Preparing to visit Summit County? When moving to, and visiting the mountains, you must consider all the differences that geography, altitude, and the resort elements bring.  We are here to help inform and guide you through the mountain lifestyle.

The “Shady” Parts of Town

Due to our rugged terrain, tall mountains (think taller than a skyscraper), altitude, and architecture, you would be wise to let your agent know whether you love the sun.  There are many places in the county that have direct sunlight for only 6 hours a day in the winter time.  Southern exposure is something that many people desire for their houses.  They prefer to have a front door and/or driveway that absorbs the most sun, in order to heat and melt the ice and snow more quickly.

Altitude Sickness

Our lowest elevation in the county is around 7,500 feet, and that is very far north of Silverthorne (aka nowhere near the slopes).  That is more than a mile above sea level.

Altitude sickness is no joke.  You can actually die from it.  Take it seriously.  Read this chapter over and over again if you are unsure, or better yet, call your doctor!  A simple Internet search of “Altitude Sickness” will answer a lot of your questions, just remember to stick to reputable sources. This is important when preparing to visit Summit County!

Altitude sickness does not always affect those you think that it might.  It does not discriminate, and sometimes “the bigger they are, the harder they fall.”  For example, my father has a harder time with it than my mother.

Before You Visit:

  • Limit your intake of alcohol and caffeine 24 hours to one week before arrival. (Seriously, back off the coffee or you will pay!)
  • Consult your doctor if you are on anti-depressants, blood pressure, or other medication that may have negative side effects at high altitude.
  • Ask your doctor for a prescription for oxygen. Once you arrive, there are many oxygen providers that will bring the machine to your door.
  • Ask your doctor for a prescription for Diamox, or generic name Acetazolamide. This has counter-indications to blood pressure medication, so please be careful and again, consult with your Doctor.
  • Consider a night in Denver on your way. This will give you a little time to acclimate, see how you feel, and then decide whether you can come up to the mountains.
  • Pack your CPAP machine if you have one. These can sometimes fail at altitude, so please plan accordingly, and ask your doctor for a backup plan.

During Your Visit:

  • Drink more water than usual. When you start to feel badly, drink more water.
  • Marijuana is legal here, as is alcohol, but that doesn’t mean you’re going to be able to enjoy as much as at sea level. Take it slow and easy.
  • Keep your caffeine to a minimum as well.
  • Eat well, stay on a regular schedule, and keep snacks nearby in case you start to get hungry.
  • Make sure you get plenty of rest – more than usual. If you have a CPAP machine, use it!
  • Take all your walking, hiking, skiing, running, biking, movement SLOWLY! I have blacked out after bounding up three flights of stairs after living here for many years!  You will know your limits once you’ve spent a few days here.

Creature Comforts:

When it’s time to plan your ski vacation, here are the best tips and tricks to stay warm and dry and keep your skin moist and happy!

Water: Did you read the part about Altitude Sickness???  Keep a water bottle with you at all times.

Skin & Nose Care: I personally keep the following in all bathrooms, cars, jackets, bags and purses: Chapstick, lotion & oils, and saline nasal spray.

Stick with items that have SPF 30 or more, and be SURE to put on sunscreen every morning!  Even if you’re just going into town for a coffee.  Our sunlight here is very extreme due to our altitude, and people get sunburns and wind burns here all the time.

Ski Gear: I recommend that each person get long underwear for themselves that is new. For outer layers I have suggestions below.

Underwear & Socks: Long underwear should be a wool or silk mix. It should also be light-weight to mid-weight.  Better to be warm and have to remove outer layers, than to be cold. I personally wear light-weight because I layer a lot and am very active.  The mid-weight is more for slow walks, laying around.

If you get cotton, you will sweat and get cold.  The wool sounds scratchy, but the blends they are making now are actually very comfortable.  It will wick away the sweat and keep you warm.

Colors and styles really don’t matter because only people at home will see them, however they will need washing after each ski day as they will have a lot of sweat in them.  This is why I recommend buying them new, because second hand long underwear can be stinky and gross.  So if you are staying a week buy at least two pairs.

Outer Layers:

  • Vest, Ski Jacket
  • Gloves/Mittens
  • Ski Pants (Blue Jeans with starch DO NOT count!)
  • Goggles
  • Helmets
  • Boots (for after skiing)

 Tip: Be careful of “off-brand” goods.  If you stick with larger name brands, you will be okay.  The problem with shopping in warmer climates is that sometimes you will think it is warm enough or made with adequate materials, but when you arrive here the snow and cold rip right through to your bones!

It is important to try to imagine the days that are “Arctic” – near 0 degrees Fahrenheit, and well below freezing.  These can feel even colder on the slopes with wind, moisture, etc…  Then mix in your athleticism and sweating, and it all gets out of whack.  It is hard to imagine this when you are shopping at home while it’s 80 degrees outside.

Snowboards, Skis, Ski Boots & Snowshoe Rentals:

There are many ski equipment rental choices in the towns.  The further you are from the base of the mountain, the less expensive the rental equipment will be.  However, if you want something closer to the slopes (in case the skis don’t fit, need adjustments, or fail) it’s wiser to rent at the base of the slopes.  For the kids, many ski schools will offer skis as part of the package.

Other blog posts that may interest you when preparing to visit Summit County:

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