Sign up for the Newsletter to receive the latest News & Events from Aspen Valley Hospital.
Aspen Valley Hospital is available 24/7 to provide you with the expert care that you need!
Get In Touch:Send us a message
Aspen Valley Hospital
0401 Castle Creek Road
Aspen, CO 81611
The whole of the Roaring Fork Valley lies in what is considered a high altitude to very high altitude zone. The Roaring Fork Valley starts at 5,761 feet in Glenwood Springs and climbs to 7,908 feet in the city of Aspen, with the summits of Aspen Mountain, Aspen Highlands, Snowmass Mountain and Independence Pass averaging just over 12,000 feet. If you’ve planned a trip or relocation to a high altitude destination, such as the Roaring Fork Valley here in the heart of the Colorado Rockies, you should understand the effects of high altitude on the body and take necessary precautions to avoid altitude sickness. Our guide to adjusting to high altitudes provides valuable information on how to prepare for and manage the effects of high altitudes on the body.
The primary challenge people face at higher altitudes is lower oxygen levels. The farther from sea level, the thinner the air. When preparing for high altitudes, make sure you pay special attention to physical fitness and proper nutrition. Exercise can improve your body’s oxygen capacity, while proper nutrition provides your body with the necessary nutrients for energy.
In addition to lower oxygen levels, high altitudes present other physical challenges. The thinner atmosphere at high altitudes makes the sun’s rays stronger and the chance for sunburn higher. Make sure you drink enough water, as the dry air at high altitudes can lead to dehydration. Include essentials such as sunscreen, warm clothing, and a reusable water bottle to help you prepare for your time in high altitudes.
When you get to a high altitude, acclimatization is key. Acclimatization is the process of gradually adjusting to the high altitude environment. Once you arrive, take it slow. If participating in a strenuous activity, arrive as early as possible to allow your body time to adjust. Build in lots of opportunities for rest, especially in the first 24-48 hours. Drink a lot of water, and avoid alcohol as it can exacerbate symptoms of altitude sickness.
During the acclimatization period, the body undergoes physiological changes, such as an increase in red blood cell production. It also produces a higher concentration of oxygen-carrying hemoglobin in the blood, which allows for better oxygen uptake and delivery to the body’s tissues. This process can take as long as several weeks.
Those new to high altitudes often experience an adjustment period that manifests in physical symptoms, commonly referred to as “altitude sickness.”
Symptoms can range from mild to severe, and can include:
While most people will eventually adjust to high altitudes, pulmonary edema from high altitudes is possible. Pulmonary edema occurs when the small air sacs in your lungs begin to fill with fluid. If you experience any of these symptoms in conjunction with an altitude change, consider consulting a doctor:
Our providers in Aspen, Basalt, and Snowmass are ready to assist you if you’re concerned about adjusting to the altitude. See the full list of treatment locations.
Download our free Living the High-Altitude Life e-book with everything you need to know about living at high altitude.
Aspen Valley Hospital is committed to providing our community with access to health resources. In addition to medical treatment, we made a commitment to give our visitors and residents wholistic information on managing health at high altitudes. Read more of our tips, tricks, and advice for high altitude living.