If you are coming to our fair state for the Public Library Association (PLA) conference in April 2016 (or for any other work or family event), please note that the dryness, intense sunlight, and lower levels of available oxygen can affect you in ways that the tourist brochures sometimes fail to note. Here are some tips to make it more likely that you will have a wonderful time in our beautiful mountains and plains.
Dress for everything!
Although most of us like to think that our hometown weather is special, the truth is that Denver is like most of the mid-continental United States, where weather conditions can shift rapidly. In springtime, snow is not uncommon, so the two rules are the same here as elsewhere: Check the weather forecasts before you pack, and bring layers to ensure you are comfortable in the conference venues.
If you plan on going into our lovely mountains, remember that it can snow all year round, and storms can be sudden and vicious.
Experienced residents have extra blankets, winter clothes, food, water, and winter weather gear in their cars when they venture into the High Country, even in the peak of summer. (Do you wanna hear about the hikers that had to be rescued because they were caught in a blizzard on the 4th of July?)
Hotel advice: Before you go to bed, plug your bathtub and turn on your shower (hottest water!); after the tub has accumulated a couple of inches of water in the bottom, turn off the shower and leave the bathroom door open so your room is humidified. When you wake up in the morning, a hot shower also can help alleviate an early morning headache due to dry sinuses.
Buy those inexpensive orange-capped bottles of saline spray to keep nasal membranes moist. You will probably want to use skin cream and lip balm, even if you don’t use these products at home.
Some people who wear contacts bring eyeglasses just in case they decide that contacts are too uncomfortable in our dry climate. If you need eye drops/ointment, check with your pharmacist about which brands have the fewest unwelcome side effects. We like Systane®. (Learn more about this product at: http://www.systane.com/Dry-Eye-Information.aspx
Drink the Right Stuff!
Increase the amount of water, seltzer, and fruit juices in your diet. Some experts will tell you to drink twice as much water as you are accustomed to.
Colorado is known for its craft beer and alcohol industry; please enjoy in moderation. However, alcohol can dehydrate you; it is said that hangovers can be more severe in our arid, mile-high climate.
Potassium, which also helps keep your nasal membranes moist, can be found in helpful amounts in bananas, oranges, and watermelon. Fruit smoothies! Virgin daiquiris! Yum!
(We are a drought-conscious state, so you probably will have to ask your wait staff for water at your meals.)
The sun here might be more intense than what you are used to back home; and sunburns are likely at any time of the year, particularly in our mountains and from 10 am to 2 pm. So wear a hat (particularly if your hair is thin), wear long sleeves (if you are susceptible to burning), wear the highest rated sunscreens, and if you do forget to protect, use aloe vera to help the burns heal quickly. Also, sunglasses are a must if you plan to spend time outside.
Altitude or mountain sickness is caused by the difference in the available oxygen at higher elevations. The symptoms of altitude or mountain sickness are similar to the flu, but most cases do not occur until you go above 8,000 feet. However, I have known healthy teenagers to spend their vacation in a Denver hotel room, feeling sick and exhausted. Ironically, the fit visitor who insists on doing their daily five-mile run is as likely to get sick as the couch potato who takes it easy.
Even if you don’t come down with a full-blown case of altitude sickness, be prepared to sleep a little longer, to take a nap, and to take more breaks. If you are in a hotel or conference center, go outside during your breaks, if you can. At night, sleep with your windows cracked open, particularly if you visit the mountains: The lack of oxygen in the room can give you a headache in the morning.
Some people find the first couple of days difficult, others do well the first three days, and then crash. The only “cure” for real altitude sickness is travelling to a lower altitude or taking supplementary oxygen.
For more information about altitude sickness: