Big turnout for Vail’s first whitewater race of the season as 50 paddlers take to Gore Creek
Much-needed snow canceled the first race
After canceling the May 11 whitewater race series 2021 debut event, the Vail Recreation District was expecting a big turnout for May 18.
“From what we saw in pre-registration, we could tell it was going to be the largest first race of the season we’ve ever had,” said Joel Rabinowitz with the town of Vail. “Then 12 more people showed up on race day.”
The fact that the May 11 Eagle River and Sanitation District Vail Whitewater Series Race Series had to be postponed due to low flows is a good thing, considering many were worried that the creek would see an early peak this season based on early April snowpack. Flows in Gore Creek early last week had still not eclipsed the 100 cubic feet per second mark.
By Tuesday, flows on Gore Creek were estimated to be about 150 cubic feet per second, which was good enough for those who were eager to take to the creek.
“This week was a perfect week to start on, to start with some low water and get everybody comfortable,” said Jeremiah Williams, who won the Stand-up paddleboard men’s race. “And then as the water comes up, hopefully our skill comes up too.”
In addition to the SUP race, Williams participated in the two-man rafting division and the kayaking race. With each race consisting of three heats, Williams completed a total of nine runs down Gore Creek on Tuesday.
“The whole point of competition is to push yourself past where you think that you can paddle, to the next level,” Williams said. “That’s what’s great about this, there’s such friendly people here to have a good time, but also push themselves, and so I think everybody comes out of this event a better paddler.”
Rafters Peter Gajweski and Sarah Campbell said they pre-registered for the whitewater series early to ensure they would have rafts to use.
With race demand high on the evening, organizers had to cap off the registration for the rafting division at 15 teams. Rabinowitz said R2 rafts are in short supply this season.
“Everybody’s trying to get out on the water while they can,” he said.
The paddling season is short on Gore Creek in Vail, and paddlers are hopeful that the spring snow in the high peaks has pushed the peak runoff date forward, resembling something that will be closer to average.
Vail Mountain recorded 233 inches of snow during the 2020-21 season, well below the mountain’s 350-inch average, and the Vail Mountain snow telemetry site peaked on March 31 at 14.6 inches of water within the snowpack, known as snow water equivalent.
The March 31 peak at 14.6 inches was 65% of normal peak SWE and 3.5 weeks ahead of the normal April 25 peak, indicating that Gore Creek could see a much earlier peak runoff than normal this year.
But snowy conditions continued into May – indeed right up until the morning of May 11, when the first whitewater town series race of the season was scheduled – and the fear for that early peak runoff has subsided among paddlers.
“Prolonged melt is what you want to see in a low snow year,” Williams said.
Gore Creek usually peaks around June 5, just before the annual GoPro Mountain Games competition during the second weekend of June.
Several professional kayakers — including Nick Troutman, Emily Jackson and Rafa Ortiz — are registered to compete at the Mountain Games.
Rabinowitz said the busiest week for the Eagle River and Sanitation District Vail Whitewater Series is usually the week before the GoPro Mountain Games as more people are in town preparing for that competition.
This year, however, the first race of the series looked a lot like that pre-GoPro race.
“This is the most people I’ve ever seen here,” Williams said.
Williams is looking forward to competing at the GoPro Mountain Games, as well. Williams was part of the winning R2 rafting team at the Mountain Games in 2017.
“This (Vail Rec District) series gets better every year,” Williams said. “More people show up, better boaters show up, and people come ready to race.”
- Cole Bangert and John Anicito
- Jeremiah Williams and Matt Norfleet
- Nate Dumis and Dakota Becker
- Chris Johnson and Dan Eldrige
- Hunter Chamness and Chris Hudgens
- Tony Glassman and Chris Schultz
- James Linstrom and Ben Thornton
- Jason Connolly and Chris Clark
- Connor Christoffersen and Jesse Dixon
- Justin Gill and Rebecca Schroeppel
- Ross Shirkey and Anna Slaughter
- Charlotte Hanks and Taylor thorshov
- Erika German and Bella Borski
- Sarah Campbell and Peter Gajewski
- Natalia Gray
- Lydia Smith
- Derrick Dreyer
- Jeremiah Williams
- Cole Bangert
- Lukas Bergsten
- Ken Hoeve
- Ari Dennis
- Alan Braunholtz
- Garrett Saptya
- John Anicito
- Colin Glackin
- Colin McCabe
- Kyle Nix
- Jonah D’Domenico
- Trinity Wall
- Jennifer Hodgkiss
- Kerri Karcz
- Brittney Parker
- Gentian Nuzzo
- Jordan Curet
- Jeremiah Williams
- Alex Mauer
- Ken Hoeve
- Matt Paula
- Jim Callen
- Scott Simpkins
- Matthew Buckley
- Ferguson St John
- Chris Johnson
- Hunter Chamness
- Michael Chebatoris
- Chris Hudgens
- James Linstrom
- Ace Accetturo