Area paddlers hit the valley’s (lower) rivers |

Area paddlers hit the valley’s (lower) rivers

Janet Urquhart
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO, Colorado
Janet Urquhart The Aspen Times

ASPEN – Commercial rafters haven’t been able to run Slaughterhouse Falls, Aspen’s signature rapid, this spring, but paddlers are having fun where they can find it, including on the Crystal River south of Carbondale.

This year’s below-average snowpack and early runoff have brought adjustments to the rafting season, but local guides say the warm weather is luring people to the water. And, after last year’s epic runoff, some customers are willing to consider a rafting trip this year simply because the whitewater doesn’t have them quaking in their neoprene booties.

“You know, last year we had people so scared of the water – it scared a lot of tourists away,” said Mar Naibi, marketing director for Blazing Adventures.

The Snowmass Village-based company is putting most of its runs on the Colorado River and again offering the Triple Shoshone – three times through the churning set of rapids on the Colorado in Glenwood Canyon – but hasn’t been able to run Slaughterhouse on the upper Roaring Fork near Aspen.

Commercial companies wait for the flows at Slaughterhouse to top 600 cubic feet per second, but they’ve been hovering below 500 cfs all spring, according to Ryan Moyer, owner of Up Tha Creek in Glenwood Springs.

“You’d have to have a kayak to do it right now,” he said earlier this week.

Up Tha Creek began running the lower Crystal River this season, and the lower Roaring Fork remains good for rafting, Moyer said. His company will run trips on the upper Colorado, outside Kremmling, later in the season.

“Business is good, if not better than usual,” he said, crediting the pleasant weather.

Up Tha Creek also began renting gear out of Sunlight Ski and Bike Shop for the first time this season, allowing customers to take out rafts, inflatable kayaks and tubes without a guide.

“Especially in a low-water year, there’s nothing wrong with renting a tube and doing it on your own,” Moyer said.

Aspen Whitewater Rafting is again running both the Fork and fabled stretches of the Arkansas River, on the far side of Independence Pass, but picked up a permit for Shoshone on the Colorado to use in the latter half of the season, said owner Jim Ingram.

The company also has broken out the inflatable kayaks on the Roaring Fork far earlier than usual.

“Usually we can’t get them on yet – it’s too big, or it’s too cold,” he said. “It’s just a different year, but people are having fun on the river. Our bookings are actually better than usual.”

The new players on the rafting scene are James Foerster and Langdon Adams, Aspen High School graduates and seasoned raft guides. They’ve founded Elk Mountain Expeditions, offering trips on the Crystal as well as the Roaring Fork.

“We’ve been running the Crystal pretty much since the beginning of May,” Adams said. “It’s been great. It’s something new for most locals.”

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