Don’t let high altitude bring you down
How to cope at elevation in Breckenridge
It doesn’t matter if you run 10 miles a day or have an impeccable track record of skiing from open to close without a break. The altitude can still get to you.
It’s nothing to be ashamed of. In Breckenridge you are at 9,600 feet after all – nearly double the elevation of Denver (5,280 feet) and incrementally higher than most places. The air is thin … even thinner at the top of the mountain (Imperial Bowl – served by the continent’s highest chairlift – tops out at just under 13,000 feet). As you get higher, you may find yourself gasping it in Darth Vader-style.
Altitude sickness is a very real thing and it can strike anyone, regardless of age or fitness level. What are the symptoms of altitude sickness? Shortness of breath, rapid pulse, fatigue, headache, diarrhea, loss of appetite and nausea. It can feel a little bit like the flu or a hangover and can be exacerbated by jet lag.
Luckily there are several ways to combat altitude sickness and avoid getting it in the first place:
- One of the first ways to cope with high altitude is to enter slowly.
If you have a chance to spend a night or two in Denver, it can help you acclimatize. If you do come directly to Breck, as tempting as it is, don’t launch up Imperial Bowl on your first day. Take a few runs on the lower parts of the mountain – Peaks 7 and 9 – and slowly make your way up on ensuing days.
- Stay hydrated.
It’s important to drink plenty of water and/or sports drinks – at least a liter more than you’d normally drink per day – during your stay in Breck.
- Don’t drink too much booze.
Of course you’re going to be inclined to celebrate your stellar day with a libation or two, but drink something hydrating between each beer or cocktail and don’t overdo it. Alcohol decreases your blood oxygen and you need all you can get.
- Eat a decent breakfast and stick to a healthy, low fat, low sodium diet with plenty of healthy carbs (fruit, vegetables and whole grains).
If you do begin experiencing symptoms of altitude sickness, don’t let it ruin your trip. Guess what the No. 1 remedy is? Oxygen! Sure you can find it by moving down to lower altitudes. The altitude at which individuals feel sick can vary. Some people who succumb to Altitude Sickness in Breck might feel perfectly fine in Vail (at 8,100 feet) while others might still feel sick in Denver. But we don’t want you to leave town.
How to get oxygen in Breckenridge:
To prove that you’re not the only one sucking wind, Breck is home to a dedicated oxygen bar. The O2 Lounge in La Cima Mall on the south end of Main Street supplies 15, 30 and 45-minute oxygen sessions and also rents oxygen machines to take home. They also serve delicious smoothies and coffee. Also, AlpinAire Healthcare on Airport Road specializes in oxygen services. You’ll be amazed at how a few sucks of the ol’ O2 can make you feel instantly better.
Do you have any tricks to cope with the high altitude in Breck? Let us know in the comments below!
– Shauna Farnell