Altitude Sickness Skiing: Complete Guide & 7 Tips To Avoid
Altitude sickness is a common issue that many skiers experience when they go to high-altitude ski resorts. As a company based in the mecca of ski resorts in Colorado, we'll share with you everything you need to know about altitude sickness skiing and the top tips to avoid it.
Altitude Sickness Skiing
Getting altitude sickness while skiing is quite common. From Colorado, Utah and California to ski resorts all over Europe, skiers are effected by altitude sickness. It can ruin a ski trip and experience real fast.
This guide is made for you to maximize your ski experience and avoid the dreaded mountain sickness.
Causes of Altitude Sickness Skiing
Altitude sickness is mainly caused the by changes in atmospheric pressure, which lowers the oxygen levels. This makes it harder for your body to get the oxygen it needs.
Beyond this physiological stress on the body, another cause of altitude sickness can the dehydration effects. When you ski at high altitudes, the air is typically dry, and you can lose more fluid through increased breathing.
Symptoms of Altitude Sickness Skiing
Altitude sickness can cause a range of symptoms, including headaches, dizziness, and shortness of breath.
Symptoms of altitude sickness skiing:
- Nausea or vomiting
- Sleeping issues or insomnia
- Dizziness or confusion
- Shortness of breath
- Extreme fatigue
- Loss of appetite
- Feeling ill
When on a ski trip, these altitude sickness symptoms can develop on average within 6-24 upon arrival.
Best Ski Resorts For Altitude Sickness
Research indicates that altitude sickness starts around 5,000 feet.¹
A good rule of thumb is any ski mountains that exceeds 5,000 feet has a high probability of altitude sickness. Keep in mind that some ski resorts might be below that threshold at the base or town, but will go past 5,000 at the summit when skiing.
We'll detail some of the most popular ski resorts whether they're the best or worse for altitude sickness — from Vermont, Maine, and New Hampshire to Colorado, Utah, and Arizona. "Best" meaning they are below 5,000 feet, and "Worst" meaning they are above 5,000 feet.
Best Ski Resorts For Altitude Sickness:
The best ski resorts for preventing altitude sickness, with altitudes below 5,000 feet, are as follows:
Bretton Woods Mountain Resort NH: base altitude 1,500 ft (460 m) | summit altitude 3,100 ft (940 m)
Killington Ski Resort VT: base altitude 1,165 ft (355 m) | summit altitude 4,229 ft (1,289 m)
Mount Snow VT: base altitude 1,900 ft (579 m) | summit altitude 3,600 ft (1,097 m)
Okemo Mountain Resort VT: base altitude 1,144 ft (346 m) | summit altitude 3,344 ft (1,019 m)
Snowshoe Mountain WV: base altitude 3,348 ft (1,020 m) | summit altitude 4,848 feet (1,478 m)
Stratton Mountain Resort: base altitude 1,872 ft (571 m) | summit altitude 3,875 ft (1,181 m)
Stowe Mountain Resort VT: base altitude 1,559 ft (475 m) | summit altitude 3,719 ft (1,134 m)
Sugarbush Resort VT: base altitude 1,483 ft (452 m) | summit altitude 4,083 ft (1,244 m)
Sugarloaf Ski Resort ME: base altitude 1,417 ft (432 m) | summit altitude 4,237 ft (1,291 m)
Sugar Mountain Ski Resort NC: base altitude 4,100 ft (1,249 m) | summit altitude 5,300 feet (1,615 m)
Whiteface Mountain NY: base altitude 1,220 ft (372 m) | summit altitude 4,386 ft (1,337 m)
The best ski resorts for preventing altitude sickness are mostly on the east coast — including Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, New York, West Virginia, and North Carolina.
Worst Ski Resorts For Altitude Sickness:
The worst ski resorts for getting altitude sickness, with altitudes above 5,000 feet, are as follows:
Alta Ski Area UT: base altitude 8,530 ft (2,600 m) | summit altitude 11,068 ft (3,374 m)
Arizona Snowbowl AZ: base altitude 9,200 ft (2,805 m) | summit altitude 11,500 ft (3,505 m)
Aspen Mountain Ski Resort CO: base altitude 7,945 ft (2,422 m) | summit altitude 11,212 ft (3,417 m)
Big Bear Mountain Resort CA: base altitude 7,140 ft (2,180 m) | summit altitude 8,805 ft (2,684 m)
Big Sky Ski Resort MT: base altitude 6,800 ft (2,073 m) | summit altitude 11,166 ft (3,403 m)
Breckenridge Ski Resort CO: base altitude 9,600 ft (2,900 m) | summit altitude 12,998 ft (3962 m)
Deer Valley Resort UT: base altitude 6,570 ft (2,000 m) | summit altitude 9,570 ft (2,920 m)
Heavenly Mountain Resort CA: base altitude 6,255 ft (1,907 m) | summit altitude 10,067 ft (3,068 m)
Mammoth Mountain CA: base altitude 7,953 ft (2,424 m) | summit altitude 11,053 ft (3,369 m)
Mount Lemmon Ski Valley AZ: base altitude 8,200 feet (2,499 m) | summit altitude 9,157 feet (2,791 m)
Northstar California CA: base altitude 6,330 ft (1,930 m) | summit altitude 8,610 ft (2,620 m)
Palisades Tahoe CA: base altitude 6,200 ft (1,890 m) | summit altitude 9,050 ft (2,760 m)
Park City Mountain Resort UT: base altitude 6,900 ft (2,100 m) | summit altitude 10,026 ft (3,056 m)
Snowmass Ski Area CO: base altitude 8,104 ft (2,470 m) | summit altitude 12,510 ft (3,810 m)
Telluride Ski Resort CO: base altitude 8,725 ft (2,659 m) | summit altitude 13,150 ft (4,010 m)
Vail Ski Resort CO: base altitude 8,150 ft (2,484 m) | summit altitude 11,570 ft (3,527 m)
Winter Park Ski Resort CO: base altitude 9,052 ft (2,780 m) | summit altitude 12,060 ft (3,676 m)
The worst ski resorts for getting altitude sickness are mostly on the west coast — including Colorado, Nevada, California, Utah, and Montana.
Can You Get Altitude Sickness When Skiing?
Yes, you can definitely get altitude sickness when skiing or after skiing.
The risk factors depends on how high of an elevation you're skiing, and how high you're staying. As mentioned above, if the ski resort is under 5,000 feet, your risk of altitude sickness can be low to none. But if the ski resort is over 5,000 feet, your risk of altitude sickness goes up dramatically.
When you exceed elevations of 10,000 feet, such as Breckenridge and Telluride, research shows up to 50% can experience altitude sickness. Combined with the strenuous activity of skiing, this can even worsen your body's ability to adjust and therefore skiing increases your chances of altitude sickness.
Why Do I Always Get Sick After Skiing?
Some people are more sensitive than others while skiing at high altitudes. If you always get sick, there's two main factors are at play:
Hypoxia (Lack of Oxygen) - High altitude environments contain less oxygen, and cause oxidative and physiological stress on the body
Dehydration - The higher up your are, the more respiration your body needs, which can lead to less fluids or loss of water.
Especially with oxygen levels, people can have different tolerances for oxygen saturation levels in the blood. This might play a big role in why some get really sick skiing while others don't
With these factors getting sick after skiing, there's precautions and steps you can take to prepare. Keep reading to learn how you can prevent and avoid altitude sickness while skiing.
7 Tips How To Avoid Altitude Sickness Skiing
Skiing is one of those great outdoor enjoyable experiences, but can be easily ruined by altitude sickness.
If you're wondering — how do you not get altitude sickness when skiing or how do you adjust to high altitude for skiing — we'll answer your questions with the best tips to avoid altitude sickness while skiing. As a company based in Colorado with some of the best skiing in the country, we have years of high-altitude experience to share.
Here's 7 Tips How To Avoid Altitude Sickness Skiing
1. Stay Hydrated
Staying hydrated is crucial when skiing at high altitudes. According to Wilderness Medical Society, high elevations can cause loss of water twice as fast than at sea level, leading to dehydration and symptoms like headache and fatigue.⁸
To stay hydrated while skiing drink plenty of water before, during and after your time on the slopes. At least half of your weight in ounces of water a day, and look out for dark yellow urine which can be a sign of dehydration.
2. Acclimate Gradually
When your body is not able to adjust to the lower oxygen levels in the air, altitude sickness can kick in and also affect skiing performance. Acclimate gradually and slowly when you can on your ski trip to lessen the blow of high altitudes.
3. Get Plenty Of Sleep
Sleep is paramount to most things you can do to avoid altitude sickness while skiing. Sleep not only is the secret ingredient to recovery — it's shown to help the repair of cells, improve blood flow, and oxygen.⁹
Sleep at least 7-9 hours a night. Science has shown that getting natural sunlight during the day can help melatonin production that aids in sleep.
4. Take It Easy Skiing
While you're of course at a ski resort to ski, you'll want to take it easy skiing until you know you're properly adjusted to the altitudes. This does not mean you can't ski or snowboard, but you should take it slow and easy your first day or two.
Also take breaks often, and if you feel the altitude or any difficulty breathing, that's a sign to decrease your activity level.
5. Limit Après-Ski Drinks
Who doesn't love après-ski after a day on the slopes? The downside for altitude adjustment is that alcohol can be a bad combination — from increasing dehydration, lowering sleep quality, and decreasing oxygen saturation in the body.¹⁰
It's best to limit alcohol your first few days of your ski trip, or at least until you feel adjusted to the altitude of the ski resort.
6. Ski High, Sleep Low
When you ski at a location like Snowmass Colorado, the altitude goes very high to 12,510 feet above sea level. At these heights, the altitude can be extremely stress-inducing on the body.
In these cases, you'll want to ski high but sleep low. Snowmass has a base altitude of 8,104 feet, so by sleeping and spending significant time there, you body is able to rebound and adjust faster.
7. Take Antioxidants
Science has shown that high altitudes can create a lot of oxidative stress on the body.¹¹ In fact, one study out of India discovered that these high altitudes can deplete glutathione, one of the body's master antioxidants.¹³
Taking antioxidants by supplementation can be a promising solution.¹² Especially glutathione, this can help your body fight free radical damage from oxidative stress.
In summary, follow these top tips how to avoid altitude sickness while skiing — including staying hydrated, acclimating gradually, getting plenty of sleep, taking it easy skiing, limiting après-ski drinks, skiing high and sleeping low, and taking antioxidants.
Top Altitude Supplement For Skiers
Ready to take on the slopes like a pro? Zaca's chewable supplement is the ultimate solution for skiing and outdoor enthusiasts who want to conquer the highest peaks. Designed specifically for performance and recovery, Zaca chewables are packed with natural ingredients including glutathione with antioxidant fuel for your body. The blend of nutrients also helps you rehydrate and replenish. Made in on-the-go packets, take 2-4 chewables a day which you can take on the slopes just as easily as in your hotel room. Try Zaca's chewable supplement today and power your body on the next ski trip.
1. Patient education: High-altitude illness (including mountain sickness)
2. Killington Ski Resort Altitude
3. Okemo Mountain Resort Altitude
4. Stowe Mountain Resort Altitude
5. Sugarloaf Ski Resort Altitude
6. Sugarbush Resort Altitude
7. Top-Rated Ski Resorts on the East Coast
8. Why Do You Need to Drink a Lot of Water at a High Altitude?
9. Sleep: The Secret Ingredient of Injury Recovery
10. Effects of Alcohol
11. High altitude and oxidative stress
12. Oxidative Stress and Diseases Associated with High-Altitude Exposure
13. Effect of high altitude (7,620 m) exposure on glutathione