Preparing for High Altitude in Aspen Snowmass

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Aspen, Colorado is one of the highest cities in the United States, resting about 8,000 feet above sea level. That can be 8,000 feet higher in elevation than home for many of our visitors — especially those who live near either coast. And for those visitors who venture to the top of Aspen Mountain (locally referred to as Ajax), you’ll find yourself standing at even higher altitudes: try a whopping 11,212 feet where the Gondola drops you off!

If these local elevations are a big difference from what you (and your body) are used to, you might notice yourself going through a bit of shock. It’s especially important to listen to your body while you’re here as you may start to notice the effects of altitude on your non-acclimatized system.

You can prevent an onset of acute mountain sickness simply by attending to any symptoms of altitude sickness that begin to emerge, however small:

  • Do you feel any shortness of breath?
  • Are you beginning to get a headache?
  • Are you noticing your pulse speeding up?
  • Do you feel a little dizzy or lightheaded?
  • Are you more fatigued than usual (don’t just chalk this up to jet lag or you could be taking a trip to the emergency room)?   

The main reason for many of these symptoms is the 33% reduction in oxygen concentration at altitudes like those you’ll find in Aspen. This means you’ll be taking in 33% less oxygen than you’re used to (assuming you live close to sea level), which can throw anyone’s system into a freak out. Our bodies can absolutely get used to absorbing a much smaller amount of oxygen with every breath, but acclimatizing takes time (something Aspen Snowmass vacationers don’t have much of, with all the action they’re expecting to cram in).

Fortunately, there are steps our guests from low-lying regions can take to prevent altitude sickness (and ruining a much-anticipated vacation) by preparing themselves for the change in altitude.

Here are some high altitude health tips (with a little help from the good folks at the Aspen Chamber of Commerce and the Institute for Altitude Medicine) to help you make the most of your Aspen Snowmass visit (and make sure you hit all four ski resorts without crashing):

Spend a Day in Denver.

Okay, okay, we know you’ve been waiting all year to visit Aspen. And we want you at Aspen Snowmass, too! Vacation time is precious, and you don’t want to waste a moment of it. But if you can, spending a day in Denver (who wants to drive 4 more hours immediately after an uncomfortable flight, anyway?) can help your body adjust to the higher altitude in Aspen more quickly. A day getting used to Denver’s 5,000 vertical feet will ease the transition to an additional 3,000+ feet in Aspen. There's plenty to do in the Mile High City, so it shouldn’t be hard to occupy yourself enjoyably.

Take It Easy (At First).

You're on vacation, so hopefully you’re planning to relax. And even though you’re excited for playtime at Aspen Snowmass, we recommend you take some extra downtime initially (to make sure altitude sickness doesn’t force you to later).  Maybe ski a half-day. Put off your strenuous backcountry adventure until later in the week. Take longer and more frequent breaks at Bonnie's or head in early to apres at The Little Nell. Basically, try to go light on the physical exertion at the start of your trip, allow your body the time it needs to adjust, and you’ll have much happier Aspen memories to treasure.

Hydrate.

Drink water. Drink more water. Drink even more water. In other words, stay hydrated. Take it from the locals: "A happy mountaineer always pees clear!" At higher altitudes, our bodies lose fluids much more quickly than they do at sea level, so we require more frequent replenishment to keep the balance. Sufficient hydration doesn’t directly prevent altitude sickness, but if you’re dehydrated at all, you’ll acclimatize much more slowly. Even slight dehydration also makes you feel pretty terrible, so make a conscious effort to up your intake of water and electrolytes and you’ll stand a better chance of maximizing your enjoyment in the mountains.  

Wait to Drink Alcohol.

There's a longstanding myth that alcohol "hits you harder" at altitude (even though science tells us that's false). Consuming alcohol does, however, depress both your breathing and your oxygen intake (which, as we mentioned above, means you won’t adapt as quickly to Aspen’s high altitude or feel so great). While you don’t need to avoid alcohol completely, drinking also contributes to dehydration (which we mentioned above as well), so your hangover might feel a lot worse. And even if you don’t usually get hangovers, you might be surprised to find yourself experiencing them here — unless you wait a day or two to acclimatize before you imbibe.  

Find The Perfect Property For Acclimatizing

The truth about getting used to a drastically different altitude is that you can't push your body faster than it wants to go. We’ve given you a number of tips above to help your body acclimatize faster (ironically, by going slower!), but ultimately it’s up to you to make the right preparations to avoid altitude sickness. Here's the good news: At Alpine Property, we have a wide selection of premier luxury homes from which you can choose your perfect Aspen and Snowmass basecamp. Relax and adjust to the thinner mountain air in pure comfort and convenience. To find your perfect pied-a-terre at 8,000 feet, contact us today.

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