Steamboat Springs River tubes are flying out the doors at Steamboat Springs sporting goods stores this season, which some see as a business boon and others see as a cause for concern.
Managers at tube retailers Sports Authority and Christy Sports said single- and double-person floating devices were moving quickly. Peter Van De Carr, owner of Backdoor Sports and member of the Respect the Yampa campaign, said he appreciated retailers' support of the campaign but sees tube rentals as a more environmentally responsible way to ride the river.
Sports Authority Store Manager Dan Harvey said the compressors had been going nonstop Thursdays through weekends as people filled tubes with air.
"It's been definitely good," Harvey said. "It's helped, obviously with traffic numbers being down resortwide, it's definitely helped with sales and bringing people in, and it's a pretty inexpensive activity."
The store's tubes range from about $20 to about $40. On busy days toward weekends, Sports Authority sometimes has sold more than 200 a day, 50 to 100 on average, Harvey said. The store's tube sales are up about 25 percent for the month, he said.
He managed Sports Authority's opening in 2004 and has been building the tube inventory since.
"Our busiest was actually the week after the Fourth of July," Harvey said. "I don't know if it was because the river slowed down a little bit more."
That week also was busy for Christy Sports, said Chuck O'Connell, the company's Steamboat area manager. The previous week, which ended July 5, was the strongest this summer, he said. Christy received its tubes later in the season last year and didn't have any the first week of July, he said.
The store sold 44-inch, 48-inch and double tubes. Christy sold the same number it did last year during the week ending July 12 and was up 44 percent the next week compared with the same week in 2008, O'Connell said.
Christy Sports might have been up more had it not run out of tubes July 18, he said. The store expects to have more Friday. O'Connell said he thinks locals enjoy having their own tubes rather than renting each time they go out.
"For whatever reason, there's certainly an increase in tubing activity," O'Connell said. "And I believe it's a great amenity, that river corridor. It's fantastic."
Christy and Sports Authority have cooperated with Respect the Yampa, Van De Carr said. Christy has posters up explaining where people should enter the Yampa River and how they should conduct themselves. Van De Carr said some other tube sellers hadn't worked with Respect the Yampa.
Rentals also up
Van De Carr said he thinks the best way to tube the river is to rent gear from an outfitter. Those businesses reuse tubes, provide transportation and educate customers about respecting the river, he said.
"I can definitely say that a majority of the junk is contributed by people that are buying tubes at non-outfitters," Van De Carr said. "Because, for example, the outfitters make sure people have shoes that don't fall off and nobody takes trash on the river, and we show them quiet zones, and we make sure they're putting in at areas that are not coveted by non-tubing people."
About 20 people volunteered time Monday to clean trash out of the Yampa, Van De Carr said.
"The amount of busted tubes is astronomical," he said. "That's probably the biggest single trash item, is tubes."
Even tubers who don't leave beer cans or other trash often pollute the Yampa, Van De Carr said.
"This is something I get from people all the time: I tell them if you take your sunglasses down, you will lose them, and people say, 'I only paid $5 for them,'" he said. "It's still trash in the river."
Tube rentals at Backdoor Sports are up 25 percent this summer, but that's because the outfitter didn't start renting tubes until after July 11 last year. Water levels were too high for safe tubing then, Van De Carr said. This year, tubing started earlier.
Daily tube rentals are down 5 percent compared with last year's figures, he said.
Everyone should focus on keeping the Yampa clean, Van De Carr said.
"Trash in the river is trash in the river," he said.