Larry Kutt’s company created facilities to train Seal Team 6, professional and Olympic athletes and military and commercial pilots and built a system to protect the American flag Francis Scott Key was watching when he penned “The Star Spangled Banner” and even house $400 million worth of race horses for an Arab sheik.
Preventing altitude sickness for you and your guests seems as though it should be no problem. Kutt operates Altitude Control Technologies, a Colorado company working throughout Vail, Aspen, Summit County, Telluride, Crested Butte, Park City, Steamboat Springs and the world … just about anywhere an altitude adjustment is needed.
Basically, they can take the atmosphere in homes to lower altitudes — or higher, if you need it.
“People are buying and building these beautiful homes at 9,000 feet. They come up from sea level and get altitude-sick,” said Kutt, who is also a co-founder of Metro State University’s School for Entrepreneurship. “Beyond the money, it’s one of their dreams. They don’t want to sell or move or suffer. We can come in and change the environment for them. Everyone fells well and happy, instead of staying indoors and being miserable.”
Less oxygen lives here
In places such as Vail, Aspen and Summit County, it is said that there’s about 30 percent less oxygen than at sea level. That’s because there’s less air pressure to hold in oxygen, Kutt said.
“If you live here, you won’t get altitude sick because you’ve acclimatized. But if you come from sea level and you come quickly, 35 (percent) to 40 percent of people will suffer symptoms of altitude sickness — headache, stomach upset, insomnia — something like that,” Kutt said.
The solution really is simple, Kutt said. They increase the amount of oxygen to simulate 1,700 feet — that’s the magic altitude — usually in a few bedrooms. You sleep at that simulated altitude, and it aims to interrupt the oxygen cycle. You and your guests will be fine.
“All they need to do is sleep in this environment. We’re interrupting the low-oxygen environment of the mountains with a higher-oxygen environment,” Kutt said.
Kutt said you can perform better, recover better from skiing and hiking and improve mental performance.
They installed one for a man who ran the Harvard Endowment and a hedge fund and built a beautiful home. Every time he came up, he got sick — stomach disorders and couldn’t sleep.
“People will say to themselves, ‘I went to the mountains and was sick. If I go to the Caribbean, I won’t be.’ We can solve that,” Kutt said.
High Country home
As we get older, physicians have found that we don’t deal with altitude as well. Often we have to leave our High Country homes.
“They don’t want to leave, but they have to,” Kutt said.
There’s a couple on Vail’s Beaver Dam Road who’ve lived here almost since their address was the outskirts of town. They’re getting a system. They’re staying.
They did a system for one of the Koch brothers in Aspen. There’s a real estate development in Telluride on a ridge that’s pushing 10,000 feet in elevation, where the systems are being installed as standard equipment.
“People have friends and family here, and they want to be here. We can help them stay. They can live like they want,” Kutt said. “People are facing selling a house, losing their dreams … we can solve those problems.”
Elite athlete training
Altitude Control Technologies lives at the crossroads of science, physiology and engineering. Dr. Peter Hackett and a long list of other physiologists, physicians and scientists helped design the system. Hackett has been the team physician on several Mount Everest and Mount McKinley expeditions and is founder and executive director of Telluride’s Institute for Altitude Medicine.
“When issues come up, we go to these guys to make sure it’s in harmony with science. We don’t want to make promises we can’t deliver on,” Kutt said.
College of William & Mary’s altitude research center has one. So does an altitude research center in Denver, as does the U.S. Army Research Institute. The Olympic training center in Colorado Springs uses one to train athletes for both high and low altitudes.
In fact, 14 countries use it to train Olympic athletes, as do several NBA, NFL and NHL teams. Kutt installed a system for the Real Madrid professional soccer team.
The U.S. Air Force Academy has a system to train pilots and athletes. So does the Federal Aviation Administration.
Smithsonian and Seal Team 6
The Navy’s Seal Team 6 ordered an altitude training system for an upcoming mission — and no, Seal Team 6 could not tell them what the mission was. It turned out to be the Osama bin Laden mission.
The Smithsonian is one of the company’s clients. They wanted Kutt and Co. to protect and preserve the “Star Spangled Banner” flag. Yes, that one, the flag Francis Scott Key watched through the all-night naval Battle of Baltimore at Fort McHenry during the War of 1812.
So that flag is a pretty big deal.
The good folks at the Smithsonian determined that they wanted the oxygen level in that sealed room to be 14.1 percent.
Jim Call and the Smithsonian people said something like, “We’re not fussy. You can go to 14.0 percent or 14.2 percent. As long as it’s within one-tenth of that oxygen level, we’re fine.”
It turns out the Smithsonian had hired a couple of different companies before they found Altitude Control Technologies — sort of the same way the princess had to kiss a few frogs before she found Prince Charming.
One company couldn’t hit the one-tenth of 1 percent margin for the oxygen level. And then there was the second company…
Kutt and some others from his company were in the conference room with Smithsonian experts and asked, “You have this other system. Why are you bringing us in?”
The Smithsonians started looking at their shoes and someone mumbled, “Well, it caught on fire.”
In fact, it caught on fire twice, Kutt said, which can happen when too much oxygen is pumped into a controlled space. That caused the complete evacuation of that wing of the Smithsonian, and the fire was within 30 feet of the flag the system was supposed to be protecting. Everyone agreed that would never do.
They worked with the National Fire Protection Association, which developed standards on how much oxygen you should put into a room. “The Star Spangled Banner” and Key’s original manuscript are just fine, and thank you for asking.
“We are all over the world, I can say this without blushing. We are the world’s experts at controlling altitude in this way,” Kutt said.
The Sheikh sure loves his horses.
They created the world’s largest altitude simulation facility in Qatar for the Asian Games and a hospital wing in the Middle East, which explains how they attracted the attention of Sheik Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, vice president and prime minister of the United Arab Emirates, ruler of Dubai and the 50th-wealthiest person on earth.
They installed a system in Mohammad’s mansion in England. He liked it so much he asked them to install systems in his Dubai palaces and then some villas.
Then Mohammad explained that he really loved his racehorses, and could they create a facility for them?
Yes, they said, they could. Then they set about figuring out how to do it. And by the way, the Sheikh has three stables.
That means contending with horses in sealed stalls that are consuming food and water at one end and expelling equine byproducts at the other end. If you’re ever been in a stable, you understand their challenges with air-quality issues.
Then there were hay and its particulates, sandstorms, heat and humidity. Those desert stables are where the Sheikh keeps his endurance horses, more than $400 million worth.
His Highness was so excited about it all, he offered to send his 747 to fetch the system. That would be the 747 his horses fly in, not the 747 in which he flies. They decided the three or four days they’d save using the sheik’s plane instead of commercial air wouldn’t make that much difference to the horses.
How it works
They systems are silent, and they’re tucked away in a mechanical room or another out-of-the-way place.
“People walk into a room and say, ‘I don’t hear anything.’ Or ‘I don’t see anything,’” Kutt said.
It separates air into two parts: high-oxygen content and low-oxygen content. The low-oxygen air is pumped out of the house. The high-oxygen is pumped into the room.
Sensors keep track of the oxygen levels in the rooms and send that information to a control center.
It detects the carbon dioxide levels in your breath. It’s not a motion detector, because it’s generally running when you’re sleeping.
You get a cellphone app, so you can control it from anywhere in the world. You can set the desired elevation in your house when you’re boarding the plane to go there, so it’s ready when you arrive.
You can do the same thing if you’re boarding your Rambler.
“We feel really good about what we do,” Kutt said.
This article printed in the Vail Daily