Getting High: How to Prevent and Cope with Altitude Sickness

Posted by Lisa-Marie on February 22, 2011

Maybe you feel short of breath. Maybe the kids complain of a headache or of nausea. I’ve had toe cramps! Other symptoms include not sleeping well or feeling week.

We all react to high altitudes differently. Some people are fine; others feel terrible until they adjust.  Altitude sickness is brought on by a decrease in your body’s ability to metabolize oxygen at elevations above 8,000 feet as efficiently as it does at lower elevations. (The base of Park City Mountain Resort is 6,900 feet above sea level and the top of Jupiter Peak is 10,000 feet.)  

pc-view (pc-view)
Follow my tips on altitude sickness and you, too, can get this high.

Preventing altitude sickness takes very little effort but it is so worth it!  Here are some helpful hints from my own experiences and from our Snowmama and Snowpapa Advisory Council members on how to avoid it and the best ways to cope with it if you get it.

For mild cases of altitude sickness, try the following tips:
    •    Ski down the mountain to get to a lower elevation
    •    Drink lots of water…dehydration happens faster at higher altitudes
    •    Take Ibuprofen to help with the pain or discomfort (if your doc says it’s ok)
    •    Rest
    •    Eat light meals while on the mountain
    •    Avoid alcohol and caffeine
    •    Remember that the ski patrol has access to oxygen if you’re feeling really lousy

If you still feel sick, see a doctor who might prescribe a symptom-relieving drug.

bear (bear)
Don’t let altitude sickness turn you into a bear! By taking some simple steps, you can ski without fear!

Of course, the best advice is to avoid altitude sickness in the first place.  While there are no guarantees, here are some strategies that can help::
    •    Rest up before your trip
    •    Drink plenty of water 24 hours before your trip and drink lots of water during your stay (Staying hydrated is key!) !
    •    Try to avoid drinking alcohol and caffeine beverages a day before your trip and enjoy in moderation on your first day
    •    Eat lots of carbohydrates (pasta, breads, etc.) before your trip. Some say that carbs help move oxygen through your body better.
    •    Limit your salt intake on the days leading up to your trip
    •    Take it easy on your first day at a higher elevation.  It’s tempting to hit the slopes right away but trust us…go slow and let your body adjust!
    •    Drink electrolyte replenishment sports drinks to stay hydrated while on the mountain
    •    Eat a banana (thanks Ski Magazine for that tip)
    •    One mama packs an oxygen canister in her ski boot to have on hand just in case
    •    Chew on a calcium antacid tablet several hours before hitting the slopes
    •    Some folks swear by the Omega 3/6/9 vitamins and Ester C or Emergen-C supplements.

Please keep in mind that children are more likely to get altitude sickness than adults. The kiddos might not be able to recognize the symptoms and tell you about it. So, watch for the signs and take preventative measures for the whole family.  

Special thanks to the Snowmama and Snowpapa Advisory Council members for sharing their advice.


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The views expressed on Snowmamas are those of the individual authors, who are independent contractors of Copper Mountain Resort and Killiington Resort and may not be factually accurate. These views are not intended to reflect the opinions of Copper Mountain Resort, Killington Resort, its owners, its management or its employees. Snowmamas' will receive compensation for their participation as an author.