Marolt: The only thing money can’t buy here is extra oxygen

Roger Marolt
Cluster Phobic

One thing I like to do on vacations is exercise. I have the time, it’s a good way to shake off jet lag or loosen car cramps, working up a sweat is relaxing and taking a short run around town is a good way to figure out the lay of the land.

Living in the Rocky Mountains, almost everywhere we go is lower in altitude, so physical exertion is noticeably easier than it would be performing the same motions at home. It’s quite an ego boost to look at your watch and discover you are covering miles at a faster pace than when you were 10 years younger. And, here’s the kicker: since most places are more humid than here, you can work up an incredible cleansing sweat without the lung-searing and heart-thumping pain necessary to stain your clothes with big, ripe sweat rings that just don’t grow easily up here. Recovery time is not even a consideration. I feel like an electric Porsche when running at sea level!

It makes me wonder about visitors coming up here. It seems everyone is traipsing around in workout clothes all the time. It’s hard to tell if we are living in a Lululemon ad or if the advanced technology of stink-resistant fabric is actually being tested.

I’m sure part of it is about the comfort of lightweight, moisture-wicking, tight-fitting, cool-looking, miracle fabric. Vacations are about doing things differently in two-week intervals. Putting on the regular wardrobe while away from home mentally shrinks the distance between you and the office and everything feels a little more like rush hour when you are late to the Little League game. Considering this, $85 for a yoga T-shirt in a tourist town boutique seems reasonable.

There are a lot of visitors out on the hiking trails and pedaling bicycles up to Maroon Lake. Granted, many of those bikes come with electric assist motors and the most crowded trail seems to be the one through the mall from the water fountain to Paradise Bakery. Nonetheless, these folks are not sitting around watching sports in the hotel lounge.

Our weather certainly mitigates some of the lethargy produced out of our thin air. It is irresistibly enticing to get outside under the lure of emboldening blue skies, dangling dumpling clouds over our heads that promise to shower us with doses of refreshing rain for a short spell in the afternoons. This may be our finest offering to visitors.

Whitewater rafting is a good option for an activity that won’t tax your VO2 max. This might be why it is one of the most popular outdoor activities for visitors. Lots of locals love it, too, but I am not a fanatic. I would describe it as a fairly passive activity that gives the illusion of action. But, what more is anyone really looking for on a vacation?

Fly-fishing is another activity that will tax your cardiovascular system at favorable capital gains rates. The exception would be if you end up getting your fly tangled in some brush on the riverbank, but this is why you hire a guide.

Jeeping is another physically non-strenuous, absolutely exhausting activity that can take you high into the backcountry to allow you to acclimate gently, at least physiologically speaking. Your spleen will get beaten to a pulp. There is nothing sexy about bumping and grinding up a rough back road. The views are great if your jostling eyeballs can focus. It will clear your head if it’s not banging against the roll bar. It will detoxify your lungs if … never mind. The choking dust and exhaust fumes will nearly suffocate you.

I have vacationed in places higher than my home. It was when I climbed mountains back in the days I thought that’s what they were there for (they are actually there for you to make paintings of). On those trips, we spent about 20 hours a day inside a cramped tent, four actually outside climbing the mountain and zero enjoying fine dining. It was almost never comfortable and way more fun looking at the photos afterward.

This is what got me wondering about our visitors adapting to our altitude. In the end, I suppose all travel is as much about the challenges one must overcome to feel something is accomplished for the time, money and efforts expended as it is about anything else. We need breaks from our comfort zones. In that regard it really might not be so tough up here. I think of Disneyland and my knees grow weak. I love that place.

Roger Marolt saw a family doing a sing-a-long in rush hour traffic and wondered where they were from. Reach at


See more