Vail Valley rafters head to world championships |

Vail Valley rafters head to world championships

Melanie Wong
Vail, CO Colorado
US Women's and Men's Whitewater Raft Teams " both of which hail from Colorado's Vail Valley " plan to compete in the World Championships in Bosnia next month

VAIL VALLEY, Colorado ” Eagle resident Mike Reid remembers his first world rafting championship as one of the most intense experiences of his life ” he and five other teammates were paddling down a river in the Czech Republic against the Russian national team.

“There were probably 5,000 people on either side of the river,” said Reid. “You’re wearing the American colors, and we’re racing the Russians. We were pretty into it. Seeing the two boats come down the straightaway ” it was one of most intense things you’d ever seen.”

The team took fourth that year, but this year, the U.S. National Rafting teams are gunning for the gold. The men’s and women’s teams, made up of current or former Vail Valley residents, will be representing the country at the 2009 World Rafting Championships in Bosnia-Herzegovina from May 18 to May 24.

The men’s team members are Reid, Chris Reeder, Chip Carney, Todd Toledo, Seth Kurt-Mason, Joe Sialiano, and Andrew Bishop. The U.S. Women’s Team members include Lisa

Reeder, Dawn Vogeler, Lizzie Burnett, Jessica Kurt-Mason, Jaime Passchier, Katie Smith, and Kathleen Garcia.

This will be the men’s team’s fourth world championship, and the women’s team’s fifth. The championships include three competitions: The sprint, the longer down-river event, and the slalom, in which the teams must navigate through a series of gates. Teams compete head-to-head, and the winner moves on to the next round.

Reid said he thinks the men’s team has a good shot at a win this year, and he’s excited to see the team redeem itself after a disappointing finish last year.

“We’re definitely one of the players (this year),” he said. “There are 10 nations that all could win, so a lot of little variables come into play. The slightest mistake could kill you. You have to be perfect to win.”

Women’s team member Dawn Vogeler said she feels the women’s team is the strongest it has been in years.

“We came in second overall in 2001, but we’re fully capable of doing better,” she said. “We’re going there to win a gold.”

Both teams have been training all winter in the Avon Rec Center pool, with the raft rigged to the diving board with a bungee cord, she said.

The contraption functions like a raft-treadmill, Reid explained.

The teams formed when there used to be local rafting races ” some of the best paddlers got together, and won the national championships, qualifying them for the world competition.

The teams will be raising money at an E-Town benefit to cover the costs of their trip ” between lodging, entry fees and airline tickets, the teams need to raise well over $20,000.

“We’ve had such amazing support from the community,” Vogeler said. “I’m always blown away by the generosity and the way people have given.”

Staff Writer Melanie Wong can be reached at 970-748-2928 or

The men’s and women’s national teams are raising money to go to the 2009 World Rafting Championships in Bosnia-Herzegovina.

When: 6 p.m. to 10 p.m., Wednesday, April 8

Where: E-Town in Edwards

What: A percentage of proceeds from the restaurant will go to the teams. There will also be a silent auction and raffle with trips, services and items donated from the community.

Online: Donate at

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