Fortunately, much can be done to prevent altitude sickness, and to ease its symptoms, even for skiers who haven’t ventured higher than the top of the Empire State Building in 10 years.

One major cause of the problem, according to mountaineering authorities, is rapid change in altitude. High-speed travel can bring it on. Consider that skiers can fly from sea level in the morning to spend the night in a condo at 8,000 feet.

You can either alleviate or prevent MS by adjusting to a high altitude by steps. It helps to spend one night at a moderate altitude before going
any higher. This could mean a night in Denver, or Salt Lake City, or Pocatello, or anyplace with an elevation of around 5,000 feet, before rushing off to a ski destination above 7,000 feet in the popular resort areas of Colorado, Idaho, Utah, Wyoming, or the Alps.

MS is less of a problem in Europe, however, where the usual pattern of arriving at a ski resort is to spend one day traveling from the airport by car, train, or bus to the ski area then sleep that night at resort housing usually located in the valleys. Typically, you don’t actually ski the high altitudes until your second day.

Experienced mountain climbers use the slow-change-in-altitude technique to avoid MS when they venture above 10,000 feet. They increase the elevation of their campsite by only about 1,000 to 2,000 feet each night, no matter how high they may climb during the day.

After a rapid change in altitude, dehydration is the next most common cause of altitude sickness. It can also intensify a feeling of being cold while skiing.

Dehydration actually begins on your airline flight. Some authorities recommend drinking at least 4 ounces of water per hour while flying, regardless of your destination. But this is especially recommended when you’ll be landing at a mountain airport - possibly even getting on the slopes by midafternoon for an hour or two of skiing.

Skiers generally recognize that even at low altitudes the body needs more fluid than usual while skiing, just as it does in the summer when you’re engaged in a vigorous activity. This need for additional body fluid is sharply increased if the skiing takes place above 7,000 feet. At low altitudes, the normal intake of fluid for an average, active male is about 2 to

3 quarts daily (slightly less for a female). At high altitudes in winter, the same active man requires from 3 to 5 quarts daily.

One way to avoid dehydration for both men and women is to drink a minimum of 4 full cups of water a day, in addition to all other liquid intake. When we’re skiing the altitudes we’ve found a delicious way to increase liquid intake is to start each lunch and dinner with soup.

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