Altitude: Let’s Elevate the Conversation

Breckenridge known for high altitude, Courtesy Jonah Hochstadt Unsplash

You CAN handle the truth!

Unfortunately, many of us are all too familiar with the debilitating effects of Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS).  Whether through personal experience, or watching a loved one suffer the relentless headaches, nausea, vomiting, etc. It’s such a powerless situation to suffer through when you’re on vacation and supposed to be having fun. But, it’s time to address the prevailing fear that by acknowledging the high incidence of altitude sickness in Summit and Eagle county we (local business owners and residents) are somehow frightening prospective visitors away. It’s time to initiate conversations on altitude and update how we present our altitude to prospective visitors. With the advent of readily available and affordable oxygen concentrator rentals, we can safely and effectively mitigate altitude-related illness. Our altitude is a positive attribute, and we need to ensure everyone understands why. 

Weather on the Peaks in Silverthorne, Courtesy Nathan Anderson Unsplash

Get Your Lapse In

First, the mountain elevation within Summit and Eagle County Colorado contribute to a stronger “Lapse Rate” than competitive mountains at lower elevation.  For those of you unfamiliar with the term, it surprisingly has nothing to do with how quickly one can log vert in Strava or Slopes.  Rather, lapse rate refers to the meteorological principle that temperature decreases as altitude or elevation increases (check out this excellent read on lapse rate https://weatherology.com/trending/articles/Professor-Paul-Lapse-Rate.html).  On average for every 1000 feet of elevation gained the temperature is roughly 3.5 degrees Fahrenheit colder.  On a macro-level for economies, towns, resorts, and residents…all dependent on consistent and high-quality snow in the age of climate change, an extra 1000 feet in elevation could very well be the difference between a thriving ski economy and a withering one.  Now consider the micro-level, for the average ski vacationer 3.5 degrees could be the difference between rocky core shots and powdery face shots.  Bottom line, our elevation and the accompanying temperatures can be the difference between a fantastic ski vacation and a disappointing one.

Lifts in Eagle County, Courtesy Lance Asper Unsplash

We’ve got the Lift

Summit and Eagle counties’ elevation provide a significant advantage in terms of Upward Vertical Motion (Also known as Upland Precipitation, or just plain “lift”).  All of these terms refer to the snow-generating effects of hills and mountains.  “Lift” occurs when air is forced to rise when it hits a mountain.  The result is cooling of the air, water vapor condensing into clouds, and ultimately often, precipitation in the form of Rain or Snow.  Lift is one of the primary reasons that higher altitudes tend to get more snow than lower altitudes.

Breckenridge, Resorts on Peak 7 & 8, Courtesy Kevin Bree

Top of Mind

Putting all this together, our high altitude means better, more consistent snow.  If I were personally planning a ski vacation months in advance (like most Americans do), then you better believe I would be selecting a destination at a higher altitude.  Considering the phenomenal terrain of Keystone, the back-bowls of Vail, the restaurants of Breckenridge, and the high-quality lodging options everywhere, Summit and Eagle should be top of mind for any ski vacation.  Couple all of this knowledge with the documented success of using oxygen concentrators to proactively address the incidence of altitude-related illness (try for yourself and rent a concentrator here https://bluebirdoxygen.com/), and I’m 100% convinced that Summit and Eagle county provide one of the safest bets for a high-quality ski vacation.