Feel The Valley’s Pulse: Get On the River with BootDoctors

Feel The Valley’s Pulse: Get On the River with BootDoctors

“The (Boot)Doctor is in the House” is a series from beloved Telluride retailer BootDoctors, The subject is  mountain lore and stories in which the good guys always bag summits. The Big Idea is to share the power of mountain life: style, gear, community and community outreach, and adventures of all kind. This week, once again, regular Telluride Inside… and Out contributor and accomplished local skier and cyclist Jesse James McTigue writes about rocking and rolling on the river, BootDoc-style. A menu of options is described below. All rafting photos are from Elevation Imaging.

The beauty of Telluride’s mountains is undeniable; perhaps they are the heart of this place. If so, the rivers must then be the pulse. Fueled by snowmelt on the valley’s highest peaks, it is the rivers that cascade down the mountainsides, pour across the valley floor, bound down valley, and fill the high mountain lakes and small tributaries. They spread across the San Juans like veins.

And as such, they have their own rhythm. Like the mountains, they invite visitors to come and play, come experience the life they give to this valley. And there is only one way to do that: get in.

Admittedly, that can be intimidating: the river can seem unruly; the lakes, mysterious. But not to the professionals at BootDoctors, who have dedicated their lives to exploring the outdoors and taking visitors along with them.

BootDoctor owner and 36-year veteran river guide, Bob Gleason, gets giddy just talking about rivers, especially in June when the mountainsides are still full of snow from Telluride’s inevitable late-April and May snowstorms. A hot June day equals high levels of snowmelt and more water in the rivers – or as Bob sees them—his playground.


“Go now, in June, if you can,” he says. “The spring runoff is fun and exciting. The high water creates big waves and fills the river side to side. It’s invigorating the whole way down—it’s splashy.”

Flashing from among the rugged lines on his face, weathered by experiences and days on end outside in the mountains, when he talks about rivers, tis a twinkle in Bob’s eye.

“High water makes you giggle,” he says then thinks a moment and counters, “but low water is fun too.”

It seems he is happy on the river any day – or more precisely – everyday.

“The river is so dynamic,” Bob says, still in awe after a lifetime of running them and often the same ones and the same sections. “It changes everyday – the foliage around river, insect life around water, the consistency and clarity of water, wave heights and holes. Every day is dynamically different from the day before.”

His earnestness begs anyone listening to go experience it for themselves, to surrender to its flow, revive with its splashes and play in its waves.

“I never get tired of running the river,” Bob says, then compares it to the other mountain experience he knows just as well. “It’s like skiing.”

To experience the valley’s pulse, get on the river and explore the high mountain lakes with BootDoctors’ experienced guides.

SUP Alta Lakes and Trout Lake:

Join Bootdoctor for guided SUP Tours of Alta Lakes and Trout Lake.

SUP on Trout Lake, photo courtesy Telski.

SUPping, aka stand up paddle boarding, is as popular as a cold craft beer on a hot summer day and as varietal in the ways to do it and places to go. Like the reliability of an IPA, Alta Lakes and Trout Lake are good places to start.

Alta Lakes:

Just a little south of Telluride, off of highway 145 is a 6-mile dirt road to Alta Lakes. At the top, nestled between the backside of Palmyra Peak and Gold King Basin, lie three pristine mountain lakes, the largest and lowest is perfect for a peaceful paddleboard.

Trout Lake: 

Further up 145 in the shadow of the cragged faces of Sheep Mountain and its connected peaks, sits Trout Lake. Although not as secluded as Alta Lakes, it’s just as beautiful and offers a greater expanse to explore.

White Water Runs:

Deep Creek to Caddis Flats

One of  BootDoctors most popular river runs is the Down Valley Run – a section of the river that runs parallel to highway 145 from Telluride to Placerville. The 12-mile section of the river runs from Deep Creek to Caddis Flats and keeps rafters enthralled with fun continuous class 2 and 3 rapids and one class 4 to get the heart going. Join the BootdDoctors on this 12-mile, ½-day, river blast.

San Miguel Canyon: Specie Creek to Beaver Creek

This section of the river runs parallel to highway 145 starting in Placerville and heading toward Norwood. The put-in is at Specie Creek and take out is Beaver Creek, one mile west of Norwood bridge. This ½-day serene section of the river is a little quieter and perfect for families.

Can’t choose? Combine both white water adventures for a full-day of rafting.


More about BootDoctors Ski, Snowboard & Bike Shop (from the desk of Penelope Gleason):

It was the winter ski season of 1985. Bob Gleason looked up from the boot-fit bench at Taos Ski Valley and caught the glances of the folks lined up out the door. Anxious faces of skiers.

“Bring us your sore, cold, numb, battered feet…and we will make them able to ski again,” thought the grinning Irishman as he labored to bend the stiff plastic of a ski boot to his bidding.

Ski boots in the eighties were only slightly better than torture devices. They had, in fact, improved substantially from the old days of leather, but hard plastics and packed-out liners more often than not tamped down a skier’s enthusiasm.

Bob Gleason had dedicated his professional life to making ski boots more comfortable and better performing.

After a stint at Hanson boots, where he addressed a number of key problems presented by skiers and many pro athletes, Bob was drawn to the emerging ski mecca of Taos Ski Valley by the famous ski pioneer Ernie Blake.

Now Bob Gleason and his partner Bob Reminger were struggling to keep up with demand for their boot-fitting skills. The need for a new ski shop with a focus on boot-fitting became glaringly obvious.

In 1986, the two Bobs started their own shop in Taos Ski Valley, with a central focus on the highest quality ski boot-fitting. They were joined by Linda Gleason and, later, by Kyle Reminger in the shop, where they added ski clothing and accessories into the mix. It was a smart business model: once skier’s boots came off, shoeless individuals were confined to the store for the better part of an hour. Why not pass the time browsing all the cool gear while waiting for your boots to be altered?

The original shop and the newer Telluride stores stand on a foundation built on the combined values of deep knowledge, quality workmanship and products, customer service, and personal passion for skiing and other mountain, trails, and river-based sports. All the folks who work at BootDoctors live in and love the outdoors and are always ready, willing, and able to share their expertise to help others have great outdoors experiences too.

The TSV BootDoctors store was at first inconveniently located, away from the Main Street traffic stream and across a river. Some devotees scrambled through the frozen river bed to reach the shop rather than hike around. That was remedied in the darkness of one night, when the landlord, JB Cottam, snuck in a new bridge, much to the surprise of the ski area owners and competitors.

The rest is history…

It is history that stretches over 30 years of world-renowned boot-fitting done on site at the highest quality ski shop, still owned and run by two families, the Gleasons and the Remigers. Many awards decorate the walls for “top boot-fitting” and “most knowledgeable staff” – many of whom have been with the business for more than 20 years.

Loyalty is the key element to survival. Loyalty has taken BootDoctors through droughts and fierce local competition, as well as competition from big sporting goods chains and the rapid growth of on-line shopping. Loyalty of the staff and loyalty of the customers, who return generation after generation, bringing children and grandchildren for gear and services.

In 1996, Bob Gleason, who had been exploring the landscape of ski area retail as he traveled teaching Master Ski Tech and Masterfit Bootfitting clinics all over North America, became enamored of the rustic town of Telluride, which was on the verge of a major revival with a new owner of the ski area. Gleason moved to Telluride and one year later decided to open a BootDoctors store in the quickly growing Mountain Village. The need for quality boot-fitting and a homegrown, old fashioned, owner-operated ski store fit his skills well.

Over 20 years in Telluride, the BootDoctors grew to encompass a large storefront in Mountain Village and take over the Paragon Sports stores, another locally owned sporting goods outfit. The expansion allowed BootDoctors’ customers to benefit from the master boot-fitting and high-quality products on both sides of the mountain.

In 1998, Penelope Gleason joined the crew as marketing director after a stint in retail and inventory control. The Gleasons’ daughters, Kelli and Galena, joined the business after college and rose to the ranks of management and top buyers.

Purchase of the Paragon stores allowed the merchandise mix to reflect another of the family’s passions: cycling. Biking had been one of Gleason’s summer recreational passions – along with river-guiding since the 1970s.

BootDoctors also grew their summer offerings in Telluride to include rafting, paddle boarding, mountain bike rentals, retail, repair, and tours. In Taos, they added a store in the downtown in collaboration with the area’s top fly fishing outfitter, Solitary Angler.

The same quality and passion found in the boot-fitting department permeates the other departments, from ski rentals to outdoor clothing, bikes and guided adventure tours.

Never known to rest on its laurels, BootDoctors became the first entity in Telluride to offer Fat Tire Bikes for rent, sale, and tours.

Quality, knowledge, passion for sport and personal service are values being carried forward by the awesome staff at all five BootDoctors stores today.

The same big grin that sparkles on the ski slope, under his bike helmet, or in the boot-fit room shines as Bob watches his daughters Kelli and Galena continue the traditions while buying hard and soft goods, managing different departments in the business, and excelling in skiing, biking, and river-running.

Bob knows the future looks good for the next generation of BootDoctors and their loyal customers.


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