Tubing Tips

tubers on the yampa river in Steamboat Springs CO

Don’t be this guy—the doofus who does everything wrong on the river, from strewing trash to being rude (and sporting a mullet). Respect others and the river, which is having a tough year. For some pointers, we went to uber-tuber Peter Van de Carr of Backdoor Sports.

Eugene dressed up as a river tuber

Always wear shoes. The rocks can be sharp and if a person needs help you may need to get to them quickly.

Don’t purchase cheap tubes. They end up being trash and you end up walking. Heavy-duty 30-gauge PVC is recommended (coinkadink that those are his initials). 

Take nothing of value. Leave that diamond engagement ring, special amulet and those sweet prescription shades back home. There’s a good chance you’ll lose or ruin it.   

Wear a PFD. This is especially true for children and those not comfortable in whitewater. It’s for safety, not stigma. Don’t underestimate the river’s power.

Absolutely no glass. Have class, no glass. Bring beverages only in reusable, unbreakable containers. And bring the empties back home. 

Leave no trace. Don’t trash the river. Pack out all trash by putting it in a net bag or dry bag. (A new ordinance actually prohibits disposable materials (cans, plastic bottles, glass, bags, etc.) on the river.)   

Drink plenty of water. You’re at 6,600 feet and in the sun. Stay hydrated, and keep your alcohol intake to a minimum. (And you can pee right in your tube!)

Avoid the dreaded arm chafe. You’ll be arm-circling aplenty to avoid obstacles; wear a quick-dry short- or long-sleeved shirt to eliminate chafing. And use your feet to push off rocks. 

Hold hands to stay together. It’s a bit old-fashioned, but it’s fun and much safer than tying together with a rope, which can become entangled. And it’s a good excuse to bond with your date. 

Use an outfitter. It’s way easier and includes shuttle, lifejacket, shoes and quality tubes.

Don’t overtip! Unless, of course, it’s to your shuttle driver and outfitter employee.  

Confessions of a Tubing Outfitter

Yampa river tubers

“A lot of times we’ll see mysterious ghost tubes coming down the river with no one in sight. And one time we saw clients climbing the bank after spotting a black bear.” —Jim Dingle

“Separations can be a challenge—sometimes you get hysterical parents, insisting on police assistance, convinced of the worse, only to find their kids eating ice cream at Lyons. It’s also kind of cool finding someone’s priceless family heirloom, and recovering it against all odds. Then there’s dealing with visitors experiencing recreational marijuana for the first time and overdosing on gummies.” —Peter Van de Carr.

“The kids hanging out at Charlie’s Hole can sometimes be a challenge—sometimes they shout at tubers to lean back so they can see the carnage. It results in some great acrobatics. And once a lady was $3 short so she offered us $3 worth of knowledge. She couldn’t deliver and returned with her $3.” — Otis Van de Carr..

Real Questions People Ask

“How deep is the river?” 

“People ask how deep it is, which is impossible to answer since it varies; it may be ankle deep in one spot and 10 feet deep just downstream.”

“Do we end up where we started?”  

“This is the classic. It always fascinates me when you explain that the river ends up in the same place you started and folks nod contemplatively. They think it’s a Disney ride.’”

“Where does the water come from?”

“Uh, that’d be the Champagne powder that makes the ski area so famous.”

“Are we going to get wet?”

“We’ll, you are tubing on a river, so there’s a pretty good chance.” 

Tubing Tax

A new $5 recreational fee has been added for all recreational tubes purchased in Steamboat to go towards education and enforcement.

Tubing by the #’s

49,000 Number of tubers per summer (three months) allowed by the city, spread out among three commercial operators

16,248 tubers per month allowed, instead of a daily allotment, under the city’s new flex system