Head in clouds? Dreaming of a vacation to a far away, and taller land? Know what to expect from high elevation destinations before you step off the plane.
Travelers are often surprised to learn that it snows in Flagstaff Arizona. While most of the state’s coldest lows are between 30 and 46 degrees, Flagstaff’s coldest lows in January and February are around 17 degrees. This is because of Flagstaff’s elevation of 7,000 feet.
Life at 7K has its benefits. Some studies have shown that high-elevation populations have healthier hearts and immune systems than their low-elevation counterparts. Training for endurance sports like running at high-elevation is also thought to improve performance if the runner competes at a lower elevation.
However, the thinner air and reduced oxygen in Flagstaff does pose a couple of challenges to travelers who are not accustomed to high elevation. Here are some effects to keep in mind while traveling throughout Northern Arizona and how to cope with them.
Effects of High Altitude
While the thin air has its perks, it also comes with a few tricky challenges. Humidity is lower at high altitude which causes sweat to dissipate faster, meaning you sweat more. You lose a surprising amount of water through sweating, and in the summer Arizona sun you’ll be sweating a lot. The lower oxygen levels in the air means that you must breathe deeper and/or more vigorously during activity, which expels more water via exhalation than at lower altitudes. According to the Institute for Altitude Medicine, you should drink an extra 1 to 1.5 liters of water daily when at high altitude. The low oxygen and increased loss of water adds up to fatigue and potentially nausea and fainting. While acute altitude sickness is rare under 8,000 feet, its symptoms can be felt if you don’t hydrate and control your activity level. While you climb hike bike and walk, pace yourself, take breaks, and try to stick to the shade if any is available.
How to Prepare for High-Elevation Activity
Hydrate – The easiest way to avoid feeling the effects of high altitude is to hydrate hydrate hydrate! The most popular trails have fill-up stations for you water bottle. But if you are planning a long hike, or a trip off the beaten path be sure to bring enough water.
Pace yourself – You use more calories, have less oxygen, and increase water consumption at high-altitudes. While you hike, bike, walk or climb be sure to consciously pace yourself and take breaks (ideally in the shade.) If you are hiking, biking, or enjoying any other high-impact activity, make sure to replenish electrolytes, nutrients and calories so you can stand up to the exhausting effects of the high-elevation.
Sun Protection – UV rays are less filtered at high altitudes. The World Health Organization says that for every 1100 yards UV radiation increase by 10% – 12%. Use sunscreen, wear a brimmed hat, and wear sunglasses. Lightweight long-sleeve shirts will best protect you from the sun’s rays and may even keep you cooler if made from a sweat wicking material. While you travel try to stick to the shade if it is available.
While elevation can be dangerous, 99% of tourists in Flagstaff have no trouble adapting for their visit. If you would like more information about traveling to Flagstaff you can call our office at 928-440-5079, and we’ll be happy to answer your questions.
World Health Organization