Along with many other families from all over the country, you’re thinking about relocating to beautiful Colorado. I may not be a Colorado “native” (that’s the first thing you need to know about Colorado – the people who were born and raised here refer to themselves as natives. It’s a thing. You’ll see the bumper stickers everywhere), but I have lived in Colorado for a total of 11.5 years, and there are a few things you should know before moving here.
1. Colorado is a little different from other states (okay, a lot). For one thing, it’s considered a high desert. There are arguments to be made about high prairies vs foothills, vs mountains, and how dry is it here compared to other desert areas like Nevada, but it doesn’t really matter. It is extremely dry here, drier than the southwestern states and it catches almost everyone off guard. Altitude and weather affect many aspects of our daily lives!
Colorado Springs, specifically, ranges from high plains on the east side to foothills on the west and north, with the southern edge inching into the high desert. Colorado Springs is at a higher elevation than Denver, with about a 2,000 ft difference from south to north (5,500-7,500 ft) and a 400 ft difference from east to west (6,800 to 6,400).
HERE’S HOW TO DEAL:
HYDRATE. This isn’t something to take lightly. In order to not be dehydrated in this arid climate, you need to drink a gallon of water every day. If you are physically active, you need even more. Consider installing a humidifier in your home. It is not pleasant breathing dry air. Also, the static electricity is ridic.
2. What the weather is like in Colorado
Desert means lots of sun (well over 200 days of sun every year, and sometimes over 300), which is not something people think about when they think Colorado. What most people don’t realize about deserts is that they are extreme on both ends. Hot and dry during the day, cold and dry at night. It also FEELS different. People moving from more humid climates report that 40 degrees is time to bundle up, while in Colorado, that’s t-shirt weather.
HERE’S HOW TO DEAL: Always keep a jacket, an umbrella, water, and an ice scraper in the car. It is not unusual to need all of these things in one day, in May. The weather can be intense. Blizzards can shut everything down for a day or two, (melted quickly by the sun) and summers can get into the triple digits and be back down to the 40s or 50s the next morning. When searching for a home, make sure it has A/C and ask when the roof was last replaced. Average roof replacement here is 3-5 years, due to extreme weather conditions. Invest in good insurance while you’re at it to keep the roof cost down.
3. Commuting is a great idea until it’s not
In the Summer, it floods. This may vary across the state, but Colorado Springs was not built with growth in mind, and that is all it has done for the last 40 years, with 2010-2015 bringing CO to the second-fastest-growing state in the country. That rapid growth has caused some issues with infrastructure. Heavy rains in Summer can saturate the arid land quickly with no place to go. A sudden rainstorm in Summer can find mid-Colorado Springs under several feet with flash floods and slow drainage.
In Winter, it blows. While we don’t get as much snow in Colorado Springs as one would expect, despite what Coors commercials tell you, the wind that kicks up with it can shut down roads in an instant. Living in Colorado Springs for the cost of living and working in Denver sounds like a great idea until you start heading to work in sunny 40-degree weather, and get caught in Larkspur in a blizzard for 12 hours. A drive to the airport can be 1-1.5 hours or 5 hours.
HERE’S HOW TO DEAL: Listen to the local radio stations. They’re very good at keeping up with road closures and areas to avoid.
4. Moving here is an experience all in itself
When we moved back here six years ago, we contacted over 200 properties, got callbacks about less than ten, had family members tour three, and STILL ended up with an overpriced home that wasn’t actually livable. The housing market is nuts here and everything from apartments to mansions goes so quickly, they’re usually rented before you get a callback.
HERE’S HOW TO DEAL: Stay away from Craigslist. Save yourself the time, energy and disappointment and hire a realtor. The rental scams are legendary.
5. You might notice some wacky stuff happening to your health
I cannot stress this enough. Normal things to consider when moving here:
- Nosebleeds. Sometimes it’s temporary, for some it becomes a way of life.
- Dry skin. You know those giant tubs of coconut oil at Costco? Those are for your skin, not cooking. Invest in a really great lotion and tons of lip balm, or do it like the “natives” and use less expensive food items like coconut oil, and olive oil.
- Lack of oxygen. Take it easy when you first move here, giving yourself at least 48 hours before going on a hike. Your lungs will thank you.
- Sunburn. That great ball of fire is much closer to you at high altitudes, and you can burn in 10 minutes or less. Not only that but on the few days per year that we do have cloud cover, it doesn’t matter. You can burn when it’s snowing, when it’s raining, and pretty much any time except night. Prepare for that.
- Fatigue. Your body has to create new red blood cells to account for the low oxygen. That process doesn’t happen overnight. Combine that with the dry air and you might find yourself with less energy and in need of more naps when you first arrive.
6. Your daily life will have all these little surprises
- Everything explodes. Anything that was packaged at a lower elevation will explode when you open it. Point things away from your face, and prepare to clean up a mess. My husband has lived in CO since he was two, and he refuses to open biscuit cans. They are twice as loud at this altitude. (HERE’S HOW TO DEAL: Poke a tiny hole in foil seals on the opposite side from opening. This will release the pressure and save your products. Ex: yogurt, formula, spices, and coffee – even Keurig pods have been known to spew wet grounds)
- No one can drive in snow. That includes the “natives”. We get a lot less of it than other states, and it’s gone in a day or two. With the flooding (also affected by melting ice) and the road closures, most people just stay inside and don’t actually have as much snow driving experience as you’d think. Be careful!
- Drinking will get you messed up, quick. At high altitude, your blood thins, sending less oxygen throughout your body. In other words, you’ll get tipsy, fast. (HERE’S HOW TO DEAL: Wait until you’re acclimated to the elevation before you imbibe. Hangovers + altitude sickness = hospital.)
- Baking: so much fail. I’ve been here six years this time and I still forget this. When we first moved back, we lived at 6,500 ft. It took us several months to recreate our favorite bread recipe. A year later, we moved 1,000 ft higher and the recipe no longer worked. I gave up. The best hint I have is to get Hungarian high altitude flour and be prepared for lots of trial and error.
While we do have our little flaws and foibles, Colorado is a great state to live in and I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else. Do your research (check out the CDC’s info on traveling in high altitudes!), keep an open mind, and you’ll surely embrace the beauty, wildness, and culture that we have in our beautiful state. Oh, and when you’re ready to expand your family? Your specialists from Colorado Mountain Doulas are here for you to help you navigate the best hospitals, doctors, midwives, and lactation consultants in Denver, Colorado Springs, and other surrounding Colorado cities.