Blazing Adventures has new owners |

Blazing Adventures has new owners

Madeleine Osberger
Snowmass Village correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado
Ann Larson/Snowmass SunBob and Laurie Harris, the longtime owners of Blazing Adventures, are passing on the paddle to new owners Tim and Dan McMahon and John Henschel.

SNOWMASS VILLAGE – One of the oldest businesses in Snowmass Village has changed hands, but it’s not going very far.

Bob and Laurie Harris have sold Blazing Adventures to their next-door neighbor, John Henschel, and his partners, Tim and Dan McMahon and Dave Fond, who have already assumed operation of the activities company that offers guided rafting, Jeeping, biking and more.

“After 37 years, we thought maybe the time was good,” said Bob Harris, who bought the original Snowmass Whitewater business from the now-disbanded Snowmass Resort Association back in 1974. Harris said that Henschel, 43, expressed interest in the business four years ago when Blazing Adventures first rented booth space from Incline Ski Shop in Aspen. Harris wasn’t ready then nor was he prepared a decade ago when other suitors came knocking.

But now, with both Harris kids out of the house and Bob turning 60, he noted how the “timing was good and the stars were lined up. It was a natural flow.”

Harris will retain the permit to Gunnison River guided operations, but all other facets of Blazing Adventures are now in the hands of Henschel and his partners.

Family affair

Town of Snowmass Village Public Works Director Hunt Walker and his brother Richard founded the town’s first rafting company, Snowmass Whitewater, back in 1973, as part of Hunt’s job as recreation director for the resort association. Walker went on to form his own rafting company, Blazing Paddles, in 1977. Over the years, Harris would swallow up Snowmass Whitewater, Blazing Paddles and other local rafting outfitters.

Hunt Walker’s son, Talbott, has spent 11 years as an oarsman for Blazing Adventures; he’s actually one of the newbies, as the Harris’ claim at least three workers who have more than a generation’s worth of loyalty.

“I hope that the new owner runs the company with the same enthusiasm that my brother and I did when we started and Bob and Laurie did all the way through,” Hunt Walker said.

Henschel said he recognizes there are “big shoes to fill” with Blazing Adventures. He founded Incline Ski Shop in 1993, after having managed the business for three years. Henschel is president of the company and said he has “three qualified and excellent partners in the business.”

Other than trips on the Gunnison River, “the name is the same and everything will be business as usual,” he said.

“We’re very proud of this operation. We’re community people, we live here,” Henschel said, adding that this is his 25th season in the upper valley.

Part of what attracted Henschel to Blazing Adventures is the seasonal nature of that business, coupled with the seasonal nature of Incline Ski Shop. Each business employs between 40 and 50 during its respective high seasons.

The merging of those two businesses produces what will likely be a year-round operation for Henschel, et. al.

“The staff is the heart and soul” of Blazing Adventures. “We’re honored to be part of it.”

And don’t expect that after all these years of working hands-on with his staff and clientele that Bob Harris is going to kick back in a Barcalounger and eat bon-bons in front of the TV.

He’ll still be guiding those Gunnison trips and may actually go back to school to become a physician’s assistant. Harris also is interested in working on the observatory plan for Snowmass Village.

“It’s hard to stop doing what I’ve been doing for my entire adult life,” he said.

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