Tag Archives: dehydration

How to achieve your optimal performance at elevation

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!

WIth a measured peak elevation of 12,998 ft, Breckenridge, CO is the highest ski resort in North America.
WIth a measured peak elevation of 12,998 ft, Breckenridge, CO is the highest ski resort in North America.

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
Keystone Resort 12,408
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
Mammoth Mountain 11,053
Snowbird 10,992
Canadian Resorts                                   Peak Elevation (ft)
Sunshine Village 8,954
Lake Louise 8,650
Marmot Basin 8,570
Mt. Norquay 8,040
Kicking Horse 8,033
Big White Ski Resort 7,606
Whistler/Blackcomb 7,494
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)