Altitude Physiology, Sleep and Exercise
So you're coming to Colorado to visit? Ski? Climb? Hike? Jeep? Chill? Colorado offers the best in mountain recreation, with clean air and beautiful vistas. It also offers thin air, with less oxygen. This section of the web site addresses possible concerns about high altitude and offers tips on maximizing your enjoyment of our beautiful State.
What defines high altitude?
High altitude to a physiologist starts around 5000ft, the altitude where the body senses changes in the oxygen level and starts to respond by increasing breathing. Ski resorts in Colorado range from base areas of 6-9,000 ft, to elevations of close to 13,000 ft, while 54 peaks go to over 14,000 ft.
Why is there less oxygen in the air?
The pressure in the atmosphere decreases as you gain elevation. The percent of oxygen is actually the same at all altitudes, 21%; however, it is 21% of a smaller number as one goes higher. The barometric pressure at sea level is 760 mmHg, and at 10,000 ft, it is 534 mmHg. Breathing the air of Telluride is the equivalent to breathing air with only 15% oxygen at sea level, instead of 21%. The net result is that there is 29% less oxygen in the air at Telluride compared with sea level. At 14,000 ft, the air has 43% less oxygen than at sea level. Because of the reduced air pressure at high altitude, the volume of air you breathe into you lungs contains less oxygen molecules in each breath.