By Conor McCue

ARAPAHOE COUNTY, Colo. (CBS4) – As smoky, hazy skies made it more difficult to enjoy some of the most popular outdoor activities in Colorado, a paddleboard and kayak rental company gave customers the option to reschedule or get a refund.

(credit: CBS)

The smoke blanketing the area is mostly coming from the Dixie Wildfire in California and prompted an alert for unhealthy air across the entire state of Colorado on Saturday and Sunday.

“It is pretty obvious that the air quality is pretty bad today,” said Victoria Rasnick, COO of Rocky Mountain Paddleboard.

For the company, which rents watercraft at four Colorado reservoirs, early August is among the busiest times of the year. At Cherry Creek State Park Sunday, customer turnout was not quite what it usually was though.

“I would say that definitely the air quality is having an effect,” Rasnick said.

(credit: CBS)

Rasnick tells CBS4 she and other staff members anticipated the smoky skies and decided to reach out ahead of time to all people who had a reservation for the weekend. The emails offered everyone a chance to reschedule or get a refund.

“Probably around 25 or 30 people did reschedule today,” Rasnick said.

About 700 customers chose to still go forward with their rentals across the company’s four locations. According to Rasnick, Rocky Mountain Paddleboard sees about 1,000 customers each weekend over summer.

This weekend, staff also spoke with each customer about the air conditions before sending them out on the water.

“We do kind of tell them if they’re feeling faint or anything like that, we obviously ask them to come in,” Rasnick said. “It is a very apparent thing that’s going on, but we are having conversations around that and making people comfortable and to know their limits and respect their limits.”

(credit: CBS)

While paddleboarding or kayaking can be a leisurely experience, hauling the equipment around and working with customers is not. With air quality issues top of mind, Rasnick said the company made temporary changes for staff as well.

“Typically, we rotate every 2 hours,” she said. “We’ve been rotating every half hour or 45 minutes just making sure everybody is getting plenty of inside time.”

Time indoors was the last thing on Kat Udarro’s mind. He tells CBS4 paddleboarding is his new passion and he wanted to get out on the water, regardless of what the air quality was.

“I knew there was going to be a little bit of a haze today, but I didn’t feel impacted by it,” Udarro said. “It just feels like a hazy but beautiful summer day.”

As climate change continues to contribute to increasing the risk and extent of wildfires in the Western U.S., stretches of poor air quality could become more frequent, experts warn.  Rasnick says the company is starting to have conversations about improving customer and staff safety in the long term.

“We are in conversations about how our policies are going to look going forward. What that exposure looks like for our staff, what that exposure looks like for the public,” she said.

Conor McCue