The snow keeps falling on the slopes of Colorado. The unusually high snowpack means the Rocky Mountains that bisect the state are still covered in snow. There’s so much snow in the mountains that skiers and snowboarders are still making turns — Arapahoe Basin ski area just announced an extended season running until June 23. For rafters, all of the extra snowmelt could lead to one of the best seasons on record.
As temperatures warm throughout the state, snowmelt runoff is expected to begin in the coming weeks and drastically increase water flow in the state’s rivers. Runoff generally begins in mid-May, but the lingering winter conditions have caused a nearly three-week delay. River enthusiasts tout the delay as a surefire sign of an epic season, however, with conditions allowing river outfitters to operate commercial rafting trips through Labor Day.
Besides entirely eliminating the statewide drought that resulted from last year’s below-average snowfall, this year’s snow may create the best rafting conditions in decades. David Costlow, the executive director of the Colorado River Outfitters Association, expects 2019 to be the strongest year since the mid-nineties.
“All across the state, I think this should be a very good year for rafting,” Costlow told The Denver Post. “1993 was a whopping year, 1995 proved to be a very good year. It’s probably going to be the best in the last 20 years.”
Expect a challenging paddle throughout June, though, as rapid snowmelt can turn rapids normally rating as a Class II or Class III into a Class IV or V, and make even calm sections of a river more volatile. High CFS (cubic feet per second), the measurement of how fast river water moves, promises extreme conditions until most of the snowmelt passes. If it’s your first time on the water, you might want to push that rafting trip back until July or August. Check current conditions at Colorado Whitewater.