Cover Photo: Toby Shepard
High Altitude: Elevations over 5,000 feet above sea level are considered to be “high altitude,” and the mean elevation of Colorado is 6,800 feet. That means that just about wherever you go in this state, your body is going to react to the change in altitude if you’re not acclimated. Longmont sits at nearly 5,000 feet, and some of the surrounding areas are even higher, so if you’re coming from sea level, follow these simple tips to ensure a safe and comfortable transition
Give your body time. Let your system adjust gradually; don’t head up to mountains the minute you get here. Spend the first day or two at a lower altitude before heading up to a higher one.
Drink up! Water, that is. Stay hydrated by drinking more water than usual, especially if you’re going up to the mountains. Colorado’s air is dry, like a desert, so you need about twice as much water here as you would drink living at sea level. Start increasing your water intake gradually in the weeks leading up to your trip.
Take it easy. Extreme physical exertion, smoking, caffeine, and alcohol consumption all make it even harder for your body to adjust to the change, so limit these, especially in the first few days.
Be prepared. High-altitude sickness can make most people nauseous, so keep a nausea remedy (like ginger candies) with you at all times. To combat the effect of the dry climate, try a saline nasal spray and moisturizing eye drops.
Don’t go it alone. Use the “buddy system” whenever possible. If you or a travel companion experiences symptoms like wheezing, shortness of breath, or chest pain, move to a lower altitude as soon as possible.
Check with the doc. Certain medications (such as pain meds) can be affected by high altitude, so check with your doctor before you travel. If you have a preexisting medical condition like heart or lung disease, you should get a doctor’s approval before traveling to very high altitudes.
Weather: Longmont experiences more than 300 days of sunshine, 13 inches of rain (the US average is 37 inches), and 34 inches of snow (the U.S. average is 25 inches) each year.
Sun protection. Higher altitudes mean you’re closer to the sun, so even in the winter and when it’s cloudy, you need protection from harmful rays. Wear sunglasses, a hat, and a sunscreen of at least SPF 30 when you’re outside, year round.
Dress in Layers. Weather can change fast in Colorado, and many visitors are surprised by the need for a sweatshirt in the middle of July. Check the forecast a few days before you come to Colorado, pack accordingly, and make sure to bring plenty of layers. When you’re out on the town or in the mountains, you should wear some layers you can easily take off and put on again – you never know when that sweatshirt might come in handy!
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Information courtesy of Leave No Trace and the Colorado Tourism Office.