As you plan your trip to Aspen Snowmass, be knowledgeable about altitude sickness. Visitors can feel ill when traveling to mountain destinations as high-elevation towns such as Aspen have less oxygen than cities at sea level.
Symptoms of altitude sickness include shortness of breath, headaches, diminished appetite, swelling of extremities, and overall physical fatigue. Below are some tips to prevent altitude sickness as well as a few possible remedies should you begin to feel the symptoms.
Most Aspen visitors do not experience altitude sickness, and those who do cannot attribute their symptoms to age, gender, or fitness level. Even those who travel to moderate altitudes, such as Denver at 5,280 feet above sea level, may experience altitude sickness conditions for a day or two as their bodies adjust. Travelers who look to go to high altitudes, such as 14,000 feet, are more at risk for severe altitude sickness. (Severe sickness is not common under 8,000 feet.)
Those who do suffer from altitude sickness generally develop Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS). This is the most mild form of altitude sickness and can feel similar to a hangover with symptoms including dizziness, headache, muscle ache, and nausea.
A more acute form of altitude sickness is High Altitude Pulmonary Edema, or HAPE. This affliction includes a buildup of fluid in the lungs that can be very dangerous.
Yet another form of altitude sickness is High Altitude Cerebra Edema, or HACE. This is the most extreme and life-threatening case, which includes fluid buildup in the brain.
HAPE starts with a progressive breathlessness sensation attributed to dilated blood vessels in the lungs that is often recognized by its signature frothy cough. If not treated, fluid can fill the lungs and potentially cause heart failure. People with conditions such as asthma are more susceptible to HAPE.
HACE is similar, although it affects the blood vessels in the brain, which can lead to dangerous brain swelling.
Should you or someone in your group begin to feel severe effects of altitude sickness, we strongly recommend you seek medical attention. Those who suffer from a more minor case are encouraged to follow some important tips.
Tips to Avoid Altitude Illness in Aspen
- Allow yourself time to acclimate. Take it slow during your first day or two in Aspen, and do not exert too much energy when you first arrive. Listen to your body!
- Drink water. Drink as much water as you can. Fluids will help the body adjust. Stay away from alcohol or caffeine. Mix one-half water with one-half Gatorade for added electrolytes. Aspen has a great public water supply, and bottled water is available at several locations around town. Try for 3-4 quarts per day!
- Eat well. Eat light carbs such as pasta, and stay away from "heavier" foods.
- Descend. If you are affected by a form of altitude sickness, the first step to lower your elevation. Going down in altitude 1,000 or 2,000 feet may help the body return to normal. Remember to not ascend again until you are 100 percent better! When you do ascend, avoid increasing by more than 1,000 feet per day, so your body can adjust.
- Supplements. Taking an anti-inflammatory like Aleve or Advil may help with the discomfort and headaches. Do not take sleeping pills. Gingko has been known to enhance circulation, which means more oxygen in your body. Studies show taking a gingko extract can be effective if taken one day before arrival, but is more effective if taken five days prior.
What is the Elevation of Aspen?
Aspen's elevation is 7,908 feet, but the four Aspen Snowmass ski areas reach elevations of more than 11,000 feet.
We are your local Aspen guides
Frias Properties offers Aspen's largest selection of centrally located vacation rentals, and we have served Aspen's guests for more than 45 years. Our Aspen-based Reservations Team and Concierge are happy to answer any questions about traveling to our destination. Please lean on us for advice on this topic and others! Contact us, or start your search for the perfect Aspen vacation rental.