High Altitude Tips for Colorado Mountain Weddings, Elopements and Engagement Sessions
Aspen Weddings, Telluride Weddings, Vail Weddings, Breckenridge Weddings,
Rocky Mountain National Park Weddings and Steamboat Weddings
ALL have something in common.
When looking at altitudes it's important to remember that these mountain towns often have two 'noted' altitudes... their village altitude and the peak altitude of the ski resort.
Vail Village sits at 8,150ft but the ski resort altitude is at 11,570 ft.
Telluride sits at 8,750 ft but the ski resort altitude is at 13,150 feet
Aspen sits at 8,000 ft but the ski resort altitude is at 11,212 ft and Maroon Bells (amphitheater area) is at 9,580 ft.
Steamboat sits at 6,700 ft but rises to 10,568 feet
And Breckenridge sits at 9,600 ft but rises to 12,998 feet
That doesn't mean much to some, but comparatively here are some places my clients have recently come from for their mountain weddings and their elevations: Dallas, Texas - 403 ft
Denver, CO - 5,280 ft Kansas City - 909 ft Colorado Springs, CO - 6,035 ft
Seattle, WA - 175 ft Phoenix, AZ - 1,086 ft In fact, the highest point in all of the Appalachian Mountain Range, is only 6,684 ft The highest point in the Catskills is just above 4,000 ft and the Blue Ridge Mountains highest point is 6,683′.
Really other than the Sierras, the Rockies tower over the rest of the country.
So why does that matter?
To preface this blog, I am not a doctor or a nurse or a medical professional. But I do believe that this is a very important topic that is seldom talked about with couples planning their Colorado wedding or Colorado Elopement and even less talked about with their guests. Many of my wedding couples are not from Colorado... and those who are don't necessarily think about addressing the high altitude concerns.
High altitude does effect most of us in some way. The baseball flies different at Coors Field because of the altitude and climate, so they had to add a humidor. Even when I come from my home on the front range... my elevation often is close to doubling when I am shooting a Vail elopement at the top of the resort or even more when I am in shooting a Breckenridge Wedding. My base elevation is already much better than most of my clients, but I still find myself dehydrating faster and at times being short of breath. So if the altitude gets to the Colorado Natives AND even baseballs, it's sure to get to people coming in with a 8,000ft sudden elevation change!
Here are some Altitude Tips and Rules to Live By from a Colorado Native
(and the help of several past clients who are doctors and nurses... I did seek some professional advice too!)
HEALTH RELATED TIPS:
ACLIMATE. Give yourself some time to get used to it. If you are flying in from a low elevation area, flying into Denver or Colorado Springs can be super beneficial and help you start your high altitude experience off on the right foot. Past Client and Nurse Lara says "If you are going to altitudes higher than 8000 ft (2500 m), try to spend a night at a medium altitude before going higher. For example, spend a night in Denver before going into the Mountains."
SLOWWWWW on the drinks. Accidental drunks are a huge thing at mountain weddings and around mountain towns. Someone will have a few drinks which would normally give them a nice buzz, but at altitude, they end up completely hammered. You can usually spot the people who came from out of state just by how drunk they are. This is probably the most under talked about thing that people should know. The alcohol TOTALLY hits you harder at altitude. It effects everyone differently, but really take it easy on the drinks. Natives generally tell out of towners for every alcoholic beverage they drink to have 2 glasses of water and to lay off, if not completely for the first day or two. Obviously important health wise, but you also don't want to make a fool out of yourself when you get wayyyy drunker than intended at a wedding (especially if it's your wedding!) We also have some pretty strong micro brews here, so check the label or menu for the alcohol percentage.
DRINK WATER. Dehydration really does happen faster at altitude and Colorado is already a pretty dry climate - summer, winter, spring or fall it doesn't matter, it's never humid here. Colorado's average relative humidity ranks 46th of 50 in the US. Between the altitude and our climate, it will be a small miracle if you aren't dehydrated at all during your stay. Protect your skin + lips! Colorado is one of the sunniest places with over 300 bluebird, sunny days on average per year. And there is a reason so many people come home from ski trips with sunburns. Combine that with our dry climate and your skin will really need some love while you are here. Make sure you have a good chapstick with SPF, some sunscreen, some hydrating lotion and again, DRINK WATER. Catch your breath. Our air is really thinner. Don't overdo your plans and sign yourself up for difficult or strenuous activities until you see how the altitude effects your body. You can't just fly in and expect to climb a 14er! There are oxygen canisters that you can purchase pretty much everywhere in the mountains. I've also seen them given as favors for high altitude Colorado Weddings. Don't be too stressed about this, it's readily available but not typically necessary... we don't live on Mars. We still have air, it's just thin! Eat. Eating smaller and more frequent meals, carbs, vitamin rich foods and even salty foods are recommended when on a high altitude visit. I often see couples, especially brides who will skip a morning breakfast or snacks because they don't want to be bloated. DO NOT DO THIS. Your body really does need more at this altitude and can cause you to feel far more lightheaded or shaky than you usually would. Ask Your Doc About Your Meds and High Altitude Concerns.
HIGH ALTITUDE WEDDING TIPS: A Welcome Gift for Out of Town Guests. Now I know this isn't practical for many weddings and may not be in the budget, but skip the wedding favors and opt for welcome gifts. Many hotels are happy to give them to your out of town guests when you have a block of rooms. Popular items include: Chapstick with SPF, drinks or drink mixes that help replenish and rehydrate (like Nuun Tablets) and a map of town. Put a Sign at the Bar. Something along the lines of:
"beware of the elevation, high altitude can cause quick inebriation." "drink responsibly, the higher you are (altitude here), the farther you fall!" "welcome to our high altitude wedding, the drinks are free, but remember with the elevation that one counts as three!" “Love is Intoxicating... but so is drinking at XXXX feet. Please drink responsibly!” (I did not make these up, but I was able to find them in various spots online.) Oxygen Canisters and Oxygen Bars are a Thing. These are very popular at weddings and are said to help alleviate mild altitude sickness symptoms. Don't overestimate their usefulness as some medical pros dispute their usefulness in these situations. If you are experiencing severe altitude sickness, you need to get down to a lower altitude as soon as possible. (Denver, etc). Shuttles If you have a wedding that requires a drive and has alcohol anywhere, you should definently have a shuttle bus to act as DD and get people back to their hotels safely, but I will say this is 100 times more necessary in the mountains. Like I said, alcohol hits people HARD at this elevation and people often get far more drunk than they intend. Pair that with winding mountain roads and I'd just hate to see the consequences. This is also a benefit to getting married in one of the villages or on top of the mountain. These villages are pretty much pedestrian only and shuttles/gondolas act as Designated Drivers. Talk About This On The Wedding Website! It seems silly and many of your guests may not visit it, but make sure you put a reminder and some medical links and resources to help inform them! I'll talk more about this towards the end of this post! Hire a MOUNTAIN wedding planner. There are SO many awesome planners around Colorado, but not everyone addresses the altitude concerns with you and helps you make provisions and recommendations for your guests.
Colorado weather is something else, ESPECIALLY in the high country.
It is CONSTANTLY changing and is pretty unpredictable. So I will probably do a full post on dressing and preparing for mountain weddings, but here is a quick overview for visiting the mountains. Wear Layers and be Prepared for Changing Weather. This one is less health related and more comfort related, but there are also many people who get themselves stuck in situations (on hikes etc) without a coat in a rapidly changing weather environment. In July, it's not surprising to see snow on the side of the road..... and falling in certain areas! Keep a very close eye on the forecasts, but remember most of those weather apps will only give you weather for the base, not the top of the mountain or the hiking area where you will be. I use this website often (here is pikes peak's forecast for reference): https://www.mountain-forecast.com/peaks/Pikes-Peak/forecasts/4300
I like this website because it shows the temperatures on various areas of the mountain, snow, wind. All of it. Being caught unprepared for the weather is dangerous. Summer storms often have hail, wind, lightning and flash flooding. Please research smart adventure precautions and dress like an onion. Lots of layers. Even in the winter, know that it can be 65 and sunny out, completely beautiful and enjoyable and then quickly turn. Layers are your best friend year round!
ALTITUDE SICKNESS - WHAT TO WATCH FOR: Please use these medical references instead of just taking my word for it! CDC - ALTITUDE SICKNESS
HOW TO SHARE INFO WITH YOUR GUESTS: This is one of the areas where a wedding website is incredibly helpful. Not everyone will look at it, but I really recommend putting some effort into it. And adding a little snippet about high altitude concerns and recommendations? PLEASE DO. Things to include: *ACCLIMATING
*ALCOHOL (remember 1=3 ;) )
*HOW TO DRESS! (this one is huge. just saying 'cocktail' isn't always appropriate especially for mountain weddings). * Remind them to bring a coat/jacket. As we've already talked about, Colorado weather is always changing and having a sweater and a jacket/coat for later in the evening can be SUPER necessary. I will tell you that I've seen a lot of people leave early from gorgeous summer weddings because of the drop in temperatures after dark.
* Recommend bringing an Umbrella. (Also super awesome to have blankets available as favors.
*Give them solid info to pick shoes that are fit for the occasion. 9 times out of 10 I hear at least a few women complaining as they wobble over to the mountaintop ceremony that they would've chosen different shoes if they would've known. Wedges and thicker heels are the best for heeled choices. For winter weddings, if you are cool with people wearing boots (for more of an outdoor setting) tell them. Again, I've seen a lot of women walking through the snow in strappy heels and freeezing. Same with guys. Dress shoes can be mighty slippery on the ice. Just think practically about your location, the set up, the walk to and from the ceremony area and the reception areas and help them choose accordingly. They typically have no idea what they are in for until they arrive.
*THE SUN! - Remind your guests that the Colorado sun is typically out and can be very intense. Chapstick, sunscreen and sunglasses are all very necessary!
*DRINK WATER - Remind them to start hydrating in a far more intense way before they even leave for the Rockies! And to drink twice the water that they usually do!
I really hope all of this helps you guys! Please feel free to share with any of your guests or other couples you know who are planning high altitude weddings! Check out more of our COLORADO MOUNTAIN WEDDING PHOTOGRAPHY + COLORADO MOUNTAIN WEDDING RESOURCES.