Geoff Mintz
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December 25, 2011
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Top 10 sports stories 2011: No. 6

At this point in the ski season, it might be insensitive to remind everybody about the ridiculous levels of snowfall we had in 2011. While skiers and snowboarders were having their epic winter earlier this year, the paddlers were chomping at the bit, waiting for the snow to melt, which it finally did in early June.

Whitewater flows didn't reach runnable levels in Summit County until the very end of May, and there was plenty of anticipation as the epic whitewater season approached. But whoever said you can't get too much of a good thing never tried paddling down a Class 5 rapid in June of a record snowfall year.

Ambitious boaters were putting in at the upper and lower Blue, as Pumphouse by Kremmling reached flows that haven't been seen since 1996, and 1985 before then.

"No one really knows how long this flow is going to last and when it's going to peak," Matti Wade, owner Ten Mile Creek Kayaks in Frisco, said at the time. "There's a lot of anticipation. I've gotten projected flows on Ten Mile to be over 2,000 (CFS), which we haven't seen since the 1950s."

Exacerbating the influx of high-elevation water was the unseasonably cold (and snowy) spring. Summit County residents will recall being able to see their breath at the Frisco BBQ Challenge, which is meant to usher in summer on Memorial Day weekend. Also, many believe Summit County is particularly susceptible to rapid snowmelt because of the beetle kill areas, which no longer provide shade to massive snowfields.

"There's definitely a big warm spell going on right now, but at 9,000 feet, it's a little bit colder at night, which is slowing things down," Wade said in early June. "We had a lot of snow in May, but we also had cold temps, so it really got held back, which really added to the snowpack. I've never seen this kind of snowpack in Colorado, and I just don't know what to expect."

There wasn't much boating available for intermediates until later in the summer when the sustained high-water season in and around Summit County came to a close, which meant less juggling for local outfitters.

Arkansas Valley Adventures, like other companies, transferred trips based on flows to put ages and abilities on appropriate stretches. Someone who booked a Brown's Canyon trip in the Arkansas River Valley may have gotten short notice that they'd be running the more consistent Blue River, though it still ran quickly.

On the flip side from the dangers and juggling act due to high water, the adventurous guests found the season exhilarating.

"If you came to run whitewater, it'll go down as one of the best whitewater seasons ever," said AVA owner Duke Bradford.


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The Summit Daily Updated Dec 26, 2011 11:59PM Published Dec 25, 2011 09:12PM Copyright 2011 The Summit Daily. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.