Big snows have Vail Valley boaters excited |

Big snows have Vail Valley boaters excited

Daily file photoLocal kayakers and rafters are expecting high waters this spring, thanks to the heavy snow the area has gotten through the winter.

VAIL ” Behind every good ski season is a good paddling season. And with this year’s copious snow primed to melt, local boaters are getting ready for a big spring.

“It’s going to be ridiculous,” said local kayaker Ken Hoeve. “As epic as the ski season was, the river’s going to be equally as epic.”

As of last week, the snowpack at Vail Mountain was holding about 27 percent more water than average, according to the Eagle River Water and Sanitation District. Vail Mountain had gotten 384 inches of snow by Friday, almost 100 inches more than normal.

Around the first part of May, the high-altitude snow usually starts to melt, turning local creeks and rivers into roiling cauldrons of whitewater.

The recent spring-like weather has people shopping for boats and paddles, said Sean Glackin, owner of Alpine Quest Sports.

“Definitely with all this snow and the fact that it kept coming and coming, people have been really excited,” Glackin said. “There’s some stoke in the air, early season, for sure.”

Employees are unwrapping new kayaks every day, and the store will eventually have 40-50 in stock, Glackin said.

Brad Ludden, a local pro kayaker, said a steady, prolonged runoff would be good for most boaters. But a precipitous runoff could boost rivers to levels that few have seen before, something that’s exciting for pros like Ludden.

“If it goes quick it can be historically big,” Ludden said. “I’m excited. And nervous because I know I’ll be presented with opportunities this spring and summer that I haven’t had here.”

Local rafting companies are also looking forward to the spring. The Eagle River’s season could be longer than normal, and rafters will be able to run the Gore Creek this year, too, said Lisa Reeder of Timberline Tours.

“Hopefully we’ll just have a steady runoff,” Reeder said.

The local water district also hopes for a slow runoff to bolster water supplies.

“Our big thing is always hoping that the runoff is slow,” said Diane Johnson, a spokeswoman for the Eagle River Water and Sanitation District. “Hope for cool nights, keeping it in the river a little longer. .. If it’s a really warm day and night and the water’s just rushing down, then we lose it too quickly.”

Last year, the lackluster snow had locals wishing for the white stuff to keep coming until the end, Hoeve said. But this year, it seems the big snows in December, January and February have people ready for winter to be over, he said.

“I think people are ready for summer,” Hoeve said.

Staff Writer Edward Stoner can be reached at 748-2929 or

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