Gore Creek whitewater races start tonight
Gore Creek in Vail is raft-ready and will provide a spectacle for boaters and fans alike tonight as the 2019 Bloch & Chapleau Vail Whitewater Race Series kicks off the season, starting at 5:15 p.m.
The races are open to kayaks (under 9 feet, 6 inches), two-person raft teams and stand-up paddleboarders; spectators are welcome to gather at the International Bridge, where finish-area festivities will be in full effect.
Tonight’s event is the first of a five-race series, which will continue every Tuesday night through June 4 on Gore Creek. Then, as that series wraps up, the Town of Eagle will host an inaugural series at its new whitewater park beginning June 11.
Local boater John Mark Seelig says the Gore Creek whitewater series has been a much-needed addition to the event calendar in Eagle County. 2019 marks the seventh year the series has been underway.
“The offseasons can be hard for people here,” Seelig said. “That lull in the action can be tough, psychologically, and this reminds everyone, ‘Hey, the whitewater season is already here — you’re going to be OK.’”
The Vail Whitewater Race Series is open to paddlers 16 and older, most of whom will need to bring their own craft.
Raft manufacturer Hyside, however, will provide a limited number of two-person rafts for teams to use on a first-come, first-served basis.
Paddlers will need the skills to navigate class III rapids, and the series will allow a lot of rafters to test their strength heading into the season.
“This is a fun way to track your individual performance, progress throughout the series and compete against others,” said Jessie Klehfoth, with the Vail Recreation District.
Seelig said many of the people at tonight’s race will not have seen one another since the conclusion of last year’s whitewater season.
“It’s really the kickoff to the summer for a lot of water people,” Seelig said. “It’s like a reunion, getting everyone back together. You start connecting with everyone, talking about when you’re going to go boating together and what the water is going to be like.”
An after-party will take place at Altitude Bar & Grill in the Evergreen Lodge, where all participants and spectators 21 and older will receive free beer courtesy of New Belgium Brewing Co.
The Vail whitewater series will offer different course challenges every week; Tonight’s challenge will be determined sometime today based on river flows and conditions, said Beth Pappas, with the Vail Recreation District.
In a two-round format, a head-to-head race will follow an individual time trial, with results from the time trial determining the seeding for the head-to-head challenge.
Seelig said he expects the excitement from Eagle’s new whitewater park to spill over into the Vail race series this year. The Eagle series will feature three categories of downriver racing — team raft, kayak and SUP. The course will start at Chambers Park, run through the new Eagle River Park and finish at the Fairgrounds Boat Ramp. The course is approximately 0.6 miles long and includes natural and man-made rapids.
Freestyle kayaking and surf competitions will also take place at during the Eagle River Park series starting June 11.
“It’s perfect because normally (the Gore Creek series) ends, and we say, ‘Just when we were having so much fun, it has to end,’” Seelig said. “And now with the Eagle one coming up, I think everyone will say ‘Awesome, we can keeping doing this every Tuesday.’”