Skiing often coincides with high elevations. If you are skiing above 2,400 m (8,000 ft), chances of dehydration and altitude sickness significantly increases.
Signs of dehydration include fatigue, headache, nausea, shortness of breath, dry mouth and thirst. Altitude sickness, caused by acute exposure to low partial pressure of oxygen, has many non-specific symptoms resembling the flu, carbon monoxide poisoning, insomnia or a hangover. The symptoms are unique to everyone, as is the elevation at which an individual is affected.
As altitude increases, lung ventilation and gas exchange increases to compensate for the drop in oxygen pressure. The increase in respiration causes enhanced loss of carbon dioxide leading to respiratory alkalosis. The heart rate speeds up and urination increases to rid the body of bicarbonate to compensate for the alkalosis. This ultimately leads to a higher rate of water vapor lost from the body.
Humans have the ability to acclimatize to high elevation but it can take weeks or months. Many skiers travel to resorts for a short holiday or a weekend trip and do not spend enough time at elevation to benefit from acclimatization. Full hematological adaptation can be approximated by multiplying the altitude in kilometers by 11.4 days. For example, to adapt to 4,000 metres (13,000 ft) of altitude would require 45.6 days. If you are planning on going to Breckenridge, CO (12,998 ft), you better plan to be hydrated when you get there!
Skiers can reduce their chances of dehydration by making a conscious effort to be well hydrated BEFORE getting to high elevation. Once there, be sure to drink plenty of water throughout the day. If you don’t feel like carrying a water bottle or camelbak, take plenty of short breaks in the lodge to drink water. Many lodges now have water stations that are easily accessible. One last point; if you are a truly hard-core to the max skier, avoid drinking caffeinated drinks and alcohol as these all increase dehydration. For the rest of us… a couple drinks a night never hurts.
|U.S. Resorts||Peak Elevation (ft)|
|Breckenridge Ski Resort||12,998|
|Taos Ski Valley||12,481|
|Copper Mountain (Colorado)||12,313|
|Ski Santa Fe||12,075|
|Winter Park Resort||12,060|
|Wolf Creek Ski Area||11,904|
|Vail Ski Resort||11,570|
|Canadian Resorts||Peak Elevation (ft)|
|Big White Ski Resort||7,606|
|Revelstoke Mountain Resort||7,300|
|Apex Mountain Resort||7,200|
|Sun Peaks Resort||7,060|
High Altitude: 1,500- 3,500 m (4,900-11,500 ft)
Very High Altitude: 3,500 m-5,500 m (11,500-18000 ft)