By Deb Olsen
Canoeing is the telemark of watersports,” says Douglas Wipper of The Steamboat Springs Canoeing School.
“It’s the go-anywhere form of water transportation. You have access to more wilderness vis-à-vis canoeing than any other transportation device.
“There’s unbelievable wildlife on the Colorado River. We see lots of birds – ducks, teals, warblers – and beaver, mink, mule deer and osprey. Sometimes we see eagles take fish right out of the river. For wildlife and solitude, canoes are the way to go.”
You can share your paddling experience with your spouse, kids and dog or go for an afternoon paddle or extended journey. Despite modern technology, paddling a canoe, especially in whitewater, is not as easy as it looks. “It’s the most difficult type of craft in whitewater to master,” Doug says “But once you’ve got the skill, it’s the most flexible craft out there. Good instruction is essential. Seriously, most people say, ‘Oh, I can paddle a canoe.’ But most really do not have good skills.”
Douglas and his wife, Kay, teach canoeing through their own business, as well as through Colorado Mountain College. “We start with a flat-water clinic, then choose the best canyon to star the learning progression. We do a different canyon every day, getting progressively more challenging. It’s a nice evolution, not intimidating,” Doug says.
Canoeing is appealing to people of all ages. Steamboat kids and visiting children learn to paddle on local ponds through the Kids Vacation Center at the Steamboat Ski Area.
“Kids as young as 10 can enjoy white water paddling,” Douglas says. “It’s something you can do your whole life.”