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Altitude Sickness in Breckenridge

post #1 of 26
Thread Starter 

Hey everyone,

So my family and I are planning on going to Colorado this summer for vacation. We have the plane tickets already and are flying into Denver. We were looking at going to Breckenridge but were worried about the altitude. I did quite a bit of research on altitude sickness and it doesn't sound very fun. My family and I are not in the most fit and were worried about hiking up near the peak but more worried about sleeping at such a high altitude. (We currently live at sea level) 

Would it be bad to possibly stay in a hotel in Steamboat about an hour away (Elevation: about 7,000 feet) and then go into Breckenridge during the day? Would this quick 2,000 foot elevation change be even worse?

 

I am also open for suggestions about other places around Denver to go. We want to go hiking, fishing, and horseback riding for sure and would also like to go on an alpine slide.

 

Thank you in advance!

 

-Ethan

post #2 of 26
Steamboat is more than an hour away smile.gif. You could go there instead, it's lower and for hiking, fishing, and horseback riding a superior option to Breck.

Winter Park has a big alpine slide. Hit it up for a day trip. Heck, look into Grand Lake, which gives you an entrance into Rocky Mountain National Park and is close to Winter Park. That could be perfect.

Breck doesn't seem like much of a fit independent of the high altitude....
post #3 of 26

Altitude sickness seems fitness independent.  I've seen people in very good shape be knocked down, I've seen couch potatoes do everything one is recommended to not do (drink heavily, not spend a night in Denver to acclimate, push it hard, etc. etc.) and be perfectly fine.

 

Steamboat is not an option if you want to do anything in Summit County. That is not a drive you will want to do.

 

I would not be convinced you will succomb to altitude sickness, but I would consider a plan B.

 

Some plan B's-

 

Vail- the town is 8000 feet.  About a half hour drive back into Summit if you are so-inclined.

 

Glenwood Springs. One of the best summer towns in the mountains. Something to do for everyone. Hot Springs, biking, rafting, hiking, shops, spas, even a cave tour and a small amusement park well above town. Aspen is 45 minutes South. Marble is 45 minutes South down a different canyon and will give you views of some of the best Colorado scenery.  The town is at 6000 feet.

post #4 of 26
Quote:
Altitude sickness seems fitness independent.  I've seen people in very good shape be knocked down, I've seen couch potatoes do everything one is recommended to not do (drink heavily, not spend a night in Denver to acclimate, push it hard, etc. etc.) and be perfectly fine.

+1 I have seen both of these examples too.

 

If you're that concerned, spending the first couple of days in Denver and then going to Breck is likely to prevent serious problems for all but the most sensitive people.  If someone in your group has past history of being on the most altitude sensitive end of the spectrum I'd recommend a Diamox prescription.

post #5 of 26
This past February we took our kids to CO for their first western ski trip. We were going to Winter Park and Steamboat - with our first couple nights at WP, so I was as bit concerned about how they'd handle the altitude. We live at about 900 feet.

There is a thread here on Epicski where Gingko supplements are recommended as a possible preventative for altitude sickness. So we all (me, wife, two teen daughters) took gingko for a few weeks prior to the trip, and nobody experienced any noticeable symptoms. I know that's not prooof that it worked, but I cedrtainly will do it next time we go too.

On prior trips where we stayed in WP right away, my wife and I both seeemd to experiece more slight shortness of breath and mild headaches than we did this time (never took the gingko on prior trips). Could have been totally in my head I guess.
post #6 of 26
post #7 of 26
Quote:
Originally Posted by anachronism View Post
 

Altitude sickness seems fitness independent.  I've seen people in very good shape be knocked down, I've seen couch potatoes do everything one is recommended to not do (drink heavily, not spend a night in Denver to acclimate, push it hard, etc. etc.) and be perfectly fine.

 

Steamboat is not an option if you want to do anything in Summit County. That is not a drive you will want to do.

 

I would not be convinced you will succomb to altitude sickness, but I would consider a plan B.

 

Some plan B's-

 

Vail- the town is 8000 feet.  About a half hour drive back into Summit if you are so-inclined.

 

Glenwood Springs. One of the best summer towns in the mountains. Something to do for everyone. Hot Springs, biking, rafting, hiking, shops, spas, even a cave tour and a small amusement park well above town. Aspen is 45 minutes South. Marble is 45 minutes South down a different canyon and will give you views of some of the best Colorado scenery.  The town is at 6000 feet.

 

There is sooooo much more to do/see in Colorado in the summer than Breckenridge.

 

Tony Crocker's advise to spend a day or two in or around Denver to acclimate is a good idea. If you are not against riding around and looking at stuff............you could drive around the whole state in a week. South from Denver to Garden of the Gods, Royal Gorge then head west to Salida, Ouray, Silverton, Durango, you can see Mesa Verde, sneak into Utah and drive north through ArchesNP up to Monument NP near Grand Junction, take 70 back east towards Vail, you don't want to miss Estes Park on you way back to Denver. Colorado is beautiful, see as much as you can, IMHO. :) 

post #8 of 26
Quote:
Originally Posted by jimmy View Post
 

 

There is sooooo much more to do/see in Colorado in the summer than Breckenridge.

 

Tony Crocker's advise to spend a day or two in or around Denver to acclimate is a good idea. If you are not against riding around and looking at stuff............you could drive around the whole state in a week. South from Denver to Garden of the Gods, Royal Gorge then head west to Salida, Ouray, Silverton, Durango, you can see Mesa Verde, sneak into Utah and drive north through ArchesNP up to Monument NP near Grand Junction, take 70 back east towards Vail, you don't want to miss Estes Park on you way back to Denver. Colorado is beautiful, see as much as you can, IMHO. :)

 

I'm with you on looking at broadening the trip past Summit County, but maybe not trying to cram a tour of Colorado into a week.

 

Take Mesa Verde. Even if you stay away from hikes (keeping just to the shorter paths through the ruins) and just do 1-2 tours, you need 3 days minimum to see the on a relatively complete basis. Not getting out of your car, you will be hard pressed to drive the loops in a day, and you will miss some of the best experiences in the park. If you had to drive to someplace else that day, your Mesa Verde day basically gets whittled down to driving the near-hour into the park to the Cliff Palace loop, driving the loop for 1/2 hour, taking the near-hour out, and getting back on the road. Even with people planning to spend several days in Durango, I recommend they hold off on Mesa Verde unless they want to devote 2 days, or if they are perfectly ok with knowing that they missed even a top-level experience of the park. I recommend they do a Chimney Rock, Aztec, or Anasazi Museum/Escalante/Lowry pueblo tour, something that can be condensed into a day.

 

I can't imagine the amount of driving that a week that includes Durango, Mesa Verde, Arches, and Estes Park.

 

Breck has a lot going for it in the summer. Less crowds, good restaurants, lots of bike paths, mountain biking, and other summer ski resort stuff if one just loves the idea of an Alpine Slide.  It is not the top of the list for me (Durango and the San Juans is up there and I also mentioned Glenwood as two that are) and RMNP/Estes is certainly a great way to spend a week. Breck would probably slip its way into the top ten of non-camping places to go.

 

But, in my eyes, everything that Breck does well in the Summer Glenwood does better. Biking through Glenwood Canyon and doing the hanging lake trail are sublime. If you need to visit a ski area in the summer, you can do worse than Aspen.

post #9 of 26
I agree with all of the above posts. Stay in denver one night great town. Easy on the drinking you should be fine. It's rare. Millions of people goto summit county. Millions. It's fine. Summit county is a destination for a reason. Don't miss this gem. It's worth it.
You should read about getting off the mountain by around 12:30 or the latest 2 pm. Because you will get struck by lightning. :-).
post #10 of 26

Ethan,  I wouldn't recommend you get overly concerned about sleeping at 8,000ft.  Now it is likely that some members of your family will have a restless nights sleep and just not feel right.  I doubt they would have full blown altitude sickness (even a moderate form of it) at 8,000ft.  I don't recommend that you fly out there and hike right up to 10,000ft the next day.  Do your lower elevation and less physical activities your first two days before your venture higher into the mountains. 

post #11 of 26
Quote:
Originally Posted by SnowbirdDevotee View Post
 

Ethan,  I wouldn't recommend you get overly concerned about sleeping at 8,000ft.  Now it is likely that some members of your family will have a restless nights sleep and just not feel right.  I doubt they would have full blown altitude sickness (even a moderate form of it) at 8,000ft.  I don't recommend that you fly out there and hike right up to 10,000ft the next day.  Do your lower elevation and less physical activities your first two days before your venture higher into the mountains. 

Not trying to dissuade from Breck, necessarily, but  sleeping in Breck is more like 10k ft, not 8K. (The town is officially 9600 ft.)  That said, it is also the most frequently visited ski destination here, mostly from out-of-staters, so most people do fine.

 

If OP is worried about sleeping, stay in Frisco  or Dillon (9100 ft) or even Silverthorne (8700 ft) and drive in for the activities you want in Breck. Even 500 or 1000 ft makes a big difference in the ability to sleep, at those elevations.

post #12 of 26
Quote:
Originally Posted by anachronism View Post
 
 

I'm with you on looking at broadening the trip past Summit County, but maybe not trying to cram a tour of Colorado into a week.

 

Take Mesa Verde. Even if you stay away from hikes (keeping just to the shorter paths through the ruins) and just do 1-2 tours, you need 3 days minimum to see the on a relatively complete basis. Not getting out of your car, you will be hard pressed to drive the loops in a day, and you will miss some of the best experiences in the park. If you had to drive to someplace else that day, your Mesa Verde day basically gets whittled down to driving the near-hour into the park to the Cliff Palace loop, driving the loop for 1/2 hour, taking the near-hour out, and getting back on the road. Even with people planning to spend several days in Durango, I recommend they hold off on Mesa Verde unless they want to devote 2 days, or if they are perfectly ok with knowing that they missed even a top-level experience of the park. I recommend they do a Chimney Rock, Aztec, or Anasazi Museum/Escalante/Lowry pueblo tour, something that can be condensed into a day.

 

I can't imagine the amount of driving that a week that includes Durango, Mesa Verde, Arches, and Estes Park.

 

Breck has a lot going for it in the summer. Less crowds, good restaurants, lots of bike paths, mountain biking, and other summer ski resort stuff if one just loves the idea of an Alpine Slide.  It is not the top of the list for me (Durango and the San Juans is up there and I also mentioned Glenwood as two that are) and RMNP/Estes is certainly a great way to spend a week. Breck would probably slip its way into the top ten of non-camping places to go.

 

But, in my eyes, everything that Breck does well in the Summer Glenwood does better. Biking through Glenwood Canyon and doing the hanging lake trail are sublime. If you need to visit a ski area in the summer, you can do worse than Aspen.

 

Actually, I forgot we hit Pikes Peak as well :D .

 

We did spend 9 days on this trip and as you point out didn't have time to do much more than drive around and look at stuff. Combat touring, what can I say? My thought was that moving around a bit would minimize the altitude concerns and while I could spend the rest of my (winter) life happily in Summit County, there is way more to see/do in CO. Segbrown's idea of using in Dillon/Silverthorne as a base is a good one. 

 

@EthanMcC whatever you all decide to do be prepared to be amazed. Who are you travelling with?

post #13 of 26

I have lived above 7000' for over 20 years. Regularly ski, hike, etc up to 12,000'. Could not sleep well at all in Breck. Sometimes it doesn't take much of a change to kick in the altitude induced insomnia. Definitely didn't have altitude sickness but sleeping was a problem.

post #14 of 26

With lots of experience, I have mixed feelings.   Altitude impacts lots of folks, but huge numbers visit and have fun.

 

Copper is the same elevation at 9600 feet, and I've observed lots of family visit from sea level over many years.  Maybe a third will have trouble sleeping the first night.  10% will have debilitating issues for a day, enough they avoid physical activity.  Most are fine by the second day and all are fine by the third.  Nobody has had to head to lower elevation.   The longer the stay the better, as it sucks to be miserable for two out of three days while everyone else is having fun.

 

I'd suggest the OP work your way up by visiting Denver-->Steamboat-->Breck to minimize the chances someone being miserable.  You could drive up to Steamboat via Winter Park (alpine slide) and back through Silverthorne making a pretty loop.

post #15 of 26
Working at a ski area that sits between 10k ft and 12k ft, we see a certain amount of altitude related issues. Many people aren't affected, other than shortness of breath, but there seem to be some controllable factors. A gradual ascension is one, another is nutrition/hydration, and sleeping well helps a great deal (consider sleep aids, perhaps like melatonin). Some people rush up to altitude and don't rest on the way, and end up in the aid room. Also take it easy on alcohol. Eat well, sleep well, hydrate, and take your time.

Fitness doesn't seem to have much to do with it, and there are a few people that never are able to adjust to altitude.
post #16 of 26

Any one have the experience where they stayed at Summit County type elevations for more than one week and found that it took a whole week to really adjust to altitude including finally sleeping well?

post #17 of 26

I've recommended this stuff to friends and family who come to visit (at 8500ft), and they've been pretty happy with the results. I think they recommend starting taking it a few days before you travel to altitude. 


Edited by MT Skull - 7/12/14 at 11:41am
post #18 of 26

I'd just like to reemphasize the article I linked to previously:  http://www.epicski.com/a/altitude-adaptation-and-acute-mountain-sickness

 

It was written by David Polaner M.D., a Bear but more importantly, a full professor of medicine at CU, a mountaineer, and a clinician whose interest include high altitude physiology and acute mountain sickness.  There's a lot of old wives tales about AMS (such as alcohol having a correlation to AMS -- it doesn't, but it does affect hydration and hydration is a problem at high altitude -- and that you should avoid sleep aids at altitude) that he discusses in this short but informative article.

 

Mike

post #19 of 26
We've been using the Ginko method for the past 3 seasons at Aspen Highlands with excellent results.

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18076292
post #20 of 26

Going straight to Breck I think there is a pretty significant risk that someone in your party will get AMS.

 

Stay at 6,000 to 7,000 feet for three days then going onto Breck will reduce the risk.

 

I got severe AMS the first time I visited Breck and after two days had to move lower. That was flying in from the UK to Denver and going straight to Breck.

post #21 of 26
Quote:
Maybe a third will have trouble sleeping the first night.  10% will have debilitating issues for a day, enough they avoid physical activity.

I think this is about right.  However, the 10% with "debilitating issues" will probably be subpar for 3 days or so in total.  If the OP's family is big, TQA's comments above make sense.

post #22 of 26
Quote:
Originally Posted by habacomike View Post
 

I'd just like to reemphasize the article I linked to previously:  http://www.epicski.com/a/altitude-adaptation-and-acute-mountain-sickness

 

It was written by David Polaner M.D., a Bear but more importantly, a full professor of medicine at CU, a mountaineer, and a clinician whose interest include high altitude physiology and acute mountain sickness.  There's a lot of old wives tales about AMS (such as alcohol having a correlation to AMS -- it doesn't, but it does affect hydration and hydration is a problem at high altitude -- and that you should avoid sleep aids at altitude) that he discusses in this short but informative article.

 

Mike

There is also an old thread here somewhere on Epic that Dr. Polaner (epic handle DP) contributed to extensively.  I'm sure the right search will locate it.  There is a lot of valuable info in it.

post #23 of 26

I think DP incorporated most of his general comments into the EpicSki Article about AMS that hamacomike noted.  Here are the websites DP references:

 

Good web sites for more information:
http://www.ismmed.org/ -International Society for Mountain Medicine. An excellent tutorial for the layman on AMS is available here (click on Mountain Medicine Information Center), as well as links to journals, abstracts and other scientific information.
http://www.high-altitude-medicine.com/ - excellent site by Thomas Dietz, MD, although it has not been recently updated, and a few of the links are broken
http://www.uchsc.edu/ccamp/ -shameless plug for some of the interesting things that we do here at the CO Center for Altitude Medicine and Physiology
 

DP posted in a thread from 2006 about dealing with altitude:

http://www.epicski.com/t/34470/altitude-prep-and-management

post #24 of 26

Jesus, never knew the altitude sickness science had gotten so advanced.  I take two Aleve and drink more water than usual and I am fine.  I regularly go from 1000' to 12000' in a day then back again with no major issues.  Maybe regularly is the key there?

post #25 of 26
Quote:
Originally Posted by EthanMcC View Post
 

Hey everyone,

So my family and I are planning on going to Colorado this summer for vacation. We have the plane tickets already and are flying into Denver. We were looking at going to Breckenridge but were worried about the altitude. I did quite a bit of research on altitude sickness and it doesn't sound very fun. My family and I are not in the most fit and were worried about hiking up near the peak but more worried about sleeping at such a high altitude. (We currently live at sea level) 

Would it be bad to possibly stay in a hotel in Steamboat about an hour away (Elevation: about 7,000 feet) and then go into Breckenridge during the day? Would this quick 2,000 foot elevation change be even worse?

 

I am also open for suggestions about other places around Denver to go. We want to go hiking, fishing, and horseback riding for sure and would also like to go on an alpine slide.

 

Thank you in advance!

 

-Ethan

 

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by NayBreak View Post

Steamboat is more than an hour away smile.gif. You could go there instead, it's lower and for hiking, fishing, and horseback riding a superior option to Breck.

Winter Park has a big alpine slide. Hit it up for a day trip. Heck, look into Grand Lake, which gives you an entrance into Rocky Mountain National Park and is close to Winter Park. That could be perfect.

Breck doesn't seem like much of a fit independent of the high altitude....

 

Huh? Breckenridge has an alpine slide with three runs, the Coaster, more than a few mountains for hiking (from easy to technical), the Blue River (gold medal fishing), Dillon and various other beautiful reservoirs for lake fishing as well a more than a couple riding stables.

 

What did I miss? Oh, sailing and powerboat rentals and tours, SUP (Stand Up Paddleboarding) in both Frisco and Dillon, weekly free concerts, the NRO (National Repertory Orchestra), a distillery, a fist full of breweries and fine dining all over the county.  Oh, and we also have world class mt. biking as well as miles of rec path.

 

I can't argue that we have the highest altitude of most resorts in the area. The elevation is really nice in the winter to help the snow last longer and great in the summer to keep temperatures lower than everywhere else.

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Tony Crocker View Post
 

+1 I have seen both of these examples too.

 

If you're that concerned, spending the first couple of days in Denver and then going to Breck is likely to prevent serious problems for all but the most sensitive people.  If someone in your group has past history of being on the most altitude sensitive end of the spectrum I'd recommend a Diamox prescription.

 

QFT

 

Another supplement you could try, that I've used a lot is DMG.

 

http://nutri.com/blog/2010/07/how-do-dmg-supplements-work/

 

Quote:
 Many people use DMG supplements to boost their metabolism and protect themselves from hereditary diseases. DMG improves brain function, increasing focus and alertness. Physical stamina is increased when supplementing with DMG, so many people use it to enhance athletic performance or to treat chronic fatigue. DMG has many promising benefits for regulating the immune system and increasing lipid metabolism.

 

http://www.webmd.com/vitamins-supplements/ingredientmono-859-DIMETHYLGLYCINE.aspx?activeIngredientId=859&activeIngredientName=DIMETHYLGLYCINE

post #26 of 26

^^^ I have no idea what the science says, but anecdotally regularly being at altitude helps a ton, even when you live in Denver.   My wife and kids hadn't been up to Copper (9600ft) since mid-April and the first time up this summer two months later they felt a little crummy, mostly just headaches fixed by Advil.   The second trip up the following weekend they didn't feel a thing.   I've been skiing A-basin all May so I didn't notice anything, and never really do unless I drink way to much.

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by MastersRacer View Post
 
The elevation is really nice in the winter to help the snow last longer and great in the summer to keep temperatures lower than everywhere else.

 

 

The lower temps at the high elevation areas are a huge benefit in the summer.   It feels so nice to get up the cool mountain air.

 

On fourth of July weekend I remember looking at my phone to check the temp at 11am.  It was 65 degrees at Copper and 91 degrees in Denver!   The lower elevation resorts like Steamboat can get really hot in the summer, but it's rarely too hot in Summit County.  

 

It's worth noting that few accommodations in the mountains have A/C.  I'd think about planning a trip around the weather in addition to acclimating if you can be flexible.   If it's going to be hot you'll be happier at high elevation, but if it's cold go low where it's warmer.

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