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Warm-weather activity already in full stride

the spring split

Here’s a look at the skiing and golfing calendars:

• Beaver Creek: Closes April 12.

• Vail Mountain: Closes April 19.

• Gypsum Creek golf course: Opened Feb. 6.

• Eagle Ranch golf course: Opened March 20.

EAGLE COUNTY — Tom Buzbee has been happy to be a novelty — it’s been great for business.

Buzbee is the general manager of the Gypsum Creek Golf Course. That course is not much higher than Gypsum’s posted elevation of 6,312 feet and sits squarely in what the Ute Indians once called the “hole in the sky.” Thanks to an odd snow year, Gypsum Creek opened for business Feb. 6, only the second time the course has opened that early. Now beginning its sixth year as a fully-public course, Buzbee said Gypsum Creek is setting early-season records for rounds played.

Ski boots on the green

A number of locals have knocked a light coating of dust of their clubs — the course only closed for 58 days between the 2014 and 2015 seasons — but Buzbee said a lot valley visitors have come to play, too.

“We’ve literally had people ski in the morning, then golf in the afternoon. We’ve had guys taking pictures wearing their ski boots out on the putting green.”Tom BuzbeeGeneral manager of Gypsum Creek Golf Course

“We’ve literally had people ski in the morning, then golf in the afternoon,” Buzbee said. “We’ve had guys taking pictures wearing their ski boots out on the putting green.”

A lot of those visitors have been guided to Gypsum by upper-valley hotel concierge staffs. Buzbee said he made sure to attend a meeting of valley concierges this past fall, just to remind people that spring golf requires only a quick trip down Interstate 70.

Last spring was a more normal one in the valley, with a good bit of late-season snow. The dry weather this year has meant a 250 percent year-over-year increase in rounds played so far this season.

Gypsum Creek isn’t alone in bringing out people relishing warm-weather activity. The Eagle Ranch Golf Course opened March 20 for the 2015 season. There, course general manager Jeff Boyer said the course’s early-season numbers are pacing well ahead of 2014’s rounds played.

Boyer said the Eagle Ranch course has seen its share of visitors, including several Summit County residents and guests.

Busy Time For Anglers

But golfers aren’t the only ones who are deciding to catch a few runs on the hill early, then spend the afternoons pursuing other passions.

“We’re the busiest we’ve ever been this time of year,” Minturn Anglers owner Matt Sprecher said, adding that the business has actually run at capacity several days this year, with tours going from rivers to the private water the company leases.

The weather often determines just how many people want to fish in the spring, Sprecher said that whether snowing or sunny, this is his favorite time to be on the water.

“This is always the best fishing of the year — there’s nothing that beats the spring,” Sprecher said.

The warm days have put more water in local streams, but we haven’t yet seen rapid runoff that clouds water and creates strong currents unfriendly to anglers.

While anglers prefer more still streams, boaters like their currents more swift. Even now, though, boating enthusiasts are finding good places for kayaks, rafts and paddleboards.

‘It’s Been Fun’

Local resident Ken Hoeve, an avid kayaker and paddleboarder, said he’s been out “three or four days a week” for the past few weeks.

“It’s been fun,” Hoeve said of his forays, which have ranged from Glenwood Canyon, near the Shoshone power plant, to the upper Colorado River in Gore Canyon. And, while runoff hasn’t really started in earnest, “just about everything’s runnable” for much of that stretch of river, he said.

While Hoeve will run rivers this early, he said that “it’s early to be as pleasant as it is right now.”

And “now” is the operative term for springtime activities. Away from the golf courses and streams, the mountain bike trails around Eagle aren’t just dry, but dusty right now.

Don’t Count Out Winter Yet

That could all change with the next storm, though. Historically, April is one of Eagle County’s most-snowy months, and it’s been known to snow, and hard, well into May.

No matter what the next weeks’ forecasts may hold, “There’s water now, so go now,” Hoeve said.


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