A combination of fear and spice at Raft Cross

Many a tall tale has been told about the legendary Chupacabra, a beast of cryptozoological lore that haunts nightmares from the Rockies down to old Mexico.

At the GoPro Mountain Games, the spirit of El Chupacabra proved to be a source of inspiration yet again to the Raft Cross team that bears its name, and for the second year running the Chupacabras proved unbeatable.

Led by local Lakota Rafting guides Jeremiah Williams and Jordan Kurt Mason, the team said they use a combination of fear and spice to overwhelm their opponents in the race, which pits four rafts against each other all at once down a slalom course on Vail’s Gore Creek.

“We are equally as terrifying as El Chupacabra, and we are equally as spicy as this sauce,” Williams said, holding up a bottle of hot sauce. “This is El Chupacabra sauce. We take it before every race and it’s the secret to our success.”

Mason said the team knew right away which moniker would be right for their team’s fearless rafting style.

“Well, [El Chupacabra] is one of the most feared species known to man,” he said. “It’s been seen in many southern states, but now we know it’s actually made its way to Colorado.”

The festival atmosphere of the Raft Cross was accentuated by slackline performances in-between raft runs on a line strung above the river and a few surfing exploits and intentional flips from the competitors. Williams and Mason agreed that the main purpose of Raft Cross was to provide a bit of entertainment to the gathered crowds.

Things get a bit more serious during Saturday’s rafting action, when more traditional races like the Rafting R2 Raft Sprint get under way, and the Ultimate River Challenge competition continues.  

Mason, who has been a member of the USA Rafting Team, said that the combination of lighthearted events like the Raft Cross and more serious events are part of what make the GoPro Mountain Games a successful event.

“I think this event is phenomenal for both athlete and spectator,” Mason said. “GoPro, the Vail Valley Foundation, they really throw down for their athletes and their spectators and that makes a huge difference for everybody. They bring in top athletes, and they bring in top judges, and make it a really cool time to interact with everybody.”