Colorful Colorado, as it's often called, is home to breathtaking scenery, unforgettable cultural experiences, and (of course) its outdoor recreation. If you yearn to live in the mountains, there's arguably no better place to do it than here. Not only does Colorado have the highest elevation of any state in the union, but it's also perfect for any chionophile (read: a person who thrives in snowy and loves cold weather). While 17 of the 20 highest peaks in the United States are located in Alaska, there are at least 50 peaks in Colorado that exceed 13,000 feet in elevation. So whether you love to zoom downhill on skis or would rather hike up a more sensible hill, Colorado arguably has it all.
That said, you'll need to take proper precautions if you plan on spending your time in the great outdoors. While hiking and skiing can provide an excellent workout and a fantastic way to appreciate the state's unique beauty, they can also be dangerous. According to a Colorado Public Radio report, data from 2014 showed that skiing and mountain hiking have their fatality risks, though they stand in stark contrast to one another. Data cited by the original insurance company site showed that your chance of dying in a skiing accident is at a rate of one in 1.4 million, while mountain hiking fatality risks were shown to be one in 15,700 each year. With hiking being the fourth-most popular activity in the United State with about 44.9 million participants, that's a lot of room for risk.
Of course, there's an even greater likelihood that you could merely injure yourself while skiing or hiking. According to the National Ski Areas Association, serious skiing injuries occur at a rate of approximately 44.7 per year, though there were a reported 510 serious injuries nationwide during the 2011-2011 season. Data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that hiking was the third most common cause of injury in the wild outdoors (snowboarding and sledding were found to account for more emergency room visits). Still, if you partake in either of these activities and you don't want to end up being part of the 27% of U.S. patients who visit an urgent care center within a typical two-year span, you'll want to make a habit of preparing for the worst.
Sunburn, insect bites, and blisters are all considered relatively minor, but that just means they're easily preventable for hikers. Make sure to wear long sleeves and to reapply sunscreen of at least SPF 30 every couple of hours — even if it's a cloudy day outside. Long sleeves and long pants can also keep insects away, as can repellants. Avoid blisters by investing in properly fitting shoes and socks, apply moleskin or athletic tape when you feel a blister starting to
But those inconveniences are small potatoes compared to twisted ankles, broken bones, and falls from dizzying heights. To avoid sprains, strains, and fractures, you should take care to warm up before setting out on your hike and to perform strengthening exercises on a regular basis. You may also want to invest in sturdy boots if you've experienced rolled ankles in the past. Trekking poles can also help you to navigate rough terrain. Above all else, always proceed with caution and watch where you step. It's also a good idea to take a first aid class geared towards backpackers and hikers to educate yourself on how to treat common injuries if they occur on the trail.
Skiing injuries, particularly for those who are new to the sport, should also be a concern. Staying in excellent shape can help you avoid common muscular strains and build your stamina. Take things slow and always follow the skier code of conduct, which makes recommendations that can help you to avoid getting hurt or unintentionally causing harm to others. Prioritize breaks, stay hydrated, and understand how all types of ski lifts work. If you do start to fall, it's better to lean back into it than to resist. Taking lessons, even if you consider yourself to be an expert, can be highly beneficial. Be sure to know how to recognize and treat the signs of hypothermia and frostbite, as well.
As any Colorado resident knows, outdoor recreation is a real highlight of life here. As long as you take the necessary precautions to protect yourself, there's no reason you can't enjoy all the natural wonders this state has to offer.