Ski Healthy: Prevent Altitude Sickness

A group ski trip is the perfect way to get away, participate in fun activities and bond with your group. The last thing you want is for members of your group to get sick from the high altitude. That’s not the kind of bonding you want!

According to the Antarctic Study of Altitude Physiology, or ASAP trial, 20% of people traveling to high altitudes up to 18,000 ft suffer symptoms of altitude sickness. Typically this can be characterized by headaches, nausea, and dizziness. It can occasionally be more serious. This study gives some helpful information on prevention and treatment of these unpleasant symptoms.

Prevent Altitude Sickness on Your Group Ski Trip

Stay Hydrated

When you are dehydrated you have more trouble acclimating to high altitudes. Begin hydrating several days before your trip by drinking 2-3 liters of water per day, and continue hydrating yourself while traveling and during your ski trip. Remember that caffeine and alcohol also contribute to dehydration so limit their consumption.

Stay Rested

A ski trip is exhausting! A day of fun on the slopes takes a lot of energy, so a good night’s rest can help restore your body’s ability to fight illness. Be sure to get plenty of rest before and during your trip.

Start Slowly

Give your body time to acclimate by easing into the high exertion sport of skiing. Take the first day easy, cruising slopes a little easier than you are capable of and taking a long lunch to rejuvenate. It’s better to take it slowly at first than not be able to ski at all because you’ve over done it out of the starting gate.

Use the Buddy System

Sometimes we don’t recognize the symptoms of altitude sickness in ourselves, but they are easier to notice in others. If you or your buddy develops headaches or nausea, take a break, hydrate and take some Tylenol. Shortness of breath or disorientation are signs of more serious, and thankfully more unusual, consequences of altitude sickness. Should someone in your group develop these symptoms, seek emergency medical attention and assistance in descending the mountain.

When in doubt, it is always best to seek medical attention. Mountain clinics are staffed with practitioners experienced with altitude sickness in all its forms and can give the best advice on treatment options.

Only 1 in 5 people develop altitude sickness at altitudes under 18,000 feet, and the symptoms are usually mild and temporary, though more serious issues can rarely develop. As with most things, the best treatment is prevention. A well-rested, well-hydrated skier who eases into the rigors of skiing is going to be best able to avoid the symptoms of altitude sickness and have a great ski trip, so be sure your group is aware of these straightforward methods of prevention.


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