Avoiding Altitude Woes: What To Bring On Your Next Ski Trip

skierThere are few things that bum out a ski trip more than altitude issues. Even if your symptoms are just in the form of Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS) – headache, fatigue, dizziness, insomnia or nausea – it’s often enough to make you wish you’d stayed at home.

I live in Colorado, and have resided in a couple of high-altitude ski towns in the past. Since our ski season just kicked off, for the purposes of this post I’m only focusing on AMS, rather than more serious forms of altitude sickness.

Predisposition to AMS is subjective. Age, physiology, genetics, and physical fitness may or may not play a role. If, however, you’ve got congestive heart failure, a nice alpine getaway may not be the best thing. Conversely, if you’re not in the habit of drinking lots of water at elevation, you’re going to feel like hell, regardless of how fit you are.

The higher the elevation, the harder your body has to work, because air pressure is lower (i.e. there’s less oxygen, which is also why it’s dehydrating). The body responds by producing more red blood cells to increase circulation. The short answer is, high elevations stress the body.

To ensure your next visit to the mountains is free of altitude-related woes, follow these tips:

  • Hydrate – with water, not soda or other sugary beverages – then hydrate some more. Amounts vary depending upon your gender, activity level and weight; 2.5 liters a day is considered a rough daily estimate necessary for good health at sea level. If you’re seriously shredding the pow, then a sports drink with electrolytes at day’s end is also a good idea.
  • If you have health concerns, acclimate slowly, if possible. Try to spend a night at a lower elevation before heading to your destination. Example: Fly into Denver (5,280 feet), before heading to Aspen (7,890 feet).
  • Go easy the first 48 hours, as you acclimatize.
  • Since you’re burning and expending more calories, be sure to eat small, regular meals or snacks when you’re out there tearing it up on the slopes.
  • Reduce (I know better than to say “avoid”) consumption of alcohol. At altitude, one drink has double the impact. This makes for a cheap date, but it can do a number on your head and body. Pace yourself, and drink a glass of water in between each alcoholic beverage. You’re welcome.
  • Take Diamox, ibuprofen, or aspirin, which will eliminate many of your symptoms such as headache, sluggishness, or dizziness. When I attended culinary school in Vail, one of our classrooms was located at 11,000 feet. Our first week of school, most of us were nodding off due to the altitude, and aspirin was far more effective than caffeine.
  • If you’re having trouble sleeping, you can try an OTC, or avail yourself of the local hot tub or a warm bath before bed (remember to hydrate afterward!). If you already have insomnia issues, be sure to bring your prescription or regular OTC with you.
  • Slather on the sunscreen. Not only is the sun far stronger at elevation, but its reflection off the snow can reduce your skin and eyes to cinders. Know what else a potent sunburn does? Speeds dehydration. As well as photoaging and skin cancer, but that’s a topic for another article.
  • Don’t get cocky. I live at 5360 feet, and sometimes, even I forget to follow my own advice – a certain crushing hangover in Vail two weeks ago comes to mind. Just because you live at altitude doesn’t mean you’re used to higher altitude. You’ll be better conditioned, yes. But you still need to hydrate regularly, and for the love of god, go easy on the bourbon rocks.

For more detailed information on altitude sickness, including extreme elevations, click here.

Wishing you a safe, happy snow season!

[Photo credits: skier, Flickr user laszlo-photo; tea, Flickr user Kitty Terwolbeck]

Photo of the day – St. Peter’s and a puddle

photo of the day

When taking travel photos, we spend a lot of time looking for the right background. Whether it’s capturing a candid portrait or framing the perfect landscape, it’s not always easy to convey a beautiful scene in a photograph. Flickr user John Overmeyer used a humble puddle of rain to elevate this night shot of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. Of course, flawless composition, lighting, and luck didn’t hurt, but it all comes together for a beautifully romantic shot that makes the puddle look like a grand river.

Show off your perfect travel shots by adding them to the Gadling Flickr pool. We may choose yours for a future Photo of the Day.

SkyMall Monday: StarScreen Social Backdrops

gadling skymall monday starscreen social backdropsWorking from home is dramatically different from working in an office. For one, those of us who work from home rarely put on pants. Beyond that, we often spend most of our time alone, sitting at our makeshift, on our couches or even laying in our beds in front of our computers. The vast majority of the time this unconventional work environment is irrelevant, because no one sees us. So long as we’re delivering our work on time, no one is the wiser. Recently, however, with services such as Skype, FaceTime and Gmail video making videoconferencing easier and more routine, us work-from-home folks are suddenly being seen by our colleagues, clients and bosses. Here at SkyMall Monday headquarters, I’ve always been able to work surrounded by my dogs, gadgets and fake moose head safe in the knowledge that no one could see me. Now, however, I regularly have videoconferences and feel the need to look reasonably professional. Thankfully, SkyMall has just the product to make me appear as if I’m hard at work in an appropriate environment. Now, when I fire up the camera on my computer, I always make sure that my StarScreen Social Backdrop is attached to my chair.Exposing your home to your business associates is awkward. The last thing you need while on a video call is for your filthy child or pet capybara to walk into view. Instead, you want people to think that you’re in an office. Or, if you told your boss that you had to travel to a satellite office but instead you’re just playing with your new iPhone 4S in your apartment, you can use the beach, Venice, Bora Bora, Yosemite or Mount Rushmore backdrops to keep him from getting suspicious.

Think that using a fake background while videoconferencing is deceptive? Believe that everyone should wear pants while working? Well, while you scavenge for leftover turkey wraps in the conference room, we’ll be reading the product description:

Our delightful StarScreen Social Backdrops make video chatting and conferencing fun. It gives your chat buddy the illusion you’re in a fresh and exotic environment.

Convert your messy room in an instant.

Show off new backdrop designs to all of your social network friends.

gadling skymall monday starscreen social backdrop zombiesVideo chatting is typically such a chore, what with so much of it involving long distance couples attempting to virtually fornicate. It’s about time someone made it fun – especially for your social networking friends (real friends won’t be impressed).

The question isn’t weather you need a StarScreen Social Backdrop; it’s which one is right for you. While the office backdrop makes the most sense, it’s hard to resist the lure of the zombie backdrop. Just imagine videoconferencing with a prospective client while he yells, “Look behind you!”. Success in business is all about brains…BRAINS!

Check out all of the previous SkyMall Monday posts HERE.