tl;dr: InstructureCon at Keystone is a fantastic and action-packed experience. Since I live year-round in a humid climate that's 12 feet above sea level, Keystone presented a few extra challenges for folks like me. And I learned that others also unaccustomed to spending time at high altitude echoed my experience. If you already live in elevation and/or are super fit, you need read no further. For the rest of us, I've jotted down what I've done to prepare in the past so that nothing stood between me and InstCon fun.
- Prepare for the terrain and climate
- Next steps:
Prepare for the terrain and climate
The elevation at Keystone ranges from around 9,000 feet at the Conference Center to over 12,000 feet at the summit. Altitude sickness is real, and it's serious; the only truly effective way to combat it once it advances past the mild stage is to descend to a lower elevation--in other words, you'd have to leave Keystone. Nobody wants to do this, so here are some preventative measures for your consideration:
Consult your physician before considering this! My doctor prescribed 20 Diamox pills, and these were of tremendous help (I have taken Diamox on numerous prior trips to the Rockies and other mountainous regions). For InstructureCon 2016 and again in 2017, I started taking them a day ahead of my trip to...
Acclimate in Denver
In 2016, I booked two extra days ahead of the trip to acclimate in Denver, famously known as the Mile-High City, and in 2017, I extended that to a four-day stay. Even so, one of our seasoned Canvas Community members cautioned, "[T]he climb [from Denver] to Keystone is 4500 feet or so and climbing in elevation is exponential oxygen loss, not linear."
This is good advice for travel in general, but is especially relevant for Keystone due to its elevation and its dryness. Drink lots of water before you leave, during your flight(s), and throughout your stay at Keystone.
Pack for sun
The sun is stronger up there than it is down here, even for this Floridian. Bring hats and sunblock.
Bring duct tape
Why? Everyone knows duct tape is good for everything--I always travel with a roll of duct tape, and have used it for everything from sealing off bottles and jars to covering over annoying blinking lights in hotel rooms--but duct tape is particularly awesome for blisters. You'll be doing a lot of walking in Keystone, so be vigilant.
I didn't need it, but if you get any hint of altitude sickness, you'll be glad to have it.
Bring super-comfortable shoes
I brought a pair of rugged shoes with fuzzy wool inserts, and I used them. Don't bring any shoes with a high heel. They will positively be an encumbrance.
Abstain from alcohol
This is not required, but go easy, for sure. Alcohol and altitude don't mix.
The three flights leading from the lake/Adventure Center to the tunnel across to the Convention Center were my personal stumbling block, one that I overcame numerous times each day. I challenged myself to be less out of breath each time, but I admit to having had mixed results. A trainer buddy of mine suggested a pre-conference stair workout using the bleachers by an outdoor pool, alternating between the small steps on the sides and the bigger steps in the middle. Remember that flatlanders training for hills need to consider the muscles used when going down as well as those needed to ascend.
If you're from a humid climate, your nasal passages will be screaming at you by Day 2. Bring a tube of Vaseline for dried nasal passages. Also bring nasal saline spray in the event the Vaseline isn't enough.
Where I live the temperature rarely drops into the 40s, but you can expect to experience 40 degree or colder weather every night at Keystone. So bring lightweight gloves and layers of clothing.
Rain and lightning
July is monsoon season in Colorado. You can expect rain and lightning every afternoon. Indeed, the extent of the lightning was surprising even to someone who comes from the lightning capital of America. Rain is not fun for people who have to wear glasses. So I bring an easy-to-pack floppy plastic hat.
What else to pack
In addition to the comfortable shoes and rain hat, don't pack anything dressy; you won't need it. Stay on top of the discussions here to learn more about event themes, and consider packing an extra outfit that corresponds to them; it's more fun that way. Also, bring as many Bridge T-shirts as you own, and hope for more. (You'll get more, and leave room in your bag for swag.) Don't forget those layers. Hoodies are the gold standard of layers.
Yes, the air is thinner at higher altitudes, and sea level dwellers will most likely feel it. Many of the shops scattered throughout the Keystone resort sell cans of oxygen.
Along with hydration, electrolytes are instrumental in combating oxygen sickness. I brought packets of a powdered drink called Acli-Mate, and each day mixed it into 32 ounces of water to drink over the course of the morning. Since I wasn't experiencing any altitude sickness anyway, I can't speak to its efficacy, but it tasted good.
...and last but not least: Social
Arguably, networking is the most enjoyable part of an InstructureCon. To help you make those connections, start by customizing your profile in the Bridge Community. Even better: upload an avatar that resembles your actual face!
What additional tips can you offer?