Important information for visitors not accustomed to Copper’s high altitude
Colorado’s Rocky Mountains are among the most beautiful in America, and we hope you will enjoy every minute of your visit. But some of the very features that make the high country so attractive may cause problems unless you recognize and know how to prevent them.
Here’s why As you go higher, barometric pressure decreases, the air becomes thinner, less oxygen is available. The air is colder and drier, and the ultraviolet rays from the sun are stronger. Each of these changes may have unpleasant effects on your body.
Altitude at Copper Mountain’s base is at 9,000 feet. The mountain summits rise almost 3,000 feet higher. You will probably notice that your breathing is faster or deeper and you may feel short of breath, especially when you exercise. This is the body’s first and most effective response to altitude. Your heart is likely to beat faster too. This is a helpful, normal reaction.
However, you may also develop a headache, a touch of nausea, or unusual tiredness; some people even have trouble sleeping. Depending on the altitude, 20 to 30 percent of all visitors from near sea level have one or several of these symptoms, which we call acute mountain sickness or AMS. Children and the elderly are slightly more susceptible.
These symptoms usually go away in a day or two. If they grow worse, or if you are worried, be sure to consult a doctor. If you develop a worsening cough, increasing shortness of breath, or feel like you have fluid in your lungs, see a doctor at once. Altitude illness, though usually minor, can become serious quite rapidly, so don’t take it lightly or try to tough it out.
Before you leave home, you can do a few things to decrease the effects of altitude. Our studies show that spending two nights at a modest altitude like 5,000 feet (Denver) decreases symptoms when you go higher. Eat more foods that are high in carbohydrates, drink more water, and consume less salt. Your doctor may be able to prescribe medication that will assist in lessening symptoms.
Once you arrive at Copper, take it easy for the first day or two. Reduce your consumption of alcohol, caffeine, and salty foods. Drink more water than usual. Salt causes your body to retain fluid, which increases the severity of altitude illness.
Above all, listen to your body! Don’t push! If you feel worse and worse, get help. Minor altitude symptoms occasionally become a life-threatening condition.
Temperature The sun has more power in thin air, and sunburn can spoil your stay. No matter how tanned you may be, use a protective cream. “Cold sores” can be aggravated at higher altitudes, which might be prevented by various medications your doctor can prescribe. The sun’s ultraviolet rays are more intense at altitude. Wear sunglasses or prescription glasses with ultraviolet protection.
Temperature falls about three degrees Fahrenheit for every 1,000 feet of altitude and it can get cold quite quickly. Take extra clothes. Hypothermia (low body temperature) can occur even in the summer if you are wet or wind-chilled, hungry, tired, or poorly dressed. Warning signs are clumsiness, trouble thinking or talking clearly, irritability, and confusion. Watch for these indications in each other. If in doubt: stop, warm up, eat and drink, and send for help if necessary.
Water The crisp mountain air is exhilarating, but it’s also very dry. You lose much more water than you realize by exhaling air and sweating perspira-tion. It’s very important to maintain the body’s water level, so drink two or three times more non-alcoholic, decaffeinated liquid than you usually drink. Fill your water bottle often, don’t drink out of streams. Juices and water are better for you than tea, coffee, or alcohol. Remember that at high altitudes, one alcoholic drink does the work of two.
Injuries Accidents can happen to anyone at any time, but they are more common when you are cold, tired, and hungry. Remember: a lack of oxygen can blunt your judgment, leading you to do foolish things. Whether you are hiking, skiing, biking, swimming, or playing tennis, give your body plenty of food and water so it can function efficiently. Don’t keep going when you are very tired; quit while you’re ahead.
Illness Of course, you are as likely to get a cold, the flu, or experience stomach trouble in the mountains as you are at home. While altitude sickness feels like the flu or a hangover, it can be more serious. If you have any doubt, get medical help. Don’t let ignorance or carelessness spoil your stay. There is a great personal joy, beauty, and spiritual peace to be discovered in the mountains. Treat yourself with respect and enjoy your visit.