Local rafting companies looking for another good year after 2002’s drought | VailDaily.com

Local rafting companies looking for another good year after 2002’s drought

Cliff Thompson/Daily Staff Writer
Canada took first place Sunday in the Dowd Chute PaddleCross Raft Finals on the last day of competition during the Teva Mountain Games.

He’s the owner of Lakota Guides, one of three local rafting companies, and he knows that snow means runoff and big water for water sports enthusiasts.

The rafting industry in 2003 rebounded from the drought of 2002, the worst in three centuries, and injected $116 million into the state’s economy. Last year 463,421 people used commercial rafters.

While still less than the record of 525,537 set in 1999, it’s 48 percent better than 2002’s 319,562. Those numbers were compiled by the Colorado River Outfitter’s Association, which represents 45 commercial rafting companies statewide.

Bangert said he considers 2002 an anomaly, and with the snowpack so far this year, he’s anticipating a pretty good rafting season that will start in about 60 days and will continue through September. Like most companies who run rivers, his business has diversified into both summer and winter trips.

“We were off to a record year in 2002 until Gov. Owens said “All of Colorado is burning,'” Bangert said. “We have the Eagle, Arkansas and the Colorado. When the Eagle is up, it’s as good as anything.”

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Bangert said Eagle County’s three rafting companies, Lakota, Nova Guides and Timberline Tours have worked hard to provide guests with a professional experience.

“Summer business is getting better,” Bangert said. “We put on high-quality trips. All of us. People know Vail rafting companies are professional.”

Statewide the rafting industry is anticipating a good year as well.

“We are looking to 2004 to be another successful year for our members and the state,” said Bruce Becker, chairman of the rafting association. “Snowpack levels are looking pretty good around Colorado … the Colorado Tourism Office is continuing to aggressively promote the state. I think it’s going to be an exciting year for all of us.”

Cliff Thompson can be contacted via e-mail at cthompson@vaildaily.com or by calling 949-0555 ext. 450.

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