.”

Fickling’s story is probably even more interesting than it appears on paper. Your sports correspondent couldn’t have been the first to wonder why or how a British Army officer moves to Vail in 1999 after a 26-year-career and then, just for kicks, maintains (but humbly masks) an elite-level master’s trail running portfolio, right?

Alas, true to form, Fickling isn’t seeking a spotlight to share his tale. In fact, he’d prefer it if this story were never written. 

“I’m actually no better than anyone else who does it. I really am not,” he said at the end of a half-hour conversation he almost closed up 30 seconds in. Seemingly mystified and almost perturbed that someone would show interest in his journey, he continued, “I’m just a human being out there enjoying myself. Like other people. I just have a good heart and lungs and I enjoy flying down the trails. Other people enjoy it, too, and for other reasons.”

Regarding those ageless performances, which he almost exclusively reserves for the town series — finding no need to shoot for more glorious trail or road-race podiums, obviously — Fickling is pretty convinced as to why he can do what he does.

“I have a good heart and lungs and I don’t weigh very much for my height,” he said in the opening stanza of our conversation, looking to end it in the next breath.

“I have long legs and… so, you know…. I do what I do. Everybody has things that their body or mind are attuned to. Running is what I enjoy to do. That’s really about all there is to say.”

Not totally, and as he’s coaxed along, his strong British accent regales portions of his background with an added elegance and intelligence. He inconveniently, but certainly intentionally, sets out tiny morsels, leaving this journalists’ investigative appetite craving a memoiric main course that will never come.

He shares that he doesn’t remember any of his times from high school, other than barely breaking five minutes for the mile. He was only 3 years old when his countryman, Roger Bannister, broke four minutes in the four lap distance, but predictably, the earth-shattering achievement held little weight in terms of motivation for the young, almost directionless Brit growing up in the 60s.

“Didn’t even think about it,” he said. “I was just a runner. And there are other runners. Nothing special.”

Similar to his present mindset, he wasn’t hell-bent on setting PRs or winning races, but using his competitors to help him maximize his own potential.

“I didn’t really have any aspirations. I just did it because other people did it,” he said.

“Everything now is so… achievement…it wasn’t like that. I was told, ‘you’re on the team to do this, and go out and put one leg in front of the other and keep going until you win or you don’t win.'”

Outside of sports, Fickling, who ended up serving the army in mapping, navigation and satellite imagery, described himself as “a nerd, basically.”

“I was interested in lots of different things, but I wouldn’t say I was desperately passionate about this that or the other,” he continued. “I was just being a kid. It sounds terribly boring, but it was terribly boring.”

When I ask him to bridge the gap from his days in the army to arriving in Vail before the turn of the millennium, I’m stonewalled.

“No, it’s too complicated. Like, seriously complicated and crazy,” he stated.

Soft landings and long distances might come easily for the toe-striker — another one of his biomechanical observations as to why he hasn’t been injured — but transparency isn’t a natural gift. Then again, maybe sharing would be mistaken for boasting, and that cuts against everything he stands for, especially athletically.

It’s exactly why he’s worth profiling; if anyone embodies the essence of the Town Series, it’s Fickling, and it’s precisely because he is not there to win or dominate or even show off his ageless fitness and incomprehensibly strong aerobic engine (something he, perhaps unfortunately in his mind, happens to do on a regular basis).

“We don’t always have to do things to achieve things. You do things because you enjoy it” he said. “One is not necessarily doing it to win, one is doing it because it’s fun.”

“I started running in the trail series because I found it fun and because trail runners are usually a good crowd. The social side of trail running is important, which is evidenced by the numbers who turn up to running club in Vail, Edwards and Eagle each week.”

For the running-minded readers hoping to replicate Fickling’s recipe, this writer was able to extract some valuable intel. Surprisingly, he only runs once or twice a week, complementing those sessions with fitness classes and yoga and hiking and biking on the side. He gardens, volunteers with Vail Valley Mountain Trail Alliance and prioritizes his rest days.

“Taking days off is really important,” Fickling said. “Rest is a major part of everything.”

One interesting anecdote, given his physiological fingerprint and age, is that he prefers the downhills during races. How does he stay on his feet ripping along steep mountain singletrack?

“Um….sometimes you don’t,” he stated without a stutter or even a light-hearted laugh, adding that at the Boneyard Boogie, he fell twice.

At most races, Fickling picks out an athlete whom he thinks will be a good target to stay with. Someone who will push him.

“They don’t know it – they don’t have to know it,” he explained. “And at the end, if they beat you, you just congratulate them. If they don’t beat you, you congratulate them anyway. It’s an internal thing. It’s not an ego thing.”

“I’m not competitive to beat people apart from my target in a particular race or someone trying to outsprint me at the end.”

Given his philosophical underpinnings, it comes as little surprise that he can’t locate any particularly significant milestone in his running life, although, he was present at one of the sport’s most infamous days. In 2013, he and his brother Andrew had just finished the Boston Marathon and were in a health spa sauna underground when the bombs went off. They weren’t impacted at all, but “it was a bit weird,” Fickling recalled.

“Everything was a race and busy when we went into the health club, which was underground,” he continued. “When we came out, there was nothing there except sirens, police. There was no people. It had just totally, totally changed.”

One enduring enjoyment has been sharing the sport he loves with people. His two daughters caught the bug, but his son and three step-sons are into other things, which is perfectly fine with him.

“I mean everyone likes what they like,” he said.

Fickling ran the Boneyard Boogie with his daughter Letitia Fickling and her husband, Jay, who finished in front of his wife for the first time.

“So, he was very pleased on Saturday,” Fickling said, his accent retaining a level of regality as the conversation between two runners finally causes him to open up. Underneath, a humorous timbre hides in his tone as he continues.

“He was delighted. I was, too.”

Before we say goodbye, the former hiking guide tells me of a few nearby 14ers I should try. Then, he says one more thing.

“I hope you get the message that it’s important that we do these things because we enjoy them, not because we’re trying to prove something or be something.”

Salomone: Basic tips for fly fishing from a boat

The river is flowing high right now with the peak of runoff nowhere in sight. Sequestered to float fishing or stillwaters, anglers may not feel as adept in their angling proficiency. Don’t let that eliminate you from angling altogether. Whether it is a guided adventure, a bonding experience with a couple buddies or embracing the learning curve to improve your float-fishing skills, a quick touch on some dos and don’ts as we embark into what will be a stellar float season is a good idea.

There are three people in the boat — two anglers and one guide or rower seated in the middle of the boat — and each has their own jobs to do during the float. The jobs become easier when a few rules are followed.

The first and most important rule is to wear your Personal Floatation Device (PFD). There can be no leeway here. A PFD is required by the powers that control the permitting. The easiest way to put your business, permit and client in harm’s way is to give slack when it comes to wearing and fishing with a PFD. Zip it, buckle it and consider it a part of your float-fishing uniform.

Avoid being the “swimmer.” Inevitably, someone will fall out as conditions at some point expectedly become rough. This person is referred to as a “swimmer.” Swimming is a bad thing. Gear gets lost, anglers gain fear and the whole situation takes on an intensity not regularly felt, which can discourage people from attempting a float again. This tip re-emphasizes the importance of wearing the PFD. Stay in the boat.

The fisherman in the front seat should focus on one thing, and on thing only: fishing.
Michael Salomone/Courtesy photo

The front-seat angler has fewer jobs to attend to. For the front angler, just fish. Keep it away from the guide and the rear angler. Focus on fishing. Hit the most effective water as you go. It’s yours. The front angler gets the prime spots, so cast to them. Don’t save a thing. Take what you can, but stay in front of the oars. A float is designed to take advantage of the river by presenting flies in the best places.

The rear angler needs to keep their eyes up and aware. From the oars back is yours. Aim for holding water missed by the front angler. The man in the front can’t cover it all; watch for what they miss, and take it. Success can be achieved in the rear seat if you watch and pay attention. Looking ahead is mandatory for the front angler and necessary for the rear angler to achieve success.

But, don’t cast over oars. Fly rods flex. The increase in travel your casting stroke delivers will make your rod bend farther than you realize. Such bending will flex over the oar and make contact that will break your rod.

Line management will increase success. Leaving excessive amounts of line floating on the water or scattered in the boat elevates the chances for drag. Drag is the fault of the angler. Line mismanagement results in drag. Unless we are fishing with caddis, keep the drag out of your drift. If drag is evident, make another cast. Keep moving with the water and the boat.

Limit your false casting to a minimum. We are floating in the river; casts need not be long but accurate. False casting keeps your flies out of the water and increases the chance of fouling and tangles. Picking up your fly and placing it back into the river with one stroke is the proper approach.

Success in the rear seat happens for those who are alert and cast in spots missed by the front-seat angler.
Michael Salomone/Courtesy photo

You are going to overshoot …and lose flies … accept it. The guide can’t row back for every fly caught on the bank. Especially in high water, the ability to retrieve inadvertent casts is nonexistent. Switch sides. Be adept at casting in both directions. One side will feel more natural.

And, take turns in the front.

Take time to appreciate the little moments not associated with fish. Companions, scenery and the float itself are examples of the little stuff sometimes overlooked. Slowing down can burn memories into your soul that can’t be erased.

These are just a few basic tips to keep in mind when float fishing. The PFD is a no excuses type of tool. Use it the way it is intended. Keep your eyes up and looking for where to place your next cast. And above all, enjoy your time on the water in places some anglers only dream about.

Taking time to pause and savor the surroundings, the people and the fishing is one of the most important float-fishing rules.
Michael Salomone/Courtesy photo

Vail mountain biker defends Eagle Ranch Classic title, but has eyes focused on bigger stage

Hitched to Bayli McSpadden’s World Cup mountain bike aspirations are intense, UCI points-chasing races sandwiched by lonely, long, arduous training weeks. Thus, coming home to race the Vail Recreation District’s mountain bike town series is more than just a mid-week speed session. It’s life giving.

“This is where I started, this is what made me get into it, this is what made me love biking and get to where I want to be,” the 20-year-old Vail mountain biker said after defending her title at the Eagle Ranch Classic on Wednesday night, the first race in the annual summer series.

“When I’m in the middle of intensely racing, it’s a good little mental reset.”

Wearing her Bear National Team kit — she and the recently graduated Eagle Valley Devil Landen Stovall were nominated to the prestigious Trek-sponsored California-based development team last fall — McSpadden went up 2nd Gulch with the pro men and tried to hang as long as she could throughout the 12.6 kilometer course. As potential thunderstorms, which canceled the youth races earlier in the evening, held off, McSpadden led the women’s race wire-to-wire. Fighting through a janky stomach as she continues to dial in her fueling strategy, she would finish in 54 minutes, 58 seconds.

“It was good. It was hard because I’m just ending a big training block, but I’m feeling pretty confident I guess,” McSpadden, who was 39-seconds clear of XTERRA pro Suzie Snyder in second, stated. True to the town series ethos, the CU freshmen was most excited about having her parents compete.

“I was so excited because I motivated my parents to race today, so it kind of made me a little happier the whole time,” she said. “I’m just so excited they were out there.”  


A pair of cyclists race in the Eagle Ranch Classic on Wednesday night in Eagle. The event was the first in the Vail Recreation District’s mountain bike town series.
Joe Hess/Courtesy photo

Chasing points

The valley’s bike season may just be starting as the final reminders of a long winter continue to melt off high-Alpine trails, but McSpadden’s campaign is already three months old. She kicked it off on Feb. 26 at the Tropical Mountain Bike Challenge in Salinas, Puerto Rico. The Vail rider garnered 12 points from her ninth and 15th-place finishes in the respective cross-country short circuit (XCC) and cross-country (XCO) events. In the UCI XCO individual rankings, 60 points is required for a World Cup start.

“I’m really trying to start in a World Cup by the end of the season,” stated McSpadden, who’s forgoing the upcoming GoPro Mountain Games in two weeks to continue points-chasing in Montana at the Missoula XC.

McSpadden was encouraged by her second trip to Puerto Rico after being pulled on the second lap in 2022.

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“I was beating some of the world cup girls,” she beamed. “It was so cool and it kind of set me off for the season. I’m like, OK, I can do that — I can do pretty much anything this season.”

On April 2, she placed sixth in the 19-22 elite category at the U.S. Pro Cup in Aguanga, California. She was in Fayettville, Arkansas, a couple weeks later, grabbing 14th and 12th-place finishes in a pair of U23 competitions. Then she came back to Colorado and placed eighth at the CSU Cobb Lake road race on April 23 before taking fourth in the women’s pro/open at the Fangdango in Bailey, Colorado, six days later. After a weekend of XCO and XCC events in Fall River, Wisconsin, on May 19-20, she’s decided to skip an event in Canada after the Missoula races in order to focus on U.S. nationals at Bear Creek Mountain Resort in Pennsylvania July 5-9.

“I really want to place well there, because that’s what could get me to go to worlds,” McSpadden, who was seventh in the U23 race last year, stated.

“I’m more fit (this year). There’s a lot more fast girls, but I think it’s definitely in range for me.” 

Eagle Ranch Classic women’s results

Beginner (7 miles)

Chase Rogowski 36:39
Katie Lombardi 38:12
Eva Klesner 38:13
Holly Berghaver 40:10
Allison Weibel 0:40:28
Sarah Youngblood 41:16
Adrienne Graybill 42:23
Kaiya Koller-Torres 44:34
Olivia Cole 45:19
Kaitlyn Musick 45:22
Cat Hulford 46:10
Hillary McSpadden 47:18
Claire Kantor 47:45
Catherine Portz 48:01
Luz Maria 48:58
Heather Blackmon 49:56
Jessica Martinez 1:10:28

Sport (10.7 miles)

Keely Hendricks 54:09
Katie McDonald 55:47
Anna Trombetta 55:49
Amelia Durst 56:35
Stella Sanders 57:17
Emily Large 59:55
Elisabeth Reed 1:04:37
Chelsea Ellis 1:05:41
Jessie Knapp 1:13:01

Veteran Sport (ages 35-49, 10.7 miles)

Danielle Lettice 54:51
Jennie Thorne 1:00:46
Kerry Brown 1:04:49
Nadine Hinkle 1:08:12

Master Sport (ages 50 and up, 10.7 miles)

Nancy Mires 57:59
Eileen Connelly 1:00:25
Michelle Wolffe 1:03:15
Valerie Sloniker 1:03:53
Carrie Lange 1:21:56

Expert (12.6 miles)

Haley Dumke 57:54
Jolene Edelman 1:05:08
Taylor Frankel 1:08:35
Elona Greene 1:15:24

Veteran Expert (ages 35-49, 12.6 miles)

Jennifer Razee 1:03:12
Molly Gamble 1:08:47
Traci Macnamara McCoy 1:14:00
May Jackson 1:17:42

Master Expert (ages 50 and up, 12.6 miles)

Leslie Reuter 1:07:57
Beth Bush 1:08:31
Pavan Krueger 1:08:38

Single Speed (12.6 miles)

Sarah Parrish, 1:06:25

Pro/Open (12.6 miles)

Bayli McSpadden 54:58
Suzie Snyder 55:37
Tamara Donelson 58:30
Miranda Sheets 59:14


Stovall and Middaugh duke it out at the Eagle Ranch Classic mountain bike race

The theme of Wednesday’s Eagle Ranch Classic narrative was the classic ‘young guns versus the old guard,’ and the script’s dynamics were on display early.

Really early.

“My coach told me to try and go as hard as I could off the start and work on that because it’s kind of my weakest link,” said 2023 Eagle Valley High School graduate Landen Stovall, the winner of the men’s 12.6-kilometer pro/open division in a time of 45 minutes, 18 seconds. The teenager burst off the line to create a sizable early advantage on the 10-man field, which included former World Cup pro Christopher Baddick and XTERRA veterans Josiah Middaugh and James Kirschner.

“Landon is just so much more snappy than I am, so he started really hard, which is good practice for him. I’m more of a diesel,” smiled Middaugh, a worthy local endurance-sport veteran representative if there ever was one. The 44-year-old 15-time U.S. XTERRA champion, fresh off a fourth-place finish at the XTERRA Oak Mountain World Cup on May 20, warmed up the engine in time to spend most of his afternoon reeling Stovall back in while rainclouds held off. His main problem: the Bear National Team youngster was descending his backyard trails like he didn’t have a dime in his Trek Supercaliber.

“It was fun,” Stovall said. “I live here, so I could race this course blind.” 

“I could ride with him for awhile, but he’s technically a little better than me,” Middaugh said of the downhills, where Stovall pulled away and created a 40-second gap before the final climb up Turniphead to the finish.

Athletes congregate at the starting line of the 12.6-kilometer pro/open race.
Joe Hess/Courtesy photo

“I knew I had to get a gap on him before the Wall/Riddle loop, and I got a gap on him on the downhill and held it just all the way through to the end,” Stovall said.

Middaugh — who, to his credit, may have had some heavy legs after dashing around an 86-mile version of the Copper Triangle in four hours on Sunday (which, amazingly, is about 30 minutes slower than his all-time best on the famous local loop) finished in 46-minutes flat, with Baddick (48:39) rounding out the podium just in front of Aiden Brown (49:01).

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“It’s cool seeing these kids grow up and kick my butt — that’s all I can say about that,” said Middaugh, who leaves for the Belgium XTERRA World Cup in a couple days. He said it’s possible he’ll be back for the Davos Dash on June 14. In last year’s rendition of the oldest annually held mountain bike race in the state, Stovall earned a four-second win over Middaugh, the course record holder.

There were other battles across all divisions Wednesday night, even without the kids’ races, which were canceled because of weather. Bobby Brown snuck in front of Paul Datsko by two seconds to win the veteran sport and Charlie Brown and Paul Stedman came across the line in photo-finish-fashion for first and second, respectively, in the grand master sport (age 60 and over) category.

A group of three cyclists push each other while competing in the Eagle Ranch Classic in Eagle on Wednesday night.
Joe Hess/Courtesy photo

Call it youth, call it a big jump in training and racing, but Stovall’s only complaint was that all the fun ended too soon.

“I kind of wish it was longer. I feel like I could have done another lap,” he said, adding that his physiological growth since joining the Bear National Team has been exponential.

“Oh for sure. I’ve kind of just ramped everything up with the team and everything.”

Stovall has raced in Puerto Rico, California and Arkansas already and heads to Missoula, Montana for the USA Cycling Pro Mountain Bike Cross-Country Tour stop on June 9-11. He’ll be in Utah for the SoHo Bike Fest at the end of the month before hopefully reaching his peak at Bear Creek Mountain Resort in Pennsylvania for the U.S. nationals July 5-9.  

“The big goal is nationals,” said Stovall, who admitted it’s title or bust in his final year in the 17-18-year-old age group.

“Next year I move up to the big-boy leagues.”

If Wednesday’s win is any indication, he’ll have no problem taking on the older competition.

Eagle Ranch Classic men’s results

Beginner (7 miles)

Tucker Moore 0:34:56
Jack Milne 0:35:23
Tyler Moore 0:36:28
Ethan Current 0:37:27
Kirk Blackmon 0:40:20
Rob Shearon 0:42:44
James Broussard 0:46:32
Allan Cyr 0:46:42
Seth Weinberger 0:48:20

Clydesdayle (200+, 10.7 miles)

Chris Lindley 0:58:00
Brent Mueller 1:01:01
David Hawkins 1:04:26

Sport (10.7 miles)

Ethan Cline 0:45:23
Freedom Bennett 0:47:15
Nolan Sawtelle 0:48:40
Avery Smith 0:48:49
Jeff Dirks 0:49:01
Jack Sargent 0:50:32
Owen Razee 0:51:22
Brody Cyr 0:51:26
Clayton Davis 0:53:31
Silas Lovgren 0:53:48
Brian Pearson 0:53:49
Casey Childers 0:54:28
Miles Gentry 0:55:01
Jackson Pacocha 0:57:20
Tommy Engels 0:57:24
Jackson Pundt 0:58:39
Jesse Kuhn 0:58:58
Emmett Covello 1:00:37
Sean Coleman 1:01:12
Trevan Baker 1:05:13
Mitch Goodnight 1:06:22

Veteran Sport (ages 35-49, 10.7 miles)

Bobby Brown 0:49:46
Paul Datsko 0:49:48
Chris Gleeson 0:50:23
Jason Rosener 0:50:40
Sean Molloy 0:53:33
Bryan Fitzgerald 0:54:23
Ben Hardmeyer 0:54:23
Lukas Rhoads 0:54:24
Keith Klesner 0:54:43
Kevin Haas 0:55:12
Kevin Stephens 0:56:54
Brian Burke 0:59:11
Travis Cox 1:01:54
Garrett Lodewyck 1:04:15
Joe Shankland 1:06:13
Jeff Christiansen 1:10:27

Master Sport (ages 50 and up, 10.7 miles)

Michael Beacon 0:48:10
Matt Johnson 0:51:26
Chip Craft 0:55:17
Craig Lathram 0:56:21
Peter Kan 0:57:30
David LaGrange 0:57:30
Troy Lange 1:00:31
Greg Eby 1:01:54
James Carullo 1:02:54
Tim Walters 1:03:02

Grand Master Sport (60 and up, 10.7 miles)

Charles Brown 0:53:51
Paul Stedman 0:53:51
Andrew Dobrot 0:59:29
Rob Balgey 1:00:43
Phillipe Courtois 1:02:06

Expert (12.6 miles)

David Sanders 0:51:44
Weston Sawtelle 0:52:42
Eric Asselin 0:53:24
Josiah Horning 0:53:24
Andrew Lombardi 0:53:38
Marshall Troutner 0:53:55
Matas Katieb 0:54:09
Nash Lucas 0:55:22
Justin Brouse 1:06:40

Veteran Expert (ages 35-49, 12.6 miles)

Michael Dorr 0:52:27
Brett Donelson 0:52:40
Dan Weiland 0:55:39
Michael Sherven 0:55:50
Matt Razo 0:56:19
Ryan Simmons 0:56:57
Freddy Mooney 0:57:18
Michael Glass 0:58:27
Matthew Pacocha 0:58:43
Doug Jimenez 0:59:37
Kyle Wilcox 1:01:07
Russell White 1:03:40

Master Expert (ages 50 and up, 12.6 miles)

Jason Russell 0:53:26
Robert Moehring 0:53:34
Sylvan Kaufman 0:54:33
Charlie Knoll 0:54:49
Stephen Elzinga 0:56:31
Matt Donovan 0:57:31
Mike Trueblood 0:57:56
Noel Reuter 0:58:27
Jay Sapp 1:03:02
Peter Geyer 1:10:49

Grand Master Expert (60 and over, 12.6 miles)

Ron Gruber 57:28

Single Speed (12.6 miles)

Mark Nesline 0:56:43
Marty Golembiewski 1:01:52
BJ Psenda 1:03:21

Pro/Open (12.6 miles)

Landen Stovall 0:45:18
Josiah Middaugh 0:46:00
Christopher Baddick 0:48:39
Aiden Brown 0:49:01
James Kirschner 0:50:32
Brandon Hanson 0:51:04
Alex Schultz 0:51:55
Reiner Schmidt 0:51:55
Garret Moehring 0:52:10
Jonathan Modig 0:52:42

Vail whitewater race series week 4 results and photos

Women’s raft (overall place, rider 1, rider 2, raceTT time)

  1. Jamie Blume, Kerri Karcz 1:15
  2. Meg Dean, KateKalamon 1:08
  3. Charlotte Hanks, Taylor Thoshov 1:17
  4. Natalia Gray, Robyn Janssen 1:12
  5. Elena Bethman, Hallie Jaeger 1:15
  6. Miranda Hicks, Kim Lindsay 1:16
  7. Elizabeth Martin Dilley, Caroline Davis 1:16

Men’s raft (overall place, rider 1, rider 2, raceTT time)

  1. Wesley Zittel, Garret Sapyta 00:59
  2. Jermiah Williams, Rob Prechtl 00:59
  3. John Anicito, Cole Bangert 00:57
  4. Tyler Lombardi, Chris Schultz 1:01
  5. Caleb Maloney, Calen Golas 1:03
  6. Scott Simpkins, Dylan Albertson 1:04
  7. Nate Dumais, Dan Keorber 1:05
  8. Shawn Parker, Max Wolk 1:09
  9. Joe Oakman, Nick Haller 1:11
  10. Scott Lang, Matt Moore 1:15
  11. Michael Hannegan, Amanda Rosenberg 1:15
  12. Neal Clawson, Stephen ross 1:16
  13. Gabrielle Lubber, Chris Lubbers* 1:20
  14. Joseph Mullins, Sarah Lane 1:50
  15. Christopher Schmidt, Joe Glassman 1:29
John Anicito and Cole Bangert get ready to race on Tuesday in Vail.
Vail Recreation District/Courtesy photo

Women’s SUP (overall place, rider, raceTT time)

  1. Jamie Blume 1:16
  2. Trinity Wall 1:44
  3. Kerri Karcz 1:42

Men’s SUP (overall place, rider, raceTT time)

  1. Jeremiah Williams 00:59
  2. Eli Gerstien 1:01
  3. Scott Simpkins 1:07
  4. Jim Callen 1:00
  5. Rob Prechtl 1:00
  6. Michael Chebatoris 1:08
  7. Todd Ipsen 1:09
  8. Chris Johnson SUP 1:13
  9. Ace Ace 1:14
  10. Ryan Frey 1:14
  11. Justin Selbach 1:32
The Vail Recreation District’s Tuesday night whitewater race series has two more competitions. The final race is the Downriver Dash in Minturn on June 13.
Vail Recreation District/Courtesy photo

Women’s kayak (overall place, rider, raceTT time)

  1. Natalia Gray 00:56 1 1
  2. Baby Bella Borski 1:03 3 2
  3. Tessa Prince 00:58 2 3

Men’s kayak (overall place, rider, raceTT time)

  1. Rob Prechtl 00:54
  2. Timothy Friday 00:56
  3. Jeremiah Williams 00:55
  4. Cole Bangert 00:54
  5. Joe Giglio 00:55
  6. Townsend Bessent 00:56
  7. Mike Duffy 00:56
  8. Sawyer Blair 00:56
  9. John Anacito 00:56
  10. Ken Hoeve 00:58
  11. Colin Mccabe 00:58
  12. Matty Coughlin 00:59
  13. Karl Borski 1:02
  14. Jason Hutto 1:04
Two rafters compete in the fourth week of the Vail Recreation District Whitewater Race Series.
Vail Recreation District/Courtesy photo

103 Scott Simpkins 0:01:07 5 3
131 Jim Callen 0:01:00 2 4
112 Rob Prechtl 0:01:00 3 5
120 Michael Chebatoris 0:01:08 6 6
147 Todd Ipsen 0:01:09 7 7
199 Chris Johnson SUP 0:01:13 8 8
178 Ace Ace 0:00:15 0:01:14 9 9
148 Ryan Frey 0:01:14 10 10
132 Justin Selbach 0:00:15 0:01:32 11 11
Women’s Kayak
149 Natalia Gray 0:00:56 1 1
115 Baby Bella Borski 0:01:03 3 2
110 Tessa Prince 0:00:58 2 3
Men’s Kayak
112 Rob Prechtl 0:00:54 2 1
165 Timothy Friday 0:00:56 9 2
106 Jeremiah Williams 0:00:55 3 3
114 Cole Bangert 0:00:54 1 4
135 Joe Giglio 0:00:55 4 5
195 Townsend Bessent 0:00:56 5 6
119 Mike Duffy 0:00:56 6 7
124 Sawyer Blair 0:00:56 7 8
113 John Anacito 0:00:56 8 9
192 Ken Hoeve 0:00:58 10 10
193 Colin Mccabe 0:00:58 11 11
105 Matty Coughlin 0:00:59 12 12
200 Karl Borski 0:01:02 13 13
133 Jason Hutto 0:01:04 14 14

Rivers unforgiving during run-off; second death in 2 weeks on Western Slope

A week after a rafter from Vail died in Glenwood Canyon, the body of longtime Aspen and Snowmass resident Tony Welgos, 73, was found Monday in the Roaring Fork River near Basalt’s Lazy Glen neighborhood.

“We got the 911 call of a person in the water with jeans and sweatshirt,” said Scott Thompson, chief of Roaring Fork Fire Rescue. “All we got from the beginning was there were sightings of him in the water, so we set up to do a contact rescue near the bridge on Highway 82 and Lazy Glen.”

The Roaring Fork Fire Rescue team was able to recover the body with the assistance of Aspen Fire, Aspen Ambulance, and Carbondale Fire. 

“We tried CPR for a considerable amount of time, especially in cold water scenarios, but we were unsuccessful.” Thompson added, “People need to be very careful this time of year. Rivers are full and moving swiftly. The river is unforgiving, and unless you are prepared to be in the swift water, you should not be out there. Do anything possible to not be on the water.” 

He suggested using a professional guide service with noted rafting experience.

“No one should be there in river in a tube or a small inflatable raft that is not made for handling swift water. Right now is a dangerous time of the year. People need to make informed decisions.” 

Close call for a waterman

Paul Meyers knows well the dangers of spring runoff. He nearly died rafting through Shoshone Rapids on the Colorado River.

He has been rafting and fly-fishing in the Roaring Fork Valley since 1992. For over three decades, he has typically used a 12-foot raft, solo paddling, often with family and friends aboard. He’ll usually complete 25 to 30 raft trips a year on the Colorado, Green, and Roaring Fork rivers.

However, it was his first trip on the Colorado River in a raft in Class III rapids that nearly took his life in spring 2004.

“I was overconfident. I missed a paddle stroke on Shoshone Rapids and got flipped by a wave. I missed the stroke because I hit air and not water and didn’t get the boat turned into the wave and over,” said Meyers.

First, he swam for the boat. Then he changed his mind and swam for his wife, Joy, who was also in the water. She made it 100 yards down the river and was able to climb out. Meyers and his wife were luckily both in approved personal flotation devices, which aided in their survival, thus far. 

“Where I landed, there are pretty big rocks for erosion control, and it took me a few tries to get the correct rock to grab myself and get out of the water,” he said. “We gathered up what gear we could and had approximately a mile walk on the bike path back to Grizzly Creek park-and-ride.”

Before the he got to the parking lot, he started having chest pains. And then it got worse. 

“Somebody who saw the accident was also parked at Grizzly Creek and helped me to her pickup truck. She was trying to keep me calm and telling me to breathe.”

Another person near the accident saw the Meyer’s boat floating downriver upside down and had called 911, who dispatched an ambulance.

“Without that very quick response, I would not have made it,” said Meyers.

The rescue responders arrived, and he ended up going into cardiac arrest and had to be resuscitated in the ambulance — and a couple more times en route to the hospital. 

“Contributing to my survival was the fact that Valley View Hospital has just opened a cardiac catheterization lab with more high-tech instruments to diagnose patients,” he said. “They immediately started a stint.”

A year before the incident, Meyers had a mild heart attack and stent inserted. This stint would later fail because of a blood clot caused by the cold river water. 

Their raft was recovered in West Glenwood Springs, about six miles down the river.

Oh, he also broke his knee in the snowmelt-swelled rapids that spring day.

Today, he is much more vigilant and cautious about spring runoff. He’s been out five times thus far this year but only the Green River, as well and the Roaring Fork River between Carbondale and Glenwood — not through Glenwood Canyon, certainly not Shoshone Rapids.

“I’m not doing that rapid anymore. I’ve only done it once since the accident,” said Meyers.

How fast are the rivers moving?

River flow is measured in cubic feet per second (cfs). That is how river enthusiasts determine the level of hazard and speed of the river.

“We haven’t hit peak flows in most rivers yet this summer,” said Ken Murphy, owner of Glenwood Adventure Company in Glenwood Springs.

He also owns Lakota Guides, a commercial whitewater rafting company based out of Vail and Colorado Rafting Adventures in Buena Vista. Murphy, although an Ireland native, has been on the rivers of Colorado since 1996 and has owned Glenwood Adventure Company for 13 years.

“Mother Nature is going to dictate when we hit peak, and we haven’t had the warm evenings combined with the warm days to really send the flows into higher numbers,” he said.

The Roaring Fork River and Crystal River aren’t controlled as much as many other rivers. The Roaring Fork upstream of Aspen does have the Lincoln Creek Connection Canal southeast that diverts water from Lost Man Tunnel No. 2 to Grizzly Reservoir. The Crystal River is largely free flowing and the subject of possible wild and scenic river designation.

“Vegetation is now an obstacle, the banks are more unstable, the river can take items from the banks and push them into the river and downstream. Every day can be different as the water rises and falls during this time of the year,” Murphy said.

He recommended that if private boaters have questions or concerns on river conditions, they should call commercial outfitters and ask about the conditions, as the pros are out there daily.

“Some of these commercial outfitters have guides with years of experience on certain stretches of the river with plenty of history and knowledge they can pass on,” he said.

He said the water’s been higher than it is now.

“I’ve seen higher flows in lower snow years due to a quick warmup with warm evenings. It’s all how it melts, and what’s released. If we have plenty of sun with warm nights, it can come down faster.”

Murphy recalled years when Shoshone Rapids in Glenwood Canyon was running at 16,000 to 17,000 cfs in lesser snowpack years. On Tuesday, Shoshone Rapids was at 6,700 cfs. 

“We don’t run certain areas when it gets over a certain cfs, and we always factor in the guests’ age, weight, and physical ability when deciding on the best adventure that suits their group’s wide range of abilities. Outfitters have staff on hand to help you choose the best trip for your group. When one area may get too high, there are always other options here, and that’s what makes this area such a popular rafting destination both privately and commercially,” he said.

Hypothermia can easily consume river enthusiasts, as Meyers can attest. River water is snowmelt — and so cold, very cold.

“You need to be wearing the proper attire for the conditions and an approved personal flotation device,” Murphy said.

The rise in private boats on the river

River traffic has surged over the past decade with private boat ownership, and many new owners who hadn’t experienced high run-off like this.

“We now have many more private craft on the water, and many of these water recreationists haven’t seen flows this high before. Things are moving so much faster, and you have to make decisions much faster. The set-up needs to be earlier as you prepare for the obstacle ahead much earlier than in years past,” said Murphy.

“There’s absolutely a rise in private boats,” Meyers said. “It’s crazy. The parking at the boat ramps is tight, and they are in terrible shape.”

Parking lots and boat launches along the Roaring Fork can feel a bit like frat parties on the weekends throughout summer with pressure to get loaded and unloaded quickly with boat congestion.

“Fortunately, everyone cooperates and helps each other, preventing it from being chaos,” he said. 

“It’s a bigger water year. It’s a great year, and those who love the water and are experienced are going to have a blast. I’m afraid there are some people that shouldn’t be on the water,” Chief Thompson said.

Aspen City Councilman Sam Rose last week noted the danger upstream from the city: “Devil’s Punchbowl is a swimming hole up by Independence Pass, and it feels like every year someone dies from going in it while the water level is too high,” he said. “I mentioned it because it is a high-water year, and someone just died in Glenwood Canyon rafting; so I believe vigilance is important as we get excited about summer.”

Vail resident Nick Courtens, 34, died Sunday, May 21, in a paddling accident in Glenwood Canyon. Garfield County authorities said he was wearing a personal flotation device and a helmet while rafting with a group of five people, in two rafts. Between the Shoshone power plant and Grizzly Creek, two people went into the river from one of the rafts while navigating a rapid. Other members of the group were able to get both of them to shore and begin CPR; unfortunately, only one of the men responded.

Colleen Pennington, Glenwood Canyon manager for the White River National Forest, said: “Hazards can change day-by-day, including debris and tree snags that can trap people underwater and puncture rafts, dangerous currents, and cold-water temperatures that can create dangerous situations for even strong swimmers.”

Garfield County Emergency Manager Chris Bornholdt said: “Water levels are predicted to come up even more in the next couple weeks and stay at a high level for over a month. River safety should be our biggest concern right now. Navigating the river is tricky under normal conditions, and when you add three-four times the amount of water and speed, things can happen really fast.”

Hours later, rescuers had a happier outcome with a rescue downstream at Willits near the Basalt Business Center.

This story is from AspenTimes.com.

Changes coming to Quandary Peak, McCullough Gulch trail parking, shuttle system

Shuttle rides to some of Summit County’s most popular hikes are resuming this June, and the system is being revamped along with parking to help recreationists access Quandary Peak and McCullough Gulch trails. 

The changes are meant to expand hiking access while limiting car dependency, according to officials. 

The shuttle, which will continue to pick up passengers at Breckenridge’s South Gondola parking lot, will run each day of the week. Shuttle tickets will be free for residents and $7 for non-residents, down from $15 last year. Riders can also park for free at the South Gondola lot with a one-time code issued after securing their ticket. 

Parking at the trailheads will cost $50 on peak days (Friday through Sunday and holidays) and $30 for non-peak days (Monday through Thursday excluding holidays). The non-peak price is up $5 from last year, when it cost $25. 

Short-term parking of no more than four hours will cost $20 on peak days and $10 on non-peak days. Parking after 3 p.m. will be free, though hikers are highly discouraged to summit Quandary after that time due to safety. 

Shuttle and parking reservations can be made starting on June 1 for visits beginning June 17. Parking reservations can be made up to two weeks in advance and will be required until Sept. 17 for full-day or short-term use.

Residents must revere a shuttle trip at least 48 hours in advance. 

More information can be found on HikeQuandary.com.

This story is from SummitDaily.com.

GoPro Mountain Games registration increases June 1

Registration is filling up for the GoPro Mountain Games, kicking off summer in Vail June 8-11 with over 30 competitions, live music, art and more in the Rocky Mountains. Athletes from all backgrounds are invited to compete, with registration prices increasing for the final time on June 1. While prices will increase June 1, registration will continue to be open and will fully close 24 hours before the event.

This year, over $130,000 is up for grabs at the GoPro Mountain Games in the form of prize purses, in addition to non-cash prizes available in most events.

All athletes receive an athlete bag and access to the Go RVing Athlete Lounge in Nature Valley Mountain Plaza. The Go RVing Athlete Lounge is in the heart of the action and offers drinks, samples and more.

New this year, the next generation of GoPro Mountain Games athletes can sign up for the “grom” divisions designed for ages 12-18. This new division, available in most events, will create a more fair, competitive field.

Athletes can enjoy the competition and camaraderie that comes with being at the GoPro Mountain Games.

To register for an event at the GoPro Mountain Games, visit Summer.MountainGames.com and click on the orange button that says “Register.”

Spectating is free at the GoPro Mountain Games.

In addition to the daytime action, tickets are also available for the Mountains of Music concert series, taking place at The Amp in Vail at 7 p.m. on Thursday through Saturday of the Mountain Games (June 8-10). The lineup includes Brothers of a Feather with Chris & Rich Robinson of the Black Crowes and The Motet (June 8); Orebolo with The Heavy Heavy (June 9); and Local Natives with Circles Around the Sun (June 10).

Visit Summer.MountainGames.com for more information.

Water smart tips to protect, preserve and enjoy this natural resource

The spring runoff has started and this exciting time of year offers a great reminder to consider ways to protect, preserve and enjoy our creeks and rivers. These finite resources are the lifeblood of our community. Gore Creek is one of the defining features of Vail, running through the community from Vail Pass to Dowds Junction, where it meets the Eagle River. The Eagle is a tributary of the Colorado River, which supplies much of the water the American West depends on.

Over the past two decades, we’ve seen declining snowfall and water supplies in the region. As we watch the water in our rivers and creeks start to rise this spring, it’s important to remember that our region had an average snowfall this winter. It felt like we had a lot of snow, but we were back to historically average conditions. One good snow year won’t be enough to resolve the water quantity issues that have been facing the West since this drought began in 2002.

Spring runoff is a great opportunity to remember ways residents and visitors can safely recreate while protecting and preserving this natural resource.

  • Safety first: Don’t underestimate the power of rivers. We anticipate a big runoff this season. Small to medium size creeks can see 60% of their annual water volume in the 6-8 week spring period. For example, Gore Creek runs at about 10 cubic feet per second (cfs) at low points in January but at runoff it can peak as high as 2,000 cfs. Water conditions can change from day to day so make sure you know the flow of the river before making plans to recreate. People need the right skills and equipment to safely play in and along our waterways. Dry and wet suits and personal flotation devices are a must. If you aren’t an experienced boater, book a trip with one of Vail’s many outfitters who are professionally trained to navigate mountain waterways. Keep an eye on children and pets around water — it’s not only swift but incredibly cold this time of year.
  • 10 Feet for the Creek: A new ordinance in the town of Vail was created that impacts landscaping near Gore Creek. 10 Feet for the Creek is a new rule that creates a 10-foot buffer zone where mowing and vegetation removal are not allowed. The ordinance is designed to protect plants that live in and along the creek, filtering runoff, shading the creek, creating habitat, and preventing erosion.
  • Protect our waterways: The Eagle River Watershed Council’s (ERWC) mission is to advocate for the health and conservation of our waterways in Eagle County. This local nonprofit organization provides locals and visitors with several ways to get involved to help protect, clean and mitigate impacts to our local streams. Visit ERWC.org to learn more about ways to get involved that range from the annual highway and river cleanup events to volunteer planting and restoration activities.
  • Use water wisely: The ERWC, Eagle River Water & Sanitation District and Eagle County Conservation District all offer water efficiency resources and programs. In our area, less than 20% of water used for irrigation is returned to our streams. The Water & Sanitation District recommends conducting an outdoor water audit to determine the efficiency of your irrigation system. They provide step-by-step guidelines on their website to help residents better understand how efficiently they are using their water and how they might be able to save more water and spend less money on irrigation.
  • Fresh rocky mountain tap water: As a headwaters community, Vail has some of the best drinking water in the world — visitors and locals alike are encouraged to ditch single-use plastic water bottles and opt for fresh Rocky Mountain tap water.

Each spring as the snow melts, our community reawakens as a summer playground for rafting, biking, hiking and so much more. These practical tips not only help us protect where we play but remind us of important ways we can shift our daily practices to protect our natural resources for locals and guests to enjoy long into the future.

Peter Wadden is a watershed health specialist for the town of Vail. The Discover Vail monthly sustainability column is a project of the Vail Local Marketing District Advisory Council, which is responsible for marketing the destination during the non-winter months.

Sole Power Green Commuting Challenge kicks off

The Sole Power Green Commuting Challenge started Memorial Day and continues through Oct. 9.

The Sole Power Challenge is free and encourages active commuting in the Eagle Valley, which is a healthy option not only for people but also for the environment. Participants get outside, get fit, reduce their carbon footprint, save money and have fun.

The program relies on the honor system and participants may count any trip if they have a destination and the ride, walk, skate or run is not purely recreational. The goal is to use “sole” power and support active transportation instead of motorized options, so if a participant would have otherwise driven, taken the bus, motorcycle or other motorized vehicle, the trip counts. The program includes two seasonal challenges. 

Businesses and individuals take part in the program to improve personal wellness and do their part for climate action. The website’s tracking platform is a great opportunity for wellness programs around the valley as well as an opportunity for friendly challenges between local businesses.

Over the past 12 years of the program, 2,431 participants have logged over 454,000 miles.

2022 was a record-setting year for Sole Power with 341 participants logging nearly 56,440 miles and over 51,740 pounds of carbon reduced from the atmosphere. The 2023 goal is to top 60,000 miles.

Sole Power hosts monthly happy hours with free or discounted beverages, and the season is capped off with an end-of-season party. Every participant is eligible for a free Sole Power T-shirt designed by Kind Design. In addition, several other community sponsors have donated prizes such as hotel stays, gift cards to restaurants and bars, bike tunes, hats, custom messenger bags, commuting gear and more. Prizes will be given away each week throughout the challenge to anyone who has logged a trip that week. Any Sole Power participant who logs 20 or more trips throughout the challenge will be eligible to win the Grand Prize at the end of the 2023 challenge: a QuietKat e-bike donated by the Eagle-based manufacturer.  

Head to SolePower.org to register and begin tracking miles.

Check out the Eagle Valley Sole Power Facebook page or follow @EVSolePower on Instagram for updates on Sole Power happenings throughout the summer. For more information, visit SolePower.org or contact Beth Markham, environmental sustainability manager for town of Vail at bmarkham@vailgov.com