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The Official Sirens Guide to Surviving the Altitude

A week from today, some of you will already be frolicking in Beaver Creek, and the rest of you won’t be far behind! And we know, some of you may be thinking, oh, the altitude, it’ll be fiiine. For some of you, that might be true! But for the rest of us mortals whose homes are at sea level, who don’t train for hikes in Machu Picchu or own season ski passes, read on: This post is for you.

Fact: Colorado has the highest average altitude in the United States, and is the seventh driest state. Much of it is actually a high-plains desert. If you’ve been to Denver, you’ll know it’s not called the Mile-High City for nothing: The steps of the State Capitol are at 5,280 feet. In Beaver Creek, the average elevation is a whopping 3,000 feet higher at 8,100 feet. (For reference, most airplane cabins are pressurized between 5,000–8,000 feet as a safe and healthy range for most people.)

In Beaver Creek, the sky is bluer, the sun is brighter, and the air is thinner—which means less oxygen going to your brain. You might breathe more quickly, find yourself in need of a nap, or be prone to headaches. But! You can help avoid dehydration and other dastardly effects of altitude with these tips in mind:

  • Drink plenty of fluids. Dehydration and high altitude can both bring headaches. Drink water early and often—you can even drink a sports drink, with electrolytes, for an extra boost. For a good rule of thumb, drink whenever you see our conference co-chair Sabrina Chin take a sip. (The rallying call for this is, “When Sabrina drinks, you drink!”) And we’ve got you covered: This year we’ll have Sirens water bottles, with some of our fabulous artwork, for sale.
     
  • Balm it up. Because of the lack of moisture in the air, you might need to apply extra lip balm, nasal spray, eye drops, and lotion to keep yourself comfortable.
     
  • Eat a snack. May your bellies be full. With high altitude can come a bigger appetite—your body is working extra hard to compensate for less oxygen and lower temperatures.
     
  • Be aware of the sun. Thinner air means less protection from the sun’s harmful rays. Whether you burn easily at sea level or not, you will in Beaver Creek—so make sure that you cover up and apply sunscreen if you’re going for a hike or enjoying the grounds. Bring your sunglasses, too! Believe us, your eyes can burn.
     
  • You might need more sleep than usual. Or you might be really tired from the plane ride in, or suffering from jetlag or insomnia. Nevertheless, lethargy is real in the mountains. Who says naps are only for babies?
     
  • Alcohol will have a greater effect on you, so imbibe judiciously. One drink at sea level equals two or even three in the mountains. Please consider moderating your drinking—and drink plenty of water during and afterwards. If not, your headache the next morning probably isn’t altitude sickness; it’s a hangover. (And if you complain, we will be tempted to give you the side-eye…)
     
  • If you feel a headache coming in, up your fluid intake and try taking ordinary painkillers. Chances are, you’ll feel much better with some rest, too.
     
  • If you’re struggling with the altitude, consider altitude pills or supplemental oxygen. Some people have found that these help; some people think these are nonsense to take advantage of tourists. Regardless, the Beaver Creek Market, just minutes from the Park Hyatt, will sell you both.

If your headache does not respond to more water and ordinary painkillers, and is accompanied by nausea, extreme fatigue, inability to sleep, swelling, or continued rapid heartbeat, please see the hotel’s front desk. You are within the small percentage of people misfortunate enough to experience altitude sickness. While altitude sickness generally clears up within a few days, the Park Hyatt can help with treatment options.

For more information in the meantime, you can check out our page on Altitude (and please note that, while we haven’t updated it for our new location in Beaver Creek, all the information still applies). Any other questions, please contact us at (help at sirensconference.org). We’re looking forward to seeing you all next week, and we want your experience at Sirens to be amazing!

 

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