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14 Best Paddling Ski Towns in the USA

When it comes to crossover sports, paddling, snowboarding and skiing are about as close as they get. All rely heavily on gravity and precipitation, and even the flat side of both are similar–whether you’re touring on skis, sea kayaks or canoes. For proof, consider the following: Riot Kayaks now makes snowboards; expedition sea kayaker Stan Chladek owns a home in Winter Park, Colo.; hairboaters Tommy Moe and Reggie Crist are former members of the U.S. Ski Team; former Canoe and Kayak magazine owners Dave and Judy Harrison call Sun Valley, Idaho, home; and We-no-nah Canoe president Mike Cichanowski spends his winters cross country ski racing.

With autumn upon us, and because paddlers are increasingly turning to the slopes for their off-season pleasure, we’ve highlighted the following hotspots–where a good day is one in which you’ve seen both snow and water and where poles and paddles share equal space on the roof rack.

1. ASPEN, COLORADO

If Enviro-action Sports’ latest video, Paddlemania 2000, is any indication, skiing and paddling in Aspen are as intertwined as seasons in the Rockies. In it, producer Paul Tefft and even skiwear manufacturer Klaus Obermeyer can be found careening down Aspen’s back bowls in kayaks, with Tefft at one point going so far as to perform a vertebrae-crunching cartwheel. If the antics seem deranged, it’s all part of the psyche of Aspen’s boating population, one of the oldest–and zaniest–in the state. The reason could well lie with the town’s proximity to Class IV-V Slaughterhouse Rapid on the Roaring Fork, which has made and broken kayak careers since the ‘60s.

The town’s rich paddling history owes itself to such old-school legends as Milo Duffek (inventor of the Duffek stroke), Walter Kirshbaum and Roger Paris, all of whom migrated to the Aspen valley from Europe. Then there’s Kevin Padden, Paul Sharpe, Cully Erdman and Aspen Kayak School Director Kirk Baker, current and former Aspenites who were some of the 1980’s most dominant hairboaters and regulars on The American Sportsman. Of course, such celebrities as Robert Wagner, Chris Everett, Michael Douglas, Michael Eisner and Goldie Hawn also call the area home (or second home), but they’re rarely found competing for surf time. The celebrity/kayaker crowd does overlap, in the form the Aspen Kayak School’s Charlie MacArthur, whose dad, James (also a paddler), is Dan-O from Hawaii Five-O.

The region’s paddling options are as varied as its celebrities and ski terrain. Hairboaters head east to the Upper Roaring Fork and Lake Creek, or down valley to the Crystal Gorge and Class V Badge of Courage Meatgrinder. Other options include the Colorado’s Shoshone and Barrel Springs, as well as the nearby Arkansas. For skiing and snowboarding, look no farther than Aspen’s four major ski mountains (Ajax, Highlands, Buttermilk and Snowmass), as well as several touring centers and miles of backcountry. If you take to the latter, just be sure to watch out for the likes of Tefft and Obermeyer careening by in goggles and kayaks.

Insider Info: Don’t bother with the city-built whitewater park downtown; second-home showers and marble-tiled Jacuzzis ensure the creek is always dry. Also–a picture of John Denver Falls on the Roaring Fork was featured on his 1972 album “Aerie.”

Java Spot: Zele downtown. Look for the penguin logo.

Cheap Eats: A mile from the Slaughterhouse take-out at Woody Creek Tavern (as cheap as it gets in Aspen). Don’t be surprised to share a table with Hunter S. Thompson.

Local Boaters: Dave Pizzuti, Paul Tefft, Kevin Michelson, John Placek, Dave Eckardt

Paddling Companies: Enviro-action sports, Aspen Kayak School

Best Time of Year to Do Both in a Day: With the Colorado’s Shoshone section boatable nearly year-round, you can squeeze in two-a-days anytime from November through April. Occasionally, the mountain stays open into summer, meaning you can hit Steeplechase and Slaughterhouse before hitting the bars.

2. BELLINGHAM, WASHINGTON

If you like your water flat but your mountains not, you should consider calling Bellingham home, where skiing and sea kayaking are both a way of life. Perfectly situated in between Mt. Baker and the San Juan Islands, Bellingham might be one of the best-kept secrets in the outdoor world. Long a starting point for young wanderers heading north to Alaska, this fishing and logging community retains much of its industrial nature yet offers a wide array of cultural and outdoor opportunities–chief among them being superb access to the 172 islands of the San Juan Archipelago.

It is not difficult for the ambitious to hop onto Bellingham’s Route 542 early in the morning and take the 30-minute drive to Baker before returning–making use of the long days this far north–for a nice evening paddling on Bellingham Bay. Not that everything here is flat. If you’re looking to run the hard stuff, dozens of steep creeks are scattered throughout Northwest Washington and Southwest British Columbia, including the classic Class V Robe Canyon, near the town of Granite Falls. As for the snow, Mt. Baker is a skier and snowboarder’s paradise that gained fame two years ago for receiving the most snowfall ever recorded at a resort–over 1,100 inches. The mountain was forced to close down its lifts because there was too much snow.

Insider Tip: Whereas other parts of Washington State may receive over 200 inches of rainfall per year, the San Juans are shielded by the Olympic and Vancouver Island Mountains and receive less than 25 inches per year.

Java spot: This is Washington–if you don’t see a Starbucks, walk a block.

Cheap Eats: Café Toulouse–awesome dessert menu

Local Boaters: Christian Knight, Jeff Robinson, Robert Lyon, Tim Niemier, any employee of Kavu.

Paddling Companies: Ocean Kayak (Ferndale), Achilles Inflatables (Everett), Eddyline Watersports Center (Anacortes)

Best time to do both in a Day: All winter long, especially after the first of the year.

3. BEND/HOOD RIVER, OREGON

Though these two communities aren’t located next to each other, they share much of the same spirit when it comes to a love of both skiing and paddling. Bend, located just 20 minutes from the dry fluff of Mt. Bachelor, offers the mellow Deschutes right out the back door for canoeists or beginning kayakers, as well as nearby access to the rafting Mecca of the Deschutes’ lower 100 miles. And from Hood River, located in the Columbia River Gorge, you can be snowboarding Mt. Hood in 45 minutes or paddling Washington’s White Salmon in less than half that. Mt. Hood and Mt. Bachelor also offer two of the longest ski seasons in the country, with ski and snowboard camps on Hood extending well into July. Hood River also offers excellent access to sea kayaking or canoeing along the Hanford stretch of the Columbia, not to mention the Class V burliness of Washington’s Little White Salmon. Both towns also provide plenty of opportunity for other outdoor pursuits, including the famed rock climbing at Smith Rocks near Bend or the world class windsurfing found at Hood River. And for the truly ambitious, a “triple”–a ski–mt. bike–climb–type of day is easily attainable.

Insider Info: If you can keep from getting arrested, the best play spots in Bend are found in the canals. Tip for Hood River? Learn to windsurf.

Java Spot: Bend: Café Paradiso; Hood River: Holstein’s

Cheap Eats: Bend–The Taco Stand; Hood River–The Mexican joint next to the laundry mat–”So you can dry your polypro while throwing down a sweet bean burrito.”

Local Boaters: John Hart, Chris Emerick, Ken Whiting, Tom Fredericks, Mike Turpin, Otis Craig, John Trujillo, and the Jasons–Wells and Bowermaster

Paddling Companies: Salamander Paddling Gear (Bend), A.T. Paddles design department, Outdoorplay (Hood River)

Best Time of Year to Do Both in a Day: Bend: June; Hood River: February or March

4. BOZEMAN, MONTANA

Like many mountain towns, the cry from the locals was, “Don’t mention Bozeman.” But truth be told, Bozeman is a multi-sporter’s paradise, helped along by its 4,000-foot altitude that keeps the sun shining in town, the snow on the mountain and the water in the river. Bozeman locals head 15 miles to Bridger Bowl–where season passes cost about $500 per year–to ski some steep and technical terrain during the winter. In April, boaters head to the Gallatin, which is a Class III or IV river and early season temps can reach 70 degrees. Recently, folks have been moving to the area creeks, where some of Twitch 2000 was shot.

Another beauty of spring is that the backcountry is accessible near Bear Tooth Pass, where skiers can hit the slopes before paddling the Clark’s Fork of the Yellowstone. The home of Montana State University has 30,000 people, a decent music scene, a bounty of cheap housing (although you might have to fight off the co-eds) and plenty of food service jobs. One caveat, however: the single scene is “weak,” according to one thankfully un-single male local. “Unless you’re in college, it’s not the place to meet a wife,” he says. “All the good ones are taken.” There is a big agricultural history here, tempered by local snowboarders with green hair.

Insider Info: Bozeman has more sunny days than Houston, Texas.

Java Spot: The Rocky Mountain Roaster.

Cheap Eats: Wraps at La Parilla and the Zydeco Cafe.

Local Boaters: Ben Selznick, John Kudrna, Gary and Brian Zimmer

Paddling Companies: Yellowstone Raft Company, Northern Lights Trading Company

Best Time of Year to Do Both in a Day: Early April to mid May, once the Gallatin starts pumping.

5. CRESTED BUTTE, COLORADO

As home to the U.S. Extreme Skiing Championships, Crested Butte is known for its hair-raising steeps. The same gradient can be found on its waterways, with the town fast emerging as a creeking playground of the West. One swing down Main Street in early summer and you’ll see more kayak-topped cars per capita than almost any other town in the country. The key, however, is per capita. A lot of the town’s kayak saturation is due to its diminutive population of 1,500. But it’s also due to the abundance of classic creeks a snowball throw’s away, which the locals flock to daily as soon as they (at least those with jobs) get off work.

Although the nearest real river is the Arkansas a couple of hours away, surrounding town are enough steep trickles to keep adrenal glands running full bore. Topping the list are such classics as Daisy, East, Slate and Oh-Be-Joyful creeks, the latter of which staged a first-ever extreme race this summer. They might not be high volume, but they’re classic enough to draw paddlers every year, many of whom traipse halfway across the country to check out Crested Butte’s wares. As if that isn’t enough, the Crystal Gorge, Taylor and Black Canyon of the Gunnison are all within a day’s reach. And for the touring crowd, the Gunnison offers canoeists the chance for a quiet float away from the chest-pounding creekers.

Insider Info: Bring your mountain bike.

Java Spot: Meet for shuttle at Butte Bagels, or Camp4 Coffee at Elk and 4th.

Cheap Eats: Teocalli Tamale

Local Boaters: Steve Melnick, Scott Murray, Bradley Richmond, Steve Reska, Porter Fogleman, and Milo “the Bachelor” Wynne

Paddling Companies: Paddle Trax

Best Time of Year to Do Both in a Day: Early June, when you can hit the backcountry for early-morning corn, and then careen off the creeks in the afternoon.

6. DURANGO, COLORADO

With the Purgatory at Durango Mountain Resort ski area just 20 minutes north on Hwy 550 and the Animas River coursing through the heart of town, Durango, Colo., seemingly has it all for gravity-fed adrenaline seekers. And with a thriving kids kayak program run by the city, chances are the people ripping it up next to you on a wave don’t even have their licenses yet.

The main allure for paddlers is the Animas, named “River of Lost Souls in Hell” by Spanish missionaries in the 1700s. The lost souls these days are paddlers, who regularly flock to the town run’s ample playholes, from Santa Rita to Smelter and the surf waves of Sawmill Rapid; town-built slalom course, designed by former World Champion and videographer Kent Ford; and touring stretches above and below town. Other runs in the area include the Class IV-V Upper Animas and Piedra rivers an hour away; more creeks than you can count (Vallecito, Lime, South Mineral Canyon, Cascade); and Rio Chama, Westwater, Cataract Canyon, the Taos Box, San Juan and Dolores a few hours away.

The epicenter is the town run, enjoyed by the majority of the city’s 18,000 residents. The town also has several raft companies offering Animas trips, a popular kayak school under the direction of Dunbar Hardy, and one of the nation’s largest retail/mail order whitewater specialty stores in Four Corners River Sports. And the 4,000 students of Ft. Lewis College ensure the town keeps a young perspective, from the latest body piercings to apparel and music trends. When the snow flies, locals don’t have to head far to satisfy their urge to glide on a more frozen medium. Chapman Hill on Florida Road downtown has a rope tow for quick night-time training; the ski area of Purgatory offers 1,200 skiable acres; and the San Juan Mountains boast enough backcountry skiing to tire any set of paddling legs. If that isn’t enough, Wolf Creek, which boasts Colorado’s largest snowpack, and the steeps of Telluride are a short shuttle away.

Insider Info: Head to 9th Street at 5 p.m. any day of the week and you can always find someone to paddle with on the town run.

Java Spot: Carver’s Bakery–complete with boating pictures on the wall and a wait staff that surfs every afternoon.

Cheap Eats: Gazpachos, Old Tymers or Steamworks Brewery.

Local Boaters: The Wiley sisters (Nancy, Amy and Janet), Andy Corra, Kent Ford, Dunbar Hardy, John Brennan, Polly Green, Mike and Jana Freeburn, Eric Southwick, Tanya Shuman and a thriving kids program.

Paddling Companies: Bomber Gear, Performance Video, Four Corners River Sports, Smiley’s Nose Plugs, and former home of Sin squirt boats and Lidds helmets.

Best Time of Year to Do Both in a Day: March or April–rip San Juan freshies at Purgatory, and then rip the Smelter hole before happy hour.

7. JACKSON HOLE, WYOMING

When April rays start to melt the south-facing slopes of Jackson Hole Ski Resort, local hardcores know it’s time to trade poles for paddle and hit the Snake River. Though rare, a Wyoming winter warm spell offers residents of Jackson an opportunity for one of the best two-sport days in the Rockies. While the mountain has a well-deserved reputation for its challenging terrain, the Snake River provides several stretches for beginning and intermediate paddlers, including some fabulous flatwater canoeing options in Grand Teton or Yellowstone National Park. Also, though known primarily as a downhiller’s paradise, Jackson Hole has dozens of options for the Nordic skier, on either groomed or ungroomed terrain. And the whitewater boater looking for a challenge in this upper left-hand corner of Wyoming need look no further than the nearby Grey’s or Gros Ventre River, or any of the region’s gnarly steep creeks. Another plus is that the Snake runs big well into autumn. O.K., maybe not big, but big enough that you can still find a hole to surf long after other towns have packed up their boats for the winter.

Insider Info: Early April, during the last week Jackson Hole Ski Resort is open, can be one of the best times of the year to fish the Snake River for cutthroat trout.

Java Spot: Pearl Street Bagels

Cheap Eats: Mama Inez for Mexican, Le Jays for late night greasy spoon, Jackson Hole Pub and Brewery for beer.

Local Boaters: Aaron Pruzan, Tommy Moe, Will Taggart, Olaf Kohler, Robert McNeil

Paddling Companies: Croakies, Wyoming Wear, Rendezvous River Sports, Teton Gravity Research, Cloudveil

Best Time of Year to Do Both in a Day: Early April at the resort, mid June for the backcountry. Dress warmly.

8. LAKE TAHOE, CALIFORNIA

The North and South Shore may evoke visions of Hawaii, but when you’re in Northern California, it means Lake Tahoe. There are 20 places to ski in and around Lake Tahoe, and just as many places to paddle. The ski bum crowd tends to gather on the North Shore, bunking down in Tahoe City, King’s Beach and Incline Village and making their turns at Squaw Valley. Paddling options start with the Class III Truckee River close by and the South Fork of the American a mere two hours away. People get in the water in the spring, but if you’re jonesing to squeeze into a dry top, head to the South Yuba where Class V paddling is available as early as January. “You can pretty much boat year-round,” says Todd Dixon of Tahoe Kayak and Paddle. “And there’s also the big lake for canoeing or sea kayaking.” Hit Fordyce Creek in July if you’re looking for a solid creek run.

Tahoe is burdened by references to the Donner Party, where some unfortunates (because they were already dead) became dinner for their hungry traveling companions. While you may not go hungry–there are plenty of jobs–the housing situation is dismal. Winter social life is pretty quiet, with people working, skiing, hitting happy hour and then going to bed, doing it all over the next day.

Insider Info: If you’re in your early 20s, head to the South Shore.

Java Spot: The Java Hut in King’s Beach

Cheap Eats: T’s Mesquite Rotisserie.

Local Boaters: Scott Lindgren, John Rogers, Dave Good, Kent Kreitler (sick canoeist)

Paddling Companies: Patagonia (Reno), Nine Lives Paddling Shop, Wolf Creek Wilderness

Best Time of Year to Do Both in A Day: February, March or earlier–”soon as the snow flies” says one local.

9. MT. WASHINGTON VALLEY, NEW HAMPSHIRE

Mt. Washington Valley boasts 27 towns and seven ski areas, with the unofficial eighth being the gnarliest of them all: the legendary Tuckerman’s Ravine tucked into Mount Washington. It’s open until June and if you survive the 55-degree pitch, life in this valley is pretty easy. “It’s easy to get by if you keep it simple,” says Matty Gillette of Joe Jones Ski and Sport in North Conway, one of the bigger towns in the area.

Most of the mountains have skiing until April when the snow melts, feeding into the Saco and the Swift Rivers, which are little Class II spots and good for just cruising. If you’re looking for some hair, try hiking into Class V Dry River or Peabody River, both of which drain Mt. Washington and will test the toughest boaters out there. The paddling isn’t limited to creeking, however. Canoeing is popular on the Saco and Echo Lake and fisherman are hopping into sea kayaks to cast their lines.

Housing is pretty easy to find, although you may have to do some searching, and jobs are everywhere. The population is mixed, from Boston college students to New York retirees, but the consensus is that there’s something for everyone, including rock climbing at Cathedral Ridge, near North Conway, and hiking and mountain biking just about anywhere.

Insider Info: The martini capital of the north country.

Java Spot: The Morning Dew, Frontside Grind

Cheap Eats: Locals are flocking to the newest spot in town, the Moat Mountain Brewery. Old standbys include Horsefeather’s and Delaney’s.

Local Boaters: Greg and Sue Hanlon, Carl Farnum

Paddling Companies: Mitchell Paddles (Canaan), Saco Bound Paddling School (Conway)

Best Time to Do Both in a Day: Tuckerman’s is sometimes open until the fourth of July, but June is usually best.

10. SNOWSHOE, WEST VIRGINIA

Most paddlers know West Virginia for the legendary Gauley, but just two hours away, folks are staring up at 4,848-foot Snowshoe Mountain, with visions of perfect turns dancing in their heads. Skiing in West Virginia? It’s true and Snowshoe has thousands of acres and 56 trails. Housed in Pocahontas County, this area is swiftly becoming a four-season destination. “If you don’t like the outdoors, you’re S.O.L. here,” says Dave Simmons of Appalachian Sports.

Snowshoe closes in early April and the Greenbriar River is already running, although it peaks in May. The canoeists outnumber the kayakers on this winding Class I and II river, with fisherman trying to hook smallmouth bass. The Elk is also close, and whitewater junkies can head southwest to the Gauley and New rivers for Class III-V. This county is big with no shortage of open space–seven state parks and the Monongahela are within an easy drive. The Snowshoe Mountain area provides most of the nightlife in the winter and things drop off a bit in the summer, with folks heading to local watering holes. People live all over the county, with the county seat of Marlington 22 miles away. A bonus: there is not one Wal-Mart in the county, so people actually patronize local businesses. The county is going through a growth spurt, which is going to help things, giving people a chance to make some year-round dough–and save up for a rainy day of paddling.

Insider Info: The Appalachian Trail runs right through the county.

Java Spot: People do drink coffee, but there really isn’t a coffeehouse, although Lowry suggested this would be a great business to open.

Cheap Eats: The River Place and French’s Diner in Marlington.

Local Boaters: Katie and B.J. Johnson (Lansing), Deb Ruehle (Hico)

Paddling Companies: Custom Inflatables (Reedsville), Falling Down Productions (Lansing)

Best Time of Year to Do Both in a Day: All winter long–this is the Southeast.

11. STEAMBOAT SPRINGS, COLORADO

The Yampa River sits in the shadow of Mount Werner and it’s a good day in Steamboat when you’ve been on both. If Olympic bronze medallist Billy Kidd hangs his Stetson in Steamboat for its skiing, paddlers hang their helmets there because of the Yampa and its tributaries. Known as Ski Town USA, the community has more Winter Olympians than any other town in the country. But it could just as easily be called Paddle Town USA; the late Rich Weiss represented the town in Olympic kayaking in 1992 and ‘96.

Most local boaters hit the Yampa in town after a few runs on the mountain. Happy-hour kayaking can be crowded, but all you have to do is wait your turn. Local groups have made improvements on the river that make it great for fisherman and kayakers, although don’t expect them to meet for a beer afterward. Fish and Willow creeks, Gore Canyon and the Poudre’s Big South Fork satisfy the hair set, and a Class III favorite is the Elk a half hour away. The town’s crown jewel is Cross Mountain Canyon an hour and a half downstream; and Dinosaur National Monument, offering multi-day canoe, kayak and raft runs on the Yampa and Green. In spring, some folks even break out their cross country skis on Rabbit Ears Pass before an afternoon canoe on the nearby Colorado.

Insider Info: Hit Strawberry Park Hot Springs after a run on mountain or river, where folks shed their clothes to dip in the naturally steamy offerings.

Java Spot: Mocha Molly’s

Cheap Eats: Azteca Taqueria, Brooklyn’s Pizza (where you can check out some paddling pics while you wait for your slice), Yama-Chan’s Sushi lunch special, and Johnny B. Goods.

Local Boaters: Charlie Beavers, Jared Johnson, Ben Coleman

Paddling Companies: Paddler magazine; former home of Wave Sport; Steamboat Canoe School; Fat Eddie’s Threadworks; Bap/Bwear Action Products; and Big Agnes.

Best Time of Year to Do Both in a Day: Mid March to late April–the mountain is still open and the Yampa starts to please.

12. STOWE, VERMONT

The Green Mountain State is a beautiful spot, but there is one problem: when spring rolls around, people struggle between getting on their boards or getting in their boats. Stowe is great for both. Mount Mansfield, the highest peak in Vermont, is large and has long runs that stretch from top to bottom. This mountain spills into the west branch of the Little River, the local boating gathering spot in the early season. The Little is a dam-released river and is a good solid Class III-IV, according to Steve Brownlee, owner of Umiak Outdoor Outfitters in Stowe. The Little flows down to the Water Bear Reservoir, which is a great place to sea kayak.

There are two nearby creeks for more technical boating. The Gihon, about 20 minutes away, has Class III-IV stretches, while the Lamoilleis offers continuous Class IV-V, a rarity for Vermont, which has a lot of flat water and tight creeks, rather than big volume water.

The Mad River (namesake for one of the world’s best-known canoe manufacturers) is also about 20 minutes away and most people hit the fourth, or lower, section. While the area offers some classic creeking, not everyone is gunning to be gripped. The touring crowd heads to the Water Bear, Lake Elmore, Green River Reservoir and Lake Champlain for sea kayaking and canoeing. The town is small and doesn’t have the bar scene of Killington (read: filled with time-sharers from Boston), but it’s a bit quieter.

Insider Info: Stowe is the home to Trapp Family Lodge (of “Sound of Music” fame) and one of the children is still alive.

Java Spot: The Brown Bag Deli

Cheap Eats: The Rusty Nail, the Brown Bag Deli and Max Grocery Store.

Local Boaters: The Kern brothers, and any of the instructors or kids at Adventure Quest

Paddling Companies: Mad River Canoe (Waitsfield), Adventure Quest (Woodstock)

Best time to Do Both in a day: Late March or early April

13. SUN VALLEY, IDAHO

Though none of the really burly Idaho runs are close to the hill, Sun Valley still offers access to flatwater canoeing on the Big Wood River–which occasionally sees a playwave or two form near town. Also, nearby Stanley and Redfish Lakes provide good canoeing while heading south will bring you to the solid Class IV paddling of the Murtaugh section on the Snake. There is also easy access to the day trip section of the Salmon near Sunbeam and several local outfitters offer trips there. Of course, hairboaters willing to drive a little ways will be more than happy with what they’ll find in Idaho: more miles of free flowing rivers than any state other than Alaska, including the Selway, Middle Fork of the Salmon and North Fork of the Payette.

As a ski resort, Sun Valley has one of the most storied histories in all of skidom, opening for business in 1936 and serving over the years as home to many familiar names, including Ernest Hemingway. Like Aspen, there has always been a population of the fur and jewels set in Sun Valley. Consequently, those of a lower income bracket (as in, less than six figures) tend to live in Ketchum, two miles west, or Hailey, 12 miles south, rather than in Sun Valley proper. While the mountain may not offer the steeps of a Jackson Hole or Crested Butte, it does get some of the finest snow in the nation and a backcountry ski/ Main Salmon paddle can make for an awesome two-sporter afternoon.

Insider Info: Nordic skiers might want to try and catch Sun Valley’s Spring Series, which runs the last three weekends in March.

Java Spot: Java on 4th

Cheap Eats: KB’s Burritos

Local Boaters: The Crist family, including Reggie, Zach, Danielle and father Roger. Gerry Moffatt, Dave and Judy Harrison, Bozo Cardozo, Irv Bier, Pete Patterson

Paddling Companies: Smith Sunglasses, Elevation magazine

Best Time of Year to Do Both in One Day: Late April to early June

14. VAIL, COLORADO

Although you’ll see countless fur coats in Vail during the winter, you won’t see them come spring on local paddlers. That’s because the boaters are locals, not second and third home owners vacationing for a little R&R.; For paddlers, the R&R; stands for rapids, the closest of which can be found a hundred yards from the Vista Bahn chairlift on Gore Creek, which careens through the center of town.

Illustrating the disparity between residents, last summer a band of second homeowners filed a lawsuit in an attempt to block the development of a new whitewater park on Gore Creek, stating “it will bring riff-raff into our town.” Whether the suit holds water or not, paddlers still have plenty of options. Joining the play run downtown are several other day trips all within cell phone distance, including the Eagle River, with such sections as Dowd Chutes (home to the annual Jeep Whitewater Festival) and Gilman Gorge; and Homestake Creek for the extreme crowd. Other whitewater runs within a day’s drive are the Shoshone and Gore Canyon sections on the Colorado; Granite, Pine Creek, Numbers and Brown’s Canyon on the Arkansas; Clear Creek; Bailey Canyon; and the Blue. For green circle canoeing, try the 50-mile stretch of the Colorado between Gore Canyon and Glenwood Springs; or nearby Lake Dillon and Green Mountain Reservoir.

Insider Info: Hit the Friday Afternoon Club on Gore Creek and take-out at the Bully Ranch Bar in the heart of town.

Java spot: Dancing Bear (West Vail); and the Daily Grind

Cheap Eats: Cougar Ridge Café in nearby Minturn

Local Boaters: Billy Mattison (of Eco Challenge fame); Dagger Rep Ken “Hobie” Hoeve; Chris “Mongo” Reeves; Charlie Ebel; Brent Toepper; Bob Blount.

Paddling Companies: Timberline Tours; Mongo Products

Best Time of Year to Do Both in a Day: early April, when the ski area’s still open and the Eagle has started carrying the resort’s white gold to sea level.

Last modified: January 29, 2019
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