Traveling with elderly family members frequently makes extra research an essential part of the planning process. In some instances, it may be necessary to find out whether your destination or activities are going to be a good fit for those family members in question. Many travelers who are considering a trip to Breckenridge often wonder whether the town is an appropriate destination for older individuals. As up to 40% of Colorado visitors experience some form of altitude sickness, this is a worthwhile question to address.
Breckenridge sits at 9,600 feet above sea level (with the surrounding mountains even higher in elevation) and altitude sickness tends to kick in at about 8,000 feet above sea level. If you’ve ever experienced it, you know that altitude sickness can severely impact your ability to enjoy the mountains. In addition, visitors often ask about what activities are available to older adults who may not be able to participate in things like skiing or mountain biking. While Breckenridge is an amazing destination, we understand that it may not be for everyone. As such, we’ve put together some of the need-to-know information and other items for consideration so you can make an educated choice when it comes to visiting Breckenridge with elderly family members.
Overall Health & Altitude Sickness
The first step in deciding whether older adults can make the trip to Breckenridge is to talk with their doctor. The doctor will easily be able to gauge their overall health and how it may affect travel plans. Pre-existing lung or heart conditions can be affected by high altitude. These conditions may make it more difficult for your family member to enjoy their vacation or preclude them from participating in certain activities. Their doctor may also be able to prescribe medication that can help to ease some of the symptoms of altitude sickness.
Also known as acute mountain sickness (AMS), altitude sickness can vary greatly from person to person. Some people experience it on every trip to the mountains while others never feel the effects. It occurs when you’re unable to get enough oxygen from high altitude air. Air molecules at higher altitudes are more dispersed so your body gets less oxygen with each breath. Most cases of AMS are mild to moderate and include headache, fatigue, insomnia, nausea, dizziness, and shortness of breath. Typically these subside after two to four days. However more severe forms of altitude sickness exist. They are rare, but symptoms include confusion, excessive drowsiness, coughing up blood or frothy saliva, and fever. These require immediate medical attention.
Preventing Altitude Sickness
Unfortunately, there’s no one-size-fits-all prevention method when it comes to AMS. But there are certain things that can help to prevent or reduce the symptoms. As previously mentioned, the prescription medication Acetazolamide might be an option for your elderly family member. Make sure your family member drinks plenty of water before and after arriving. They should avoid caffeine and alcohol to prevent dehydration.
Some visitors find that extra oxygen helps to eliminate the symptoms of AMS. There are two oxygen bars in Breckenridge: the O2 Lounge and Harmony Health Massage & Wellness Spa. Breck is also home to a number of oxygen delivery companies that will deliver oxygen concentrators directly to your vacation rental or hotel room.
The human body is quite adept at acclimating to high elevations on its own when given enough time. If it’s feasible for your trip, you might want to consider spending a little extra time in Denver or lower elevation mountain towns before arriving in Breckenridge. Denver is 5,280 feet above sea level after all and that can a big adjustment if you’re coming from sea level. A slower progression in altitude will make for an easier transition.
Get to Know the Details of the Area & Take Extra Precautions
If you already have an idea of where you’d like to stay in Breckenridge, take the time to call the property management company or hotel to get some more information. You may need to know if special services are available to accommodate those in wheelchairs or those who have other mobility issues. Find out whether the hotel room, condo, or house is wheelchair-friendly. There are a number of vacation condos in town that are accessible only via a flight of stairs. So make sure and double check that everyone has easy access.
Many of the stores and restaurants on Main Street are wheelchair-friendly. But as the town is home to a number of historical buildings, some have not had the ability to update their accessibility. Feel free to call any establishments if you need to know whether they’re accessible. The town’s free shuttle is wheelchair accessible, so you and your family member should easily be able to get around town.
It’s also a good idea to research hospitals and other care providers. Not only will you want to know where they’re located but also if they’re in network. Many also have hours that are extended during the ski season. You may also want to consider purchasing travel insurance. Frequently, this type of insurance is very affordable and can help to cover the cost should a medical emergency arise during your vacation.
Prevent Slips and Falls on Ice
Chances are that if you and your elderly family members are visiting during the colder months, you’ll come across ice at some point. While most establishments in Breckenridge do a wonderful job of keeping walkways ice- and snow-free, there will be times when they’re unable to keep up with the weather. Once you pin down where you’ll be staying, make sure to get the information for who is responsible for things like shoveling. In many instances, companies will be more than happy to take care of snow and ice so that you and yours can enjoy a safe experience.
Otherwise, the general guidelines for staying safe on slick surfaces apply:
- Wear boots or other flat, slip-resistant footwear
- Walk slowly and deliberately. The common suggestion you’re likely to hear is “walk like a penguin”
- Be extra cautious when getting in or out of vehicles
Find the Right Activities
While many older adults may have no problem hitting the slopes or hiking up a mountain, there are others who would prefer that their vacation is a bit more calm and relaxed. The good news is that Breckenridge has so many activities that everyone will be able to find something fun to do. The Breckenridge Heritage Alliance offers a number of walking history tours that are both fun and educational. The Ready, Paint, Fire! studio is open daily. It offers Art and Wine Happy Hours, Canvas Painting Parties, and much more. The Arts District boasts a large variety of galleries, public art pieces, cafes, and much more.
The Breckenridge Theater, Riverwalk Center, and other performance spaces feature a variety of plays, concert, and more year round. The Breckenridge Golf Club is always a favorite. It features three championship nines, each of which is a Jack Nicklaus signature course. Of course, no Breckenridge vacation is complete without some time spent on Main Street. There, you’ll find an incredible assortment of restaurants and shops. It’s both quaint and modern with a stunning mountain backdrop.
We Hope You Can Make it to Breckenridge
If you can, you’re sure to see just how special our little mountain town is. We’d love to welcome you and your family!