Rafting business goes with the flow | AspenTimes.com
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Rafting business goes with the flow

Janet UrquhartThe Aspen TimesAspen, CO Colorado
Paul Conrad The Aspen Times
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ASPEN While the Shoshone rapid on the Colorado River outside of Glenwood Springs is only now dropping to runnable levels for commercial rafting companies, the upper Roaring Fork River is still crankin an overlap of whitewater possibilities that floats hopes for a stellar season in the paddling business.Last summer, Aspen Whitewater Rafting ran its final trip on the Slaughterhouse section of the Roaring Fork below Aspen on June 22. Thats when the flows dropped to about 600 cubic feet per second too low for company owner Jim Ingrams commercial rafts to run what is considered a Class IV rapid during high water.This season, the popular stretch has been running at a prolonged 1,400 to 1,600 cfs after topping 2,000 cfs in late June a level that kept commercial boats off Slaughterhouse for about a week.The cool thing is, were going to be able to run the upper Fork for quite a bit longer, said Ingram. Weve actually had, so far, the perfect rafting year.Aspen Whitewater also runs trips on the stretch of the Roaring Fork between Woody Creek and Wingo Junction above Basalt a Class III ride, and takes clients to the Arkansas River for full-day outings. Stretches of the Arkansas that have been too high so far this season are just now dropping to runnable levels another fortuitous bit of timing, Ingram noted.The season has been and will be fantastic, agreed Bob Harris, owner of Snowmass Village-based Blazing Adventures. I thought the peaks would be higherwhat happened instead is we got a nice prolonged peak. That has translated into lots of people going rafting.Ingram senses his business is up slightly, but said he doesnt tally the numbers until the season is over. Harris confirmed his business is up despite skyrocketing gas prices that some Glenwood-based rafting companies have cited as a factor affecting their business so far this season.Geoffrey Olson, owner of Blue Sky Adventures in Glenwood Springs, said his business was down for May and June; he blamed high water and cold weather, as well as soaring fuel prices. However, Olson predicted a surge in business in July and August typically the companys biggest months.It will be great water because of all the snow we got, he said.Whitewater Rafting in Glenwood is seeing more economical travelers who seem to be spending less, said co-owner Susi Larson.I think gas prices are a big part of it, she said, adding, We have had a good season still.Blazing Adventures runs trips on the Roaring Fork, Arkansas, Colorado and Gunnison rivers. So far, though, high water has kept the companys rafts off the white-knuckle Shoshone stretch of the Colorado. That should change soon, Harris said.The Colorado was running at 5,910 cfs at Shoshone on Wednesday morning. Flows below 6,000 cfs there mean Blazing Adventures can incorporate that stretch into its Colorado River offerings.The good local water has been a boon from an economic perspective, given the price of gasoline to transport customers to farther-flung rivers, noted both Ingram and Harris.When I set my prices, I really wasnt figuring in that gas would go up by two bucks a gallon, Harris said.

Glenwood Springs Post Independent reporter Phillip Yates contributed to this report. janet@aspentimes.com


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