Surf’s up, Colorado style |

Surf’s up, Colorado style

David G. L'Heureux

Some of the most exciting, adrenalinefilled summer activities for locals and tourists alike in the Vail Valley take place on the area’s rivers each year in the form of kayaking and rafting.

The summer of 2003 is no exception to that rule, as a huge spring run-off, combined with a good amount of rain has left local waterways pumping.

Needless to say, local rafting and kayaking outfits are optimistic that this year will be one of the best in recent memory for people to take to the river.

“People are very excited for this season,” says Lisa Reeder, director of sales and marketing for Timberline Tours. “These kinds of water levels make everyone’s job easier.”

For now, most of the rafting and kayaking companies are content to run local rivers, primarily the Eagle, because of the proximity and the fact that the Eagle is running really well. As the summer continues, operations will branch out to the Colorado and Arkansas Rivers, whose flow remains strong into the later months.

Whatever your whitewater sport of choice may be, from beginner all the way up to expert, Vail is home to several first-class operations that will get you out on the river paddling to your heart’s delight.

Here is a breakdown of what each individual outfit offers:

Lakota Guides

Lakota Guides was started in 1995, but the paddling pedigree of its owner Daryl Bangert goes back far beyond that.

When Bangert first began kayaking the Eagle in the mid-1970’s he knew right away that it would also be an ideal river for rafting.

“I was a kayaker from the start,” says Bangert. “But, I knew the Eagle would be a great place for commercial rafting, so I started the first operation doing trips there in 1976.”

That puts a lot of water under the bridge for the longtime valley local, who attributes Lakota’s success to their first-class equipment, the best guides in the valley, and “a commitment to pushing the limits of what we could do rafting.”

The average cost for a day on the river is about $70 for an intermediate trip, all the way up to $150 for an advanced trip. If a mellow float is all you have in mind, Lakota offers beginner trips as low as $50 and just $30 for kids.

Lakota also has a special for all you locals looking for a quick adrenaline fix.

“We started our local’s special in 1996,” says Bangert. “Just $35 to run the Dowd Chute. Since then, we have taken more people down Dowd than anywhere.”

For reservations call Lakota River Guides at 845-7238.

Nova Guides

When Greg Caretto, founding father and owner of Nova Guides, started his rafting outfit with partner Steve Pittel over 20 years ago, he had a purpose.

“We wanted to share all of the fun things we do in Vail with all of the people that come here,” says Caretto.

Since then, Nova Guides has shown locals and tourists the whitewater light, taking countless trips down the Eagle, Colorado and Arkansas Rivers.

At a standard cost of $65 for adults and $55 for kids, Nova Guides manages to do it at a price that won’t break the bank either.

If Class-3 water or higher is your bag, Nova also offers trips ranging in price from $70 all the way up to $150 for the Gore Canyon, a trip not suitable for children.

“We also have a 15 percent discount for locals,” says Caretto. “We have offered that for the 20 years we have been in business.”

For a fun, affordable day on the water, let the more than 50 employees of Nova Guides show you the way. Reservations can be made by calling 827-4232.

Timberline Tours

Timberline Tours stands on its record. The local rafting outfit has been in operation for 32 years, and can take you on an excursion that you won’t forget.

Greg Kelchner, the owner and operator of Timberline, saw early on that the Vail Valley was an ideal place to start a rafting company. So, he did.

The rest is history, as Kelchner can claim responsibility for sending untold numbers of tourists and locals on their way to whitewater nirvana.

“As far as cost goes, our prices range from about $60 up to $118 depending on what you want to do,” says Lisa Reeder. “In addition, we specialize in large groups and team-building trips priced on an individual basis.”

Are you still wondering who the best raft company is in Vail? That would be hard to say since they are all outstanding in their own way. According to Reeder though, “Timberline has been voted number one for the last two years.”

To book individual or group trips, call Timberline Tours at 476-1414.

If you get to feeling a little too crowded on a raft, perhaps the riversport of choice for you is kayaking. If so, there are no shortage of opportunities to get out and enjoy all Colorado has to offer from the single-seat of a kayak.

Regardless of your ability, Alpine Kayak and Canoe is ready to help you get out on the water.

Offering beginner classes that start with an evening on the lake and culminate with a day on the river, or Class-3 paddle clubs that take on the surging rapids of the Shoshone, Alpine is the place for top-flight instruction in the ways of kayaking.

Cory Glackin, the marketing director for Alpine, and wife of owner Sean Glackin, highlighted some of the reasons for choosing their outfit.

“First of all, we are all boaters,” says Glackin. “Everyone that works for us is passionate about kayaking. We are also unique because of the level of our instructors and the amount of certification we require to teach for us.”

The cost to get out and learn to kayak, or to take a tour with more experienced boaters, is less than you’d think. For under $150, beginners can learn the finer points of kayaking and enjoy a guided trip on the Upper Colorado, equipment included. Sit-on-top boat tours from Edwards to Wolcott start at just $70 per person.

If you have a private lesson in mind, the more-the-merrier is the theme at Alpine Kayak. Individual lessons start at $250 per person, but that price goes down quickly as the size of your group grows. The beginner group lesson is available for $99 per person for groups of eight or more.

For more information, or to book a trip or lesson, call 949-3350.

Mountain Quest Sports

Mountain Quest Sports in Edward is another excellent option for kayakers of all levels looking to learn or improve their skills in a boat.

The outfit is owned by Dave Skluzacek, Craig Ruffon and Chris Amoroso, who are all local paddling experts. Mountain Quest works in conjunction with the Colorado River Center in Rancho Del Rio to get people on the river.

Beginner lessons start at $189 per person and include two days of instruction, lunches and all the equipment needed to get in the water. Private lessons for up to three people are available for a total cost of $285, and $89 for each additional person.

Roll classes in the pool at the Colorado River Center can be taken for the low price of $35 for two hours of instruction.

The pros at Mountain Quest can be reached at 926-3867.

If you live here and don’t use the area’s rivers for fun, or, if you vacation here and haven’t yet had the chance, there is no time like the present to get out there. Lakota’s Bangert puts it like this.

“The water is up, and there’s no place in Colorado so ideally located as Vail and the surrounding areas for people of all levels to get out and enjoy the river.”

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