For the past 5 years I was beginning to notice more and more that the summer vacation season in Colorado kind of sucked. Specifically during the months of July and August. The heat had become relentless for Colorado. We were receiving frequent ozone danger warnings and the fire season never seemed to end. A deepening drought situation impacted Blue Mesa Reservoir and limited our ability to have fires when we went camping. And, real talk, if I heard another transplant talk about how great it was that it didn’t snow that much during the winter I was going to scream.
There was a clear disconnect in understanding how these weather conditions were not only impacting our day to day lives there is also a direct impact on the experience that visitors are having when they visit our beautiful state. In this episode I’m going to share how global warming may impact your next Colorado vacation and what to consider when planning your trip.
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I’m going to put it out there that I no longer advise visiting Colorado during the months of July and August. There are several reasons why:
- Fire season-Even if Colorado isn’t experiencing a large fire, fires from other western states will likely impact your experience.
- In the form of smoke, haze and high ozone. Enough where it’s difficult to see the mountains from the City of Denver. Or, where people are advised to stay indoors.
- Even if you’re in the mountains, this smoke may impact your hike. There’s nothing like looking across the mountain range and seeing lingering smoke while trying to breathe during high altitude activities.
- Or, your outdoor events such as Rockies’ games, concerts at outdoor venues such as Levitt Pavilion or Red Rocks
- Flooding on burn scars-Burn scars are the areas left behind after a fire. They are vulnerable to flooding activity during rain events. I-70 one of, if not, the busiest road in the state was shut down several times during the summer of 2021 due to flash flood events and massive amounts of debris that trapped people on the road. Visitors and citizens of the state then had their routes diverted around the state. Those diverted routes added a crazy amount of hours to people’s trips, they spent extra on gas and it pretty much sucked. Other mountain towns were also overwhelmed by the huge uptick in business.
- If the smoke is bad enough, it may impact visibility flying into DIA (Denver International Airport) and your flight might get cancelled, delayed or diverted. In fact, I flew in from a trip to Nashville on August 7, 2021 when Denver had the unwelcome distinction of having the worst air in the entire world and visibility was so poor flying into the airport that day that flights were impacted coming into Denver.
- Drought and lack of water-Earlier this year I drove down to the fabulous town of Telluride. What shocked me during the drive was how low the Blue Mesa Reservoir reserve was. For residents that low water line impacts the water we’re able to use for drinking, watering the lawns, etc. But, for tourists, that lack of water impacts water related activities that they may engage in such as boating, water skiing and stand up paddle boarding.
- During the winter if there’s not enough snow, that lack of snow impacts ski season. Who wants to fly to Colorado to ski on icy runs? In fact, buying a ski pass became a crap shoot for a couple of years because I couldn’t figure out which ski resorts would have constant fresh powder and a deep enough base for the season.
What to Do
Fortunately, global warming is a topic that is frequently in the news and it’s not a situation that is unique to Colorado. In fact, the week that Denver and the state of Colorado had the worst air in the world, so did Utah. In fact, a lot of the problems that Colorado is being challenged by-so are other Western states.
- If possible I would strongly advise avoiding visiting Colorado during the months of July and August. That is when the impact of fire season is felt the most.
- Visit between the months of September-June those are the best times to visit in terms of weather and the crowds ease up as well.
- Use car shares or the light rail when in Denver to minimize car related pollution
- Obsessively follow the weather. Depending on the time of year you’re looking at the following reports:
- Fire activity
- Snow reports
- Check CDOT for road closures and other activities that may impact a road trip
- Be patient with businesses and staff as they navigate through supply chain impacts from disruptions caused by these unforeseen situations.
- It’s likely that many of your favorite travel locations will (hopefully) begin issuing similar guidance in order to help travelers plan vacations that avoid as much as possible being directly impacted by global warming.