You’ve booked your dream ski vacation (or your summer mountain beat-the-heat getaway) and taken care of every detail. Even if all of the arrangements are made and you have all the equipment that you need, there is one detail you might still be missing. Altitude sickness skiing can range from uncomfortable symptoms to a serious health condition. The very most important thing you can do to prepare for your ski trip, or any mountain vacation, is to take steps to prevent altitude sickness.
Who can get altitude sickness?
Almost 1 in 4 people will get symptoms of altitude sickness, or Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS), when they go skiing at an altitude of over 8,000 ft, says Dr. Dennis Lipton with Vail Health.
Being fit doesn’t help prevent altitude sickness. If because you are fit you jump right into strenuous activity you may put yourself at higher risk. At higher altitudes the barometric pressure drops and there is less oxygen.
Most ski resorts live at high mountain altitudes and you body needs to be able to adjust. Anyone is at risk.
What is altitude sickness?
Symptoms of altitude sickness typically come on a few hours after you arrive at a much higher altitude than you are used to. They typically get better within a day or two.
Dr. Lipton says symptoms of altitude sickness include severe fatigue, nausea, headache, weakness, and a general feeling of being unwell, often likened to a hangover. Dizziness, fatigue, vomiting, loss of appetite and trouble sleeping are other symptoms.
How can you prevent altitude sickness?
Acclimate Your Body to Prevent Altitude Sickness
Though not always possible, acclimatization is the best prevention. Give your body time to adjust. If you are flying to a Colorado ski resort, you may want to spend a night in Denver at 5,280 feet before heading up to over 8,000 feet at most ski resorts. The Mile High City has plenty of fun family hotels.
Sleep at a Lower Elevation to Prevent Altitude Sickness
Because your breathing slows when you sleep this is the time frame when you are most susceptible to not getting enough oxygen. So sleep at a lower elevation. Even if you are skiing at nine or ten-thousand feet if you sleep at eight-thousand feet or below you will be less likely to get altitude sickness.
Drink Water Prior to and During Your Visit to Prevent Altitude Sickness
Make sure to drink 3 to 4 quarts of water per day. And, even start this 48 hours prior to your travels. Get hydrated!
Avoid Alcohol Prior to and During Your Visit to Prevent Altitude Sickness
Both prior to and upon arrival avoid drinking too much caffeine, alcohol, smoking or taking sleeping pills or other medications.
Delay Strenuous Exercise to Prevent Altitude Sickness
Most ski resorts have much more than skiing to offer. Start out slow with a short day of skiing. Or enjoy one of the many other activities the first day of your trip. Ski towns have plenty of fun family activities to offer in addition to just skiing.
Talk to Your Doctor About Altitude Sickness
Dr. Lipton also suggests that if you know you are prone to getting altitude sickness to speak with your doctor about taking acetazolamide starting three days before your trip.
Can Supplemental Oxygen Help?
The best advice is to pose this question to your doctor. But Dr. Lipton says,”Certainly going to a bar for oxygen has more benefit and less harm than alcohol.” Supplemental oxygen will likely will help you feel better in the short term rather than long term. And, results may depend on the amount and how long you are able to take in the additional oxygen. In Colorado you can find services offering supplemental oxygen, such as Rent Oxygen Now.
Be Prepared and Have Fun!
Taking these fairly simple steps and doing your best to prevent altitude sickness will ensure a successful ski trip for your entire family. Take care of yourselves. Feel your best for enjoying your days under the blue skies of the Colorado ski slopes.