There are plenty of things that can derail a ski trip, but few are more crushing than altitude sickness.
Whether it’s shortness of breath, dizziness, nausea, exhaustion or that splitting headache, the effects of high elevation can level even the strongest of athletes. While mountain town locals have long adapted to life in thin air, most of us don’t have the advantage of a year-round alpine ZIP code.
So how do we get the most out of our trips to Colorado, Utah, California and other high-altitude destinations around the globe? For anyone looking to go from sea level to ski level, here are a few tips to make sure altitude doesn’t get the best of your next trip to the mountains.
Hydrate, hydrate, hydrateIt’s Altitude Rule No. 1, but it seriously can’t be stressed enough: Dial in your water game. Typically the higher up you go, the lower the humidity and the drier the air, which means you need to be drinking approximately twice as much to stay in the hydration comfort zone and avoid that throbbing high-altitude headache.
Drink water, supplement with electrolytes and keep a consistent schedule. Your head will thank you later.
Find a natural boost
Blood vessels tend to constrict at altitude, delivering less oxygen via the bloodstream to the rest of the body. Though there are a few over-the-counter drugs that help open up these passageways, there are a few natural alternatives that do the same job.
A recent Norwegian University of Science and Technology study suggests that beetroot juice — or, more specifically, the nitrates found in beetroot juice — help relax blood vessels and increase blood flow in higher altitudes.
Garlic intake has also been linked to the fight against altitude sickness, as garlic tends to thin the blood and keep an oxygenated blood flow strong.
Skip happy hourOr at least tone it down a little bit. While it’s not the thing you want to hear on vacation, alcohol packs a much bigger punch at altitude and can bring on a world of hurt if left to flow freely. By nature, alcohol (and caffeine, for that matter) dehydrates and can cause serious problems the higher up you get.
Don’t worry, the buzz comes quicker up on the mountain, so make that double a single and keep the good times rolling.
Adjust sleep habits
Lots of people have trouble finding their sleep sweet spot in the mountains, kicking off a chain reaction of altitude problems and fatigue. Thin, dry air is the main culprit, exacerbating dry throats and clogged nasal passages, but battle this by sleeping on your side or using a saline nasal spray to keep things open and clear.
Unfortunately, sometimes even these tips don’t guarantee a good night’s rest, but, along with proper hydration, they will give you a leg up on the sleep game.
Extend your stayThe most obvious solution is to let your body acclimatize to its new alpine surroundings by staying a little longer at altitude. Typically, the body can at least adjust to mountain air in a couple of days.
Sure, we don’t all have the luxury of turning a regular weekend into a long one, but if you have the extra vacation days, the second half of your trip could be a whole different story.
Or you could, you know, just move to a mountain town for real. Just a thought.