Stepping into spring we have had several months of full-sunshine and beautiful days for outdoor activities. As the sunshine continues and we pursue more outdoor adventures, keeping in mind that we are at a significantly higher elevation and that creates more exposure to the sun.

This is especially true if you are an outdoor enthusiast and find yourself outside for long periods of time. Our high elevation is a major cause for increased chance for sun exposure, but probably not for the reason you are thinking. The reason you are more likely to get sunburned here is due to UV rays having less atmosphere to travel through. Even though Florida is closer to the equator (and technically in more direct sunlight), you are more likely to get sunburned in Colorado because there are physically less particles to deflect light on its way from the sun.

A study conducted here found that a person with average complexion at noon in Vail, Colorado at 11,000 feet would burn in six minutes without protection. Six minutes! Furthermore, it does not have to be a hot day to burn your skin at altitude. A mild temperature does not mean you cannot burn and can be misleading to the Vail Valley resident. Sunburns can occur at 70-80 degree weather in the Vail Valley if sunscreen is not applied.

Knowing this, protect yourself by avoiding intense midday sun, wearing protective clothing and using sunscreen any outdoor activities here in the Vail Valley.

When preparing for your next big outdoor adventure, remember to apply sunscreen at the trailhead and every one to two hours while outside. Even if your sunscreen is sweat and waterproof, continue to reapply it. If you get a sunscreen with a moisturizer in it, it will also help keep your skin well-hydrated in our dry climate.

For more information about protection your skin from the sun contact Mountain Dermatology Specialists at (970) 926-1800 or visit