New adventures await
When Eric Brown moved to Colorado from Texas five years ago, he made a mental list of the activities he wanted to learn and master here.
Brown, an assistant manager at Gore Creek Fly Fishermen, first wanted learn how to telemark ski. He’s already checked that off the list. Next in line was fly-fishing. He’s not a pro just yet, but he’s feeling more comfortable with his skills each day he’s out on the river.
Brown isn’t alone. Living up in the mountains offers so many recreational opportunities that some find it hard to focus on just one. I have my own sights set on learning two sports this summer: kayaking and mountain biking.
For Brown, it was the other way around. “I came out for the summertime and fell in love with the skiing,” Brown says. “Colorado is the mecca for all of these activities.”
The Vail Valley also is a place where learning a new sport is pretty easy to do. There are classes, guides, private lessons and an entire population of people who already do one thing or another. Just choose the adventure that’s right for you, buy some gear and go figure it out with the help of the experts around us.
“You can always take stuff up by yourself, but it’s a little easier when you have someone around to show you how to do it,” says Bryan Lubbehusen, a 22-year-old who is learning how to scuba dive and mountain bike this summer.
Unless you were kidnapped and brought to Colorado blindfolded and have never seen a map of the United States, you’ve probably noticed there aren’t many bodies of water nearby. We’ve got some rivers and reservoirs, and a lake or two here and there, but if you want to see tropical fish and coral while scuba diving you’ll need to hop on a flight out of town.
That being said, Mike Warren, an instructor at Beaver Divers scuba shop in Eagle-Vail, says the state has more certified scuba divers than any other.
“I think people here are really adventurous and outdoorsy,” he says. “They like to ski, hike, bike ” they’re very athletic. In the winter, (scuba diving) is the perfect excuse to get out of the snow for a while.”
So just because you have to leave town to scuba dive, doesn’t mean you can’t learn it locally. Beaver Divers offers scuba instruction and certification to anyone looking to get into it.
The two-part certification class begins with classroom study and an instructional movie. Then students do some pool sessions at the Avon Recreation Center before heading off to Utah for the open water part of the certification.
Scuba diving isn’t something people can just pick up like hiking or mountain biking ” it requires a lot of knowledge and experience, Warren says.
“It’s not a dangerous sport ” actually there’s more injuries in bowling,” Warren says. “But you’ve got to pay attention when you’re down there. You have to know your equipment.”
Lubbehusen says he’s learned invaluable life-saving lessons in the class. In addition to teaching students about scuba equipment, instructors teach hand signs that tell diving partners about equipment malfunctions while underwater.
The investment, like most sports, ranges depending on the type of equipment you buy, Warren says. The scuba classes require students to bring their own mask, snorkel and fins, which can range from $75 to $500.
With a massive snowmelt on the horizon ” as soon as the snow actually stops falling ” the valley’s kayakers are in for an adventurous season. A great way to get into kayaking is through a beginning river class, like the one offered at Alpine Quest Sports in Edwards. The company offers the two-session class about four times per week, depending on registration numbers.
“Coming out of the beginner class, most people feel pretty comfortable in class one and two (rapids),” says Sean Glackin, Alpine Quest Sports’ owner and instructor.
“Then you build from there. You’ll have all the basic skills you need, it’s just a matter of logging time (and experience).”
Glackin says beginning kayakers typically enjoy it and want to stick with it, but they don’t for three main reasons: they don’t have the necessary equipment, they don’t have friends to go with or they’re just not comfortable going by themselves.
The school’s paddle club is how Glackin is trying to keep people involved in the sport. It’s free for people with their own equipment, and $25 for those without.
“It’s open to anyone who’s done the beginning river class,” he says. “It’s just a group that goes out paddling twice a week. It’s more of a clinic-type atmosphere.”
Eric Brown says kayaking was the third thing on his list of Colorado adventures to learn. He’s doing a combination of classes and learning from friends. When Brown was learning how to telemark ski, a friend told him to just buy the equipment and go out and do it. That’s the same mentality he’s had with fly-fishing and kayaking.
“I’ve already got a boat lined up,” he says. “I’m so excited to learn everything.”
Kayaking can be an expensive sport to take up. But, just like skiing or snowboarding, the type of equipment you buy can either cost or save you a lot. For all brand new stuff, Glackin says it can run about $1,500. The plus side, though, is that it tends to last a long time and there’s no maintenance or upkeep, he says.
Aspiring fly-fishermen and fisherwomen also have plenty of options to learn the activity in the valley. Piney River Adventurers in Vail offers guided trips, and Gore Creek Fly Fishermen, with three valley locations, offers clinics and guided trips.
“If you are really interested and you have the expendable income, hiring a guide for the day is really helpful,” says Jim Kanda, general manager and guide at Gore Creek Fly Fishermen. “Or latch onto a friend that is experienced.”
Beginning Memorial Day weekend, the store’s three locations will begin free 45-minute casting clinics at 10:30 a.m. every day.
As for gearing up for fly-fishing, it can be pricey. Again, depending on the equipment you buy, a full set-up can range anywhere from $300 to more than $1,000.
Support Local Journalism
Start a dialogue, stay on topic and be civil.
If you don't follow the rules, your comment may be deleted.
User Legend: Moderator Trusted User
Are we seeing more bears because there are more bears on the valley floor, or because we’re all spending more time at home? It could be a bit of both.