In the Rockies, a bountiful season of snowfall this winter meant many powder days, extended skiing and riding into June and even July. Add in a cooler-than-normal spring in much of the West, so much so that you can still see snowfields off the high ridges as we finished up the month of July.
Visitors to ski and snowboard resorts this summer are within a short ride to a major Western river where outfitters stand ready to take thrill-seekers on a bouncing, spray-in-your-face whitewater ride in a raft or kayak. This season is one of the longest in recent memory. Here's a look at some prime spots still flowing hard:
The Eagle River rises off the slopes of Tennessee Pass near Cooper/Chicago Ridge and 10th Mountain Division's Camp Hale. By the time it reaches the Eagle-Vail valley, it's ready to rock 'n' roll. For summer visitors to Vail or Beaver Creek, a short ride to Wolcott to put in for a half-day trip in the Lower Eagle River. Several outfitters serve the Class III (moderate) section of the river, with a takeout in Eagle.
The Rio Grande has been running as high as it has in nearly two decades. Summer tourists to Taos Ski Valley can take a short shuttle ride to one of a dozen outfitters in northern New Mexico. All-day trips run down the Taos Box – replete with Class III and IV rapids in a 600-foot deep gorge -- or more mellow half-day Class III bounce down the Racecourse section.
The Yampa River flows right through downtown Steamboat Springs. Locals have long plopped an inner tube in the chilly waters and made a run downstream. There's a couple of family-safe trips: One begins right across from Steamboat Mountain and flows a couple of miles past downtown. Another requires a half-hour drive downstream to Milner, where Elk River awaits with Class III waves.
The Animas River sources above Silverton and carves through Animas Canyon on the way to Durango. After checking out the summer fun at Purgatory, visitors will find a number of outfitters ready to put in right in downtown Durango for two- and four-hour trips southward.