Aside from the usual challenges of altitude sickness, Breck’s high altitude climate can pose other challenges that can catch first time vacationers unprepared. A first-time visit to the mountains can be magical, as long as you are ready for everything a high-altitude climate has to offer.
Protection from the Sun
The sun is intense any time of year. With a thinner atmosphere at high altitudes there is very little between your skin and the UV rays of the sun. According to Healthy Travel
, “If you are hiking at 8,500 feet, you are exposed to almost 60% more sun than you would be at the beach." You should plan to wear protective clothing. Lightweight, long sleeves and a wide brim hat are great tools to keep the sun off in the summer. In the winter, be sure to wear goggles or sunglasses. In any season, you should apply sunscreen to exposed skin. Reapply after a few hours, or if you have been sweating.
The air is also very dry in high altitudes. Water evaporates quickly. This means you can dehydrated quickly. Drink plenty of water, starting the day before you arrive. You will also benefit from lotion and chapstick. It can be challenging for your body to adjust to such a dry environment, so always keep a water bottle with you. If you are hiking, skiing, or participating in another adventure, plan to bring more water than you would normally need. Headaches often associated with high altitude can also be a result of dehydration. To avoid feeling groggy, limit your alcohol intake as well.
Quickly Changing Weather
The weather can change very quickly at high altitudes. On a sunny day, passing cloud cover can lower the temperature significantly. In the summer, it is wise to carry a sweatshirt or jacket with you. In the winter, snowy weather can move in swiftly. Always dress in layers. One of the most important things to remember is that summer thunderstorms are common in the afternoon. It can be very dangerous to be caught on an exposed mountainside during a thunderstorm. When you are planning a long hike to a high elevation (especially above tree-line), plan to leave early in the morning. Then, you can reach the summit and be on your way down before there is any chance of lightning. In addition, always carry rain gear with you to stay warm and dry.
The intensity of the sun results in warm days, but as the sun goes down, the atmosphere doesn’t hold in the heat. The nights can become very cold any time of year. In the summer, you may want to have a light hat, gloves, and a warm jacket if you plan to be out after dark. In the winter, put on an extra layer and plan for it to be much colder than it was during the day.
Cool, sunny days in the summer and comfortable snowy days on the slopes make the mountains an ideal year-round destination. A little preparation for the unique high-altitude climate will help you feel safe and comfortable.
Photos courtesy of the Breckenridge Tourism Office
The 29th International Snow Sculpting Championships held in Breckenridge are coming up!
Close out January with this enchanting event. The event begins with the creation of the snow blocks during the week of January 15th. During this week, the organizers will be creating the canvas for the sculptures, huge blocks of snow. Carving starts January 21st and will be complete by 9:00 am Friday, January 25th. Viewing continues throughout the weekend and end the evening of Wednesday, January 30th. The event is free and open to the public during the entire process. For the best experience, visit as they are carving the sculptures and after they are finished, so you can see the whole process.
The snow sculptures are subject to changes in weather, so if the sun is out and temperatures are higher, you may want to view them earlier in the weekend. It also gets very crowded Friday evening, so plan accordingly.
If you want to be part of the action, you can volunteer to help make the snow blocks. The snow blocks pack together 20tons of snow to make a 12 foot block. They are crafted with heavy equipment and human power. One volunteer job is to dance on top of the snow as it is being packed into the mold. This takes place January 15-18th so that the blocks have time to settle and compact, making them ideal for carving. Visit GoBreck.com to sign up to be a volunteer.
Then, on January 21st, 16 teams from around the world gather to begin carving. The teams this year include Ecuador, two from China, France, 2 from Germany, Great Britain, Italy, India, Japan, Mexico, Mongolia, Turkey and 3 from the USA. The teams are only allowed to use hand tools for carving. They work all week to create intricate and delicate forms. The sculpting closes at 9:00 on Friday morning. Often, the sculptors stay up all night on Thursday to put the finishing touches on their sculptures. The sculptures are then judged and the awards are presented at the Riverwalk Center on Friday night at 6:00. You can even vote for your favorite sculpture in the people’s choice awards.
After dark is the best time for viewing the sculptures. Each one is illuminated with colorful lights creating a magical effect. On Saturday night the light show is augmented with a fireworks display. A concert by the local band, El Passo Lasso, will end the evening. Plan to dress warm when attending this event at night. The temperature drops significantly after dark. It can also have icy terrain, so be sure to wear sturdy boots.
There will be a free shuttle to the event from the Colorado Mountain College parking lot on Airport Road. You can also access the event from Breckenridge’s free ride public transportation. The stop at the F-Lot is the closest to the event.
The Best of Breckenridge
Stay for the week and enjoy world class skiing and remarkable snow sculptures. This week in January is one of the best times all year to enjoy Breckenridge. For all the details and a full schedule of events go to GoBreck.com
. Find an ideal place to stay, close to all of the action with Breckenridge Resort Managers
Photos Courtesy of Breckenridge Office of Tourism