The world of Rafting: what happens in winter?

Have you ever wondered about what happens at a rafting company in winter? Surely people don’t go rafting surrounded by snow… do they? How do flip-flop-wearing raft guides survive in the cold? 

If these are the shower thoughts keeping you up at night, this read is for you!

Every year, rafting companies all over the world are forced to accept the inevitable arrival of fall and winter, after an epic summer of rafting. The change in season will impact a great number of things; from river water levels to road access and air temperature. This often means it’s time to deflate those rafts, close down the base, and find another adventure until spring comes around and that rafting base becomes a hive of activity all over again.

Although a lot of rafting companies close for winter, that doesn’t mean rafting staff members go into hibernation. Some decide to embrace winter full-on by working on the ski slopes, others will escape to a warm country for a well-deserved vacation, and others will just get right back on a raft somewhere on a river in the southern hemisphere. This winter, for example, you can find our guides around the globe working the ski hills in Canada, climbing all over South America, kite-surfing in Mexico, raft guiding in New Zealand, and expeditioning in Australia.

Cheakamus River
Photo by MJ Blanchet

Now that’s what a lot of you expect to have happen at a rafting company in winter… but that’s not always the case! Some rafting companies are lucky enough to be in areas of the world where white-water rafting is a year-round activity, even if it means flying to the river put-in point by helicopter or getting kitted up with a dry-suit before getting on the raft! If some of our rafters get nervous in summer when they hear the water temperature on our Wet & Wild Elaho Exhilarator tour (4°C/39.2°F), we can only imagine their eyes rounding at the thought of rafting with snow on the river banks and their frosty breath puffing out in the air. Brrrr!

For those not lucky enough to go white-water rafting year-round, there are other unique rafting trips to consider that wouldn’t be possible without a winter setting, such as the “bundle up nice and warm and float down the river to admire the snowy landscape and its winter animal populace” type of rafting. Our winter Eagle Viewing float tours are a perfect example! Every winter starting in November one of the world’s largest populations of bald eagles migrates to the Brackendale area of Squamish to feast on the abundant salmon found in the local rivers after a prolific spawning season. It is THE perfect opportunity to see these majestic birds close up in their natural habitat perched up on the surrounding trees, flying overhead, and showing off their fishing skills. The salmon in our rivers most definitely plays a part in attracting the eagles, but so does winter!

And as if worldly adventures and winter rafting weren’t enough, there’s the whole prepping for summer part of winter that most people forget about. It takes a lot of work and planning to make sure all is ready for the next summer season. From maintaining, repairing and renewing gear, to packing up and then setting back up the rafting base, to hiring new staff for a growing team and setting the curriculum for a raft guide school, the operational team at a rafting company has its work cut-out for winter, have no fear!

Then there’s the trip planning for schools participating in programs like our Outback Kids, and for those well-organized groomsmen and bridesmaids in charge of the stag(ette), and other groups looking to have the best summer adventure or fully customized rafting expedition! Not to mention the rafting team attending events like the Toronto and Vancouver Outdoor Adventure Show to spread the love of rafting far and wide and connecting with all-around adventurers.

And so, although it may get quiet at times, the winter season at a rafting company is never boring! Stay tuned on our blog for upcoming posts filled with winter stories from our team of raft guides!