You may have heard that with a base altitude of 9,600 feet, Breckenridge is low on oxygen. Don’t be deceived; there’s plenty of O2 in our clean high country air—roughly the same amount, in fact, that you’d find at sea level. The difference here is that the air pressure is lower due to the altitude, causing O2 molecules to spread out and evade inhalation.
For locals, the body acclimatizes, but for visitors, symptoms like nausea, headaches, dizziness and “general malaise” can be downers to an otherwise awesome vacation—which is where oxygen purveyors like The O2 Lounge come in.
“People come into town and we want to keep them feeling as well as possible [so] they enjoy Breckenridge,” said Guy Hudson, who purchased the business from its prior owners in 2010 with his wife Sally. Both left careers as corporate attorneys in the UK for “a change of pace,” which ended up being the “quirky little idea” of running a quaint but popular oxygen lounge in the heart of Colorado ski country.
While sufferers of acute symptoms should seek medical attention, many Breck visitors find relief inhaling the hydrated, 90% oxygen air, which is on tap daily from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. in one of four aromatherapy choices: joy, relaxation, energy, or clarity. “We’re about health and well-being,” said Hudson, who recommends that the O2 inclined come within the first 24 to 48 hours of their Breckenridge stay. “It’s really nice when somebody comes in feeling bad and they go out feeling good.”
Twelve dollars gets you 15 minutes, which he recommends “if you’re breathless and feeling the altitude but not suffering” or “if you’re a bit tired and you want to reenergize or just want to try the oxygen and see what it does.” For those with “more significant symptoms” like “headaches or trouble sleeping,” he recommends 30 minutes ($20), and if you’re “feeling pretty lousy” or experiencing “dizziness, nausea, lethargic, [or] flu-like” symptoms you might want to go for the full 45 minutes ($25).
“Everybody’s physiology is different,” Hudson said. “Some people just need a quick boost to settle themselves down; some people choose to come in and breathe every day to reenergize and keep feeling tip top. Obviously we make sure people understand we’re not a medical establishment here,” he added. “If people are feeling really bad then we say they need to consider seeing a doctor or going to the emergency room.”
Oxygen on tap comes in handy for hangover headaches, too; Hudson himself admitted to having had a “late night” before we spoke, but after breathing oxygen for 20 minutes that morning he said he felt “loads better.”
Since 2010 the Hudsons have put their own stamp on The O2 Lounge by redecorating it and modifying the menu, among other changes. They serve Illy coffee and hot drinks—including a very yummy chai I downed while I was there—along with smoothies, snacks, and portable O2 bottles. Customers can access the internet and print documents at computer stations too (15 minutes for $3; 30 min for $5, and 60 min for $7).
“People can come in, just chill out, have a cup of coffee or a smoothie, listen to music, watch TV or whatever…” Hudson said, in between answering the phones, cashing out a couple of O2 takers, getting a bottle of oxygen for a man to take to his wife, and hooking up visitors from Dallas—who then proceeded to amuse themselves taking pictures of one another on oxygen for a fond Breck memory in the making.
The O2 Lounge is located at 500 South Main Street, Breckenridge, Colorado in the La Cima building, opposite the entrance to the Main Street Station. Phone: (970) 453-6262. Hours: 10 a.m. – 10 p.m.