High Altitude Fun Facts and Trivia


When altitude increases, air pressure and barometric pressure fall, affecting practically everything, whether it lives on or grows in the earth or moves through the air- from just plain folks to Olympic athletes, from baseballs, footballs, and golf balls to cars. This page brings you various oddments, or less widely known aspects of the high life, beyond baking (while cakes don’t literally fly through the air, they do actually have to rise through it, so they, too, are affected by changes in atmospheric conditions...see High Altitude Baking Science). Contact us if you have some interesting altitudinous information to contribute.

Did you know?

Since there is less air resistance at higher elevations, everything goes farther faster, including human runners? Their performance changes for a variety of reasons, foremost being the fact that the number of red blood cells (which transport oxygen to muscles) increase when an athlete trains in high altitudes. Runners native to mountain areas grow up with bodies accustomed to these conditions, and will run farther with less apparent effort than those born at sea level. (Many athletes in a myriad of sports systematically train at high altitude, both to be able to compete there and also to improve their performance at lower elevations). For example, at the 1986 Olympics in Mexico City (7500 feet), the top five finishing runners in the 10,000 meter race were high altitude residents, including Kip Keno (native of Kenya, 9000 feet) who beat world record holder Jim Ryun (of Wichita, Kansas, 1350 feet) in the 1500 meter race.

 

As cars climb highways rising in elevation, they need to have different tire pressure and to be tuned differently (remember that knocking in your engine as you inched around the hairpin turns to Grandfather Mountain in North Carolina?).

Golf balls are said to go 5% farther at 7,000 feet than at sea level. Manufacturers of sports equipment
make special high altitude products; for example, you can buy high altitude tennis balls,
or gas camping stoves tuned for reliable use in extreme mountain conditions.

You will get drunk faster at higher altitudes. Commercial airplane cabins are pressurized to approximately 8000 feet, which is why you get a big buzz from a little cocktail. Stewardesses on private jets – the only kind where the crew actually cooks from scratch – have trouble baking desserts or preparing foods from mixes developed for use at sea level).

 

 

 

Wines grown at high altitude are prized, though opinion varies on the precise causes. Most authorities agree that the cold nights and reduced rainfall found in high, dry elevations produce more concentrated grape sugars as vine roots have to reach deep into the soil for moisture and nutrients. Also, increased UV light at high elevations improves grape color and concentrates healthful polyphenols found in seeds and skins of grapes used for red wine (which is why some scientists – and hopeful vintners- claim red wine can help prevent heart disease). In any case, high altitude red wines do contain higher levels of polyphenols than those grown at sea level. Argentina’s Andes mountains are home to the ‘mine is higher than yours’ department, where vintners Donald Hess, owner of El Arenal Vineyard (9892 feet) and Raul Davalos, owner of Tacuil Winery (8520 feet), compete for the title of world’s highest vineyard.
The sun’s strong ultra-violet rays at high altitude may be great for red wine, but they’re not so great for our bodies, causing skin to sunburn very quickly and doing serious damage to eyes unprotected by sunglasses.

Foods seem to have less flavor and smell less pungent in high elevations.

A steaming cup of latte will be lukewarm by the time you take your second sip in a Sun Valley café. Blame it on the fact that water boils at a lower temperature the higher you go and in addition, the air is actually colder (approximately 11 degrees F. for every 3281 feet above sea level).

Since 1939, the largest Boy Scout camp in the United States (Philmont Training Center in Cimarron, New Mexico, 6430 feet) has been teaching special high altitude backpacking skills and camp cooking to over 21,000 boys each summer.

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