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9 Ways to Adapt Yourself to the Elevation in Breckenridge, CO

breckenridge elevation

Arapaho Basin Elevation - 11,000 Feet

Breckenridge Elevation - 9,603 Feet

Copper Mountain Elevation - 9,712 Feet

Dillon Elevation - 9,111 Feet

Frisco Elevation - 9,075 Feet

Keystone Elevation - 9,280 Feet

Loveland Ski Area Elevation - 10,800 Feet

Silverthorne Elevation - 8,730 Feet

So, you're understandably excited to hit the slopes in Breckenridge, but do you worry you'll have a hard time adjusting to the elevation - or even get sick? Altitude sickness happens when your body doesn't adapt well to high altitudes. Since the air pressure is lower at high altitudes, your body may struggle to absorb much-needed oxygen. This can cause disorientation, headaches, nausea, shortness of breath and weakness. In severe cases people have been hospitalized.

There are many ways to get used to the altitude so you can still enjoy your getaway. Here are some tips to get acclimated so you can focus on having fun!

  1. Get Oxygen
    A quick way to adapt to the elevation is to carry a portable oxygen canister, taking a shot or two whenever you feel winded. You can buy or rent oxygen concentrators in the Breckenridge resort, and the medical stations there will have oxygen on-site for sick skiers.

  2. Take it Easy
    It's understandable that you're eager to hit the slopes, but take it slowly. Over-exerting yourself will only make it harder to adjust to the elevation. Try a low-impact activity on your first day, such as snowmobiling. Breckenridge offers many alternatives to skiing and snowboarding, so you can still enjoy yourself while you get acclimated to the altitude. If you are flying into Denver, consider flying in a day early and staying in Denver the first night. Denver's elevation is 5000ft. Sleeping overnight in Denver will acclimate your body to 5000ft before you make the ascent to 9000ft. This two-step altitude adjustment gives your body more time to adjust.

  3. Stay Hydrated
    Drink plenty of liquids. High elevations can cause fluid loss, so it's important to stay well hydrated. Stick with water or liquids that replace electrolytes. Avoid sugary or caffeinated beverages such as soda-pop. These liquids act as diuretics and can dehydrate you. Drink lots of water! Frequent urinating from consuming so much water is much better than laying in bed with a splitting headache.

  4. Eat Right
    Stop in at Breckenridge's world-class restaurants to recharge. A meal high in carbohydrates will improve your body's ability to absorb oxygen, and will give you the energy needed to adjust to the elevation. Avoid salty foods - the sodium will increase your blood pressure, which can exacerbate the symptoms of altitude sickness. When we arrive in Summit County we like to eat at a place called "Noodles & Company". They have delicious noodles that are high in carbs.

  5. Take Your Vitamins
    It's been shown that taking iron supplements makes it easier to perform aerobic activities (like skiing) at high elevations. Consult a doctor first, though - iron is toxic in high doses. Taking 120 mg of Ginko Biloba in the weeks leading up to your skiing getaway, and maintaining that dosage during your trip, can also reduce the time needed to adjust to the altitude.

  6. Hold the Beer
    Alcohol and tobacco can impact your body's ability to absorb oxygen. Of course, it's hard not to indulge yourself when in beautiful Breckenridge, Colorado! Swing by the famous Breckenridge Brewery and knock-back a cold one once you feel acclimated to the elevation.

  7. Get Medicated
    Drugs such as Diamox (Acetazolamide) can reduce the symptoms and duration of altitude sickness. Ideally, Diamox should be taken a few days prior to your trip, but it can also be used on the spot if you start feeling ill. Keep ibuprofen or acetaminophen on hand to prevent headaches.

  8. Descend to Sleep
    Sleeping at a lower altitude makes it easier to adjust to the rarefied air of Breckenridge. You'll feel better and have more energy after a good night's sleep in a lodge at a lower elevation. Lodging is scattered all up and down the mountains, with some lodges being higher than 10,000 ft. As a matter of fact when olympic ski teams contact us to book a stay the first question is always what elevation we are at. The Ski Silverthorne lodge is at the bottom of Buffalo Mountain at around 8,500 ft.

  9. If All Else Fails
    If you've feeling ill, descend to a lower elevation and work your way back up to the resort gradually. Sometimes the best remedy is simply time. While no one wants to lose out on a day's fun, you'll feel even worse if your whole trip is wrecked due to prolonged illness.

Reader Response to Altitude Sickness

"Hi Dennis, My name is Gerry and I would like to ask you a few questions about this altitude sickness.My daughter aged 19 years was on holiday in the alps and became unwell when up the slopes. she became unconcious and remembers very little.She vaguely remembers feeling unwell and wanted to get sick and her friends were on hand to assist. She was taken down the the mountain on a stretcher and went to hospital aking up there frightened a few hours later.It was early afternoon and about 2 hours after a late breakfast and the Tour organisers provided wine free gratis when they were up the mountain. She never had a problem with alcohol before and only had a glass or two of wine.They were throwing snowballs at friends when she became unwell. Can the altitude and the two units of wine cause her to become so unwell.She is well now but as we live by the sea I am not aware of this altitude sickness condition.Appreciate if you could explain to me that this can happen as some people say she was drunk and this has upset her greatly.Thanking you for taking the time to respond."

Gerry, Thank you for writing. It certainly sounds like your daughter was suffering from extreme altitude sickness. Two glasses of wine isn't going to do that to your daughter. It was the altitude. Please note however that alcohol can enhance altitude sickness. The exertion from the snowball fight likely didn't help matters either. If she lost consciousness then not only was she most likely suffering from altitude sickness, but her life was in danger. The hypothalamus part of her brain was swelling, and that probably caused her unconsciousness. When this happens the victim should be descended to lower altitude immediately. If your daughter decides to return to high altitude again tell her to drink plenty of water and stay way from alcohol and physical exertion. ~Dennis

"I have a place on Steamboat Lake, it's close to 8000 ft elevation. I smoke moderately, recent test show I'm within normal lung and breathing limits and i have no trouble below 5000 ft. I want to live the rest of my life up here, but I wake up fighting for air, and that has me scared to death! What a terrible way to wake up! Is there anyway outside of wearing an oxygen mask to bring me relief in my home? Larry"

Hello Larry, I don't smoke, but I am about 30 pounds overweight. My place is also just over 8000 elevation. I also wake up fighting for air in the middle of the night. I've even stayed up there nearly the whole summer, and never got used to it. I did find two things that worked for me.
  1. Put the temperature in the room down to around 68.
  2. Put a fan on the end table right next to the bed and have make it blow right on your face.
"I found your notes about altitude sickness while searching for a solution to the problem of altitude sickness when traveling in the Andes Mountains of Peru. I wonder if you have had experience with a person flying from one location of high altitude to another location of high altitude, after acclimating to the altitude of the first location. Does ones body lose the acclimation since the airplane pressure is close to sea level pressure?" ~ Les

Hello Les, In my humble opinion I do not think that a pressurized plane transport is not going to completely erase your total acclimation to altitude. Just as it takes time to acclimate to altitude, I would speculate that it also takes time to deacclimate.

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