Close this search box.

Kayaks on Ice: New Year’s Day Paddle on the Shoshone

No one is sure when, exactly, the tradition started. Paddlers have been running the Shoshone section of the Colorado River for a New Year’s Day Paddle for as long as anyone can remember. To kayakers, the why makes perfect sense—Shoshone is the most consistent whitewater in the state in the winter. “There are other places, including some sections of the Arkansas, but they’re not reliable,” says local kayaker Peter Holcombe. “Shoshone is the hardest section of whitewater that’s guaranteed not to be frozen over.”

Holcombe, 41, has been paddling the 1.6-mile stretch between the Shoshone Power Plant and Grizzly Creek every New Year’s Day since 2006. “When I first heard about it, it was more like a rumor,” he says. “On the river in the summer, people would say things like ‘Can you imagine running this on New Year’s Day?’ Guys supposedly did it, but no one seemed to know who.”

The Lafayette resident decided to try it, fueled by a plan he made earlier in the year to kayak at least once every month. None of his friends wanted in. “They either thought I was crazy or were going skiing,” Holcombe says. So he posted his plan on, where he found immediate interest, including others who were already planning to go. For Holcombe’s virgin Shoshone New Year’s Day run, 35 other paddlers showed up. They came from the Glenwood Canyon area, from Durango, Grand Junction, Steamboat. “We decided that going forward, New Year’s Day should be the first day of the new kayak season,” says Holcombe.

Holcomb stepped in as the unofficial organizer of what’s become known as Shoshone NYD. Last year, he put up a Facebook page— The page has become a forum for people looking for partners to run rivers in the winter, as well as a place to post photos and tips on surviving winter paddling. The winter version of kayaking is not for everyone. While the rapids on Shoshone have dialed back to class III/III+ due to the lower winter flow, the cold can be deadly. “I won’t let my daughter come unless it’s at least 30 degrees,” Holcombe says of his 9-year-old Abby, who is an accomplished kayaker.


Weather typically dictates the number of paddlers who show up. On New Year’s Day 2011, it was a brutal 7 degrees. Only the 18 hardiest paddlers came, complete with dry suits and neoprene hoods. “Everyone had stalactites hanging from their helmets, and our PDF’s were crusted in ice,” says Holcombe.” “That was the worst year, or the best year, depending on who you ask.”

In 2012, it was 40 degrees and more than 70 paddlers showed, including five kids from the Glenwood Canyon-based Kellogg family. “It’s great, just don’t flip,” says Kady, 15, who competed in the kayaking world freestyle championships in North Carolina in September. Stand-up paddleboarders have also started getting in on the action. Gypsum resident Ken Hoeve even takes his board down the snow-covered ramp that kayakers use to sled-ride into the water. “It’s gotten to be my favorite day of paddling of the year,” says Holcombe.

A New Year’s Day Paddle is a great tradition you can bring to your family and friends. The Shoshone isn’t the only river you can enjoy yourself on, so get out there and start your own tradition.


Share this post:

Discover more in the Rockies: