Tourists head to town

Commercial tubing season will stay afloat for another summer

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The Yampa River fleet will be in port today as Steamboat Springs' commercial tubing operators inflate for a big tourism week.

Kent Vertrees, office manager for Blue Sky West Adventures said Thursday that his company and others in the tubing business will begin putting clients into the river below Fifth Street for what should be a brisk float to the takeout at the James Brown Soul Center of the Universe Bridge in West Steamboat.

"The river was flowing at 520 cubic feet per second today, so we're limiting tubing to 14 years and older, and everyone must wear lifejackets," Vertrees said. He expects the float to last about 30 minutes in current river conditions.

Visitors to Steamboat this summer will find that the cost of tubing has gone up from $13 to $14 at most businesses. The increase is to make up for the additional cost of fuel for the large passenger vans that pick tubers up at the James Brown Bridge and return them to downtown Steamboat.

Steamboat's five tubing companies should have an abundant customer base throughout the coming week. The lodging barometer published by the Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association anticipates 9,300 visitors will be in town Saturday night, with many here for a Triple Crown youth baseball tournament. Tourism will remain strong with the arrival of the annual convention of the Colorado Municipal League based at mountain hotels. The chamber expects 8,600 people in town Wednesday night. That's more than twice as many as the corresponding Wednesday in 2003.

Tubers this week can expect chilly water conditions as the Yampa continues to be fed by melting snow. The daily water temperatures are ranging between the mid-50-degree range to the low 60s in the afternoon.

Vertrees said he is optimistic that despite below-average snowpack in the mountains, the Yampa fleet will enjoy a good month of tubing conditions.

"If we continue to get rain showers, we'll be fine," Vertrees said.

The city of Steamboat Springs is urging private tubers to abide by new restrictions. The city is strongly recommending private tubers put into the river below Fetcher Park to protect natural areas upstream.

City trails and open space coordinator Mike Neumann said the city recommendation is the result of the new Yampa River Management Plan. It concludes that the natural areas along the river upstream from Fetcher Park need to be protected, and the intensity of recreational activity there should be reduced.

Private tubers may want to consider the convenient parking areas at Howelsen Hill in addition to the limited parking at Fetcher, Neumann suggested.

After seeing commercial tubing numbers peak in the neighborhood of 25,000 trips in 1998, the city began studying ways to limit the impact. Today, the numbers of daily commercial trips are capped at 433 on weekdays, 500 on Fridays and 915 on weekends. Commercial trips launch only between the hours of 10:30 a.m. and 4 p.m.

-- To reach Tom Ross call 871-4205

or e-mail tross@steamboatpilot.com

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