It was raining, sleeting, and snowing all at once in Glenwood Canyon at 9:00 AM on a Tuesday morning in early May. Green was lightly edging the cottonwoods and willows along the banks of the Colorado River, but the weather hadn’t fully committed to Spring.
Despite the chilly temperature and ominous clouds, as the Blue Sky vans pulled up to the Shoshone Rapids put-in, the energy of its occupants was high, and three blue boats were hustled efficiently down the ramp to rest in an eddy above the rushing water. Seven eager individuals piled into each raft and held paddles at the ready, despite a sudden squall of sideways wind and splash of freezing water. With an enthusiastic call for ‘All Forward!,’ the trip was off.
It was Day Two of guide training for Blue Sky Adventures, and no one was complaining…yet.
Every spring, as most of its customers are just starting to imagine their possible summer vacation itineraries, Blue Sky Adventures is training the newest class of whitewater guides. For approximately two weeks, rookies spend hours floating the Colorado and Roaring Fork Rivers gaining instruction from many of the company’s veteran guides and a few local river legends.
As they build up their strength on the oars, they are learning to ‘read the river,’ looking for hazards and practicing how to navigate a safe and fun path. Things like lateral waves (waves that come from a diagonal angle), holes (large waves that recirculate), strainers (partially submerged hazards which can pin a boat or swimmer) and sleepers (rocks hidden below the water yet not deep enough to float over) are identified and discussed.
There is also training devoted to how to accurately throw a ‘throwbag’ to rescue a swimmer, and even flip practice! Not that flips happen often on our homestretch of water, but it is important for everyone to know what to do in the event of an emergency, and so boats full of trainees are tipped over into the freezing water where they have to scramble back onto the upside-down raft, flip it right-side up, and climb back in. For many of these more advanced skills, Blue Sky Adventures contracts with a certified Swift Water Rescue Technician.