When attitude meets altitude.
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Elevation issues
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Updated 2 months ago
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2 months ago

I’m not planning a trip out west any time soon, but a MD ski guy can dream, can’t he?  Only I wonder about elevation.  Is that a concern skiing out west?  If I were to plan a trip, should I be looking to stay below a certain elevation?  Does the elevation of the summit have much significance?  Does a night or two of acclimatization at a lower altitude help?

As always, thanks ahead of time.  You guys are great.

MD ski guy

 

2 months ago

Altitude matters.  Some resorts in CO have higher base elevations — Copper comes to mind.  You might theoretically have more trouble there than somewhere a thousand or a couple thousand feet lower.

You could consider the Tahoe area or somewhere like Whistler if you are really worried about it.

Acclimating and hydrating are important.

Somewhat radical at most elevations that would be possbile for a normal trip, but you could talk to your doc about prophylactically taking acetazolamide.  

The most noticeable thing is getting gassed on long runs or mogul runs and the only way to prepare for that is to try to be in as good of shape as possible when you go.

 

2 months ago

Altitude bothers some people, but not all people. Once you get above about 8000 feet I don’t think it makes much difference  between 8,000 and 12,000 .

Some pople recommend spending a day (for example) at Denver’s lower altitude before heading to the mountains. I never did that, and the only time the altitude bothered me was the first day hauling bags up three flights of stairs to my condo in Breckenridge.

Iv’e found the drug Acetazolamide ( Diamox brandaed) helpful. It’s a diurectic that improves blood’s ability to transport oxygen. It will make any diet soda taste terrible, and it would occaionally give me sniffles. You start taking it three days befoe altitude exposure and continue taking it for two days after arrival at altitude.

I can remember taking the drug and flying from MD to Albuquerque in the  early A. M.   getting a car, driving to Santa Fe, and skiing immediately for 4-5 hours with no ill effect — not something I could do without the drug..

Skiing the bigger mountains of the west is fun. Enjoy.

 

Edit: as the poster above mention it is iimportant to stay fully hydrated. Also, easy on the liquor at least at the beginning of your stay.

marzNC - DCSki Supporter
2 months ago

MDSkiGuy wrote:

I’m not planning a trip out west any time soon, but a MD ski guy can dream, can’t he?  Only I wonder about elevation.  Is that a concern skiing out west?  If I were to plan a trip, should I be looking to stay below a certain elevation?  Does the elevation of the summit have much significance?  Does a night or two of acclimatization at a lower altitude help?

As always, thanks ahead of time.  You guys are great.

MD ski guy

 

Have you ever slept at over about 5000 ft?

One reason I have less interest in skiing in Colorado is that several of the ski resorts have lodging at over 9000 ft.  For me, there is a noticeable difference between sleeping at 8000 ft and 9000 ft.  One advantage of taking a first trip out west to SLC is that it’s possible to get lodging at any price point in the city, which is around 4500 ft, and ski mostly at 7000-9500 depending on which resort.  Steamboat is the only place in CO at lower elevation.

As for sleeping lower for a night or two, that does help.  Just did a trip to Taos that started with a night at 5000’ in Albuquerque, then 7500’ in Santa Fe, and finally lodging near Taos Ski Valley around 9500m. I starting drinking more fluids, mostly water, a day before. Essentially 2-3 times more water than usual. Note that when I go directly to Alta and stay at Alta Lodge at 8000ft, I usually have a bit of a headache the first day but am okay by the second.  Never sleep well until the third night regardless of what altitude I sleep at.

Have heard from more than one person that gingko biloba seems to help. For the recent Taos trip, one of my friends takes it all winter since she does multiple ski trips to the Rockies. Not likely to hurt to try some. Should start before the trip.

This 2016 article from the Denver Post has tips from “Dr. Ben Honigman, professor of emergency medicine at the University of Colorado School of Medicine, said 25 to 30 percent of visitors heading to the mountains get acute mountain sickness. The risk is lower for trips to Denver, where only 8 to 10 percent visitors get the ailment.”

https://www.denverpost.com/2016/11/23/altitude-sickness-tips-colorado/

More info on WebMD:

https://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/altitude-sickness

I’ve only skied at over 10,000 ft a few times.  Last season at Taos Ski Valley it was obvious that skiing off Kachina Peak was different than elsewhere at TSV.  The peak is around 12,500’.  The other terrain I was skiing with friends was at 9500-11,000’  The second time I went up to Kachina was after I’d been in TSV skiing for two full days while sleeping in Arroyo Seco at 7500’.  Both my friend and I noticed that we needed to stop simply to catch our breath because of the altitude.  The snow was very good and the bumps weren’t that big last season because TSV had so much snow all season, so we weren’t have to work hard in terms of making turns.  I never feel that way at Alta (8000-10,000), even if I’m skiing hard the day I arrive because it’s a powder day.

So what’s really keeping you from setting up a ski trip out west?  Late season is a great time to find deals on plane fares and lodging.

2 months ago

Here’s a link to a wealth of information on AMS:

https://www.pugski.com/threads/acute-mountain-sickness-©-2006-d-m-polaner.5734/

 

I’ve never worried about it in the past, and never had issues skiing out west beyond being gassed climbing stairs or skiiing bumps.  However, I am a little nervous about my upcoming trip with my wife to Vail (since the trip has already been wrecked once), and have considered trying to obtain Diamox.  Some friends swear by it.  

We are staying in Denver the first night, before heading into the mountains, which should help.  By far the most common symptoms are headache and fatigue, with sleeplessness being another common one.  

It probably won’t be a major issue.  If you were concerned, beyond Whistler and Tahoe, you could look at Jackson Hole (base of 6k feet), Park City (7k base elevation), or stay in SLC and ski the Cottonwood resorts (you’re sleeping at a lower elevation every night, which helps).  

2 months ago

I’ve never had an issue until this year.  We stayed at 9500’ this trip and I could not sleep worth a damn.  For me it was tossing and turning all night.  No head aches or pains, just total restlessness at night.  

Be prepared for “walk up a flight of stairs and suck wind for 5 minutes”.  I’m out of shape and my buddy runs 3 - 5 miles at least 5 times a week.  Made no difference - we were both gassed.  He did recover faster than I.

Which brings up a planning tip - stay on first level if you can.  Lugging your gear up steps out there sucks 10X more than back here.

2 months ago

A 32 Army vet friend of mine said the Army did a study of a myriad of different cocktails (not meds) to help reduce symptoms for soldiers regularly exposed to high altitudes, whether training or deployed.  The winner was a 50/50 mix of reg Gatorade and water.  Drink 16oz every eve and morning, start at least one day prior.  Good enough for them so it’s been my go-to.

2 months ago

Yeah, the dehydration is a big issue because since your respiration is so sped up, you lose a lot more water that way, even when sleeping.  

2 months ago

My first trip out West was steamboat this year. Lodging was only about 1500’ higher than Snowshoe. I kept water with me at all times on the slopes which got up to 10k+ and noticed I was drinking more water than I usually would put here, but other than that fares well. That being said I believe steamboat is lower than some other resorts that have been mentionsed.

2 months ago

bob wrote:

Altitude bothers some people, but not all people. Once you get above about 8000 feet I don’t think it makes much difference  between 8,000 and 12,000 .

 

Bob is the resident Rockies salesman…please do not listen…there is a hell of alot of difference!…With all due respect to ya Bob but you are too used to the nose bleed section!…get off the lift at the top of vail and you just want to ski down as fast as you can till you can breath…sort of like you have dove down  deep in the ocean or lake or whatever an
d you are fighting to get back up to the surface to breathe!…And like Blue Don said..sleeping at 8000’ is a toss and turn 15 min here another there…red eyes on the slopes…at least thats a sea level persons obs…heck..ive even had to take an extra breath up at 4000’ WV ….rare but i have noticed it on occasion……course things are worse if you drink to many beers…stay Hydrated!!

Always remember…New England is too cold and sun starved….Out West is too high..and West Virginia is just right!!!…now if we could just get another ski area there besides Snowshoe….

2 months ago

I’ve been out to Colorado a few times to ski, first time was to Keystone with a base elevation of 9300 feet.   Only problem I had was walking up the stairs too fast with luggage I got a bit light headed, but it quickly passed.    

Only other issue I had with altitude was at Vail (base about 8,000 feet) when one morning I felt a bit dizzy and had lie down for an hour and was then fine.   

Never had issues when skiing and exerting myself (even up to 12,000 feet), but did drink a lot of water and took lots of breaks when I felt tired.   Definitely harder to catch your breath, but for me wasn’t anything too bad.   

We’ve been to Banff, Canada a number of times (elevations mostly between 7000 and 9000 feet) and never had issues at all (other than it being super cold).    

I know everyone is impacted differently.   I certainly wouldn’t let the elevation deter anyone from going to Colorado as so many great ski resorts, but if elevation is a concern lots of other places to go to get similar experiences at lower elevations out West.

2 months ago

fishnski wrote:

bob wrote:

Altitude bothers some people, but not all people. Once you get above about 8000 feet I don’t think it makes much difference  between 8,000 and 12,000 .

 

Bob is the resident Rockies salesman…please do not listen…there is a hell of alot of difference!…With all due respect to ya Bob but you are too used to the nose bleed section!…get off the lift at the top of vail and you just want to ski down as fast as you can till you can breath…sort of like you have dove down  deep in the ocean or lake or whatever an
d you are fighting to get back up to the surface to breathe!…And like Blue Don said..sleeping at 8000’ is a toss and turn 15 min here another there…red eyes on the slopes…at least thats a sea level persons obs…heck..ive even had to take an extra breath up at 4000’ WV ….rare but i have noticed it on occasion……course things are worse if you drink to many beers…stay Hydrated!!

Always remember…New England is too cold and sun starved….Out West is too high..and West Virginia is just right!!!…now if we could just get another ski area there besides Snowshoe….

Yeah, Bob must be some kind of Altitude Freak! 

Per the data, at 8000 feet you have 76% of the oxygen available at sea level. At 12,000 feet you only have 65% of the oxygen available at sea level. This is a pretty big difference, especially if you consider the fact that 99% of people visiting higher elevation resorts (travelers, not regulars) are not used to altitude nor are they probably in tip top shape.

As above, I’ve heard a similar thing in the Army as well. You should always keep your beer to liquor ratio constant in order to not add extra stress on your body trying to adapt to those changes as well. And always, the more of each, the better…

2 months ago

The first time I went to Steamboat Springs I pushed myself on my snowboard for maybe 200 feet at the very top. It felt like I had just smoked a pack of Marlboros. I was fine when going down the hill. Just not when exercising. 

Denis - DCSki Supporter
2 months ago

I guess I am another altitude freak.  It varies widely among people and does not always correlate with what shape you are in.  I have even read that older folks are less likely to have problems, perhaps because they don’t push so hard or expect too much.

when working I often went to Boulder or Denver on business, often in the summer months when lifts weren’t running.  I used to ski Loveland pass by thumbing rides to the top from a pullout near Loveland ski area on Rt. 6.  The top is on the continental divide at 12000 feet.  You hike out a few hundred yards and ski down, funneling into a small streambed that ends where you parked.  I’d get 4-5 runs in an afternoon, after flying from sea level that morning.  I hiked to 14000 on Mt. Evans in early Sep. to see how I would handle 14K.  The plan was to drive up the road, but it was closed at 12K due to ice on the pavement from refrozen meltwater.  So I hiked, slowly but steadily.  8 months later I had triple bypass surgery.  4 months after that I was in Pasadena, also following business.  I drove to Palm Springs, took a tram ride to 8500 ft., then hiked 6 miles one way to the summit of Mt. San jacinto at 11000 feet and return.  None of these seemed significantly harder than a similar exercise load at sea level.  (Doable but not easy.)

2 months ago

So what’s really keeping you from setting up a ski trip out west?

Ha, ha, it’s like ski therapy.  “Doc, I keep having these dreams about two parallel sticks, what could it mean?”

In my case, while the cost and to a lesser extent the time commitment are big factors, the biggest factor is my wife.  Any western trip will have to suit her as well and while she was a skier and skied out west as a young adult, she is not as enthusiastic about skiing as I am.  I might get one shot at it before the youngest kid is out of college, and even if I’m skiing into my 60s and 70s, I doubt she will be.

Have you ever slept at over about 5000 ft?

Other than in an airplane, I don’t think I’ve ever slept higher than Snowshoe.  I think airplane cabin pressures don’t go higher than 8000 ft altitude equiv., and they’ve never bothered me, but probably not really a good indicator.

Whistler - Whistler is like a dream to me.  So many runs!  Seems super-expensive, though, especially if combined with a visit to Vancouver.

Steamboat - This is a pretty good possibility.  Maybe a little glitzier than my taste, but lots of other good qualities.

Tahoe, Jackson Hole, Park City, SLC/Cottonwood - These are all good suggestions, I’ll look into them.

Acetazolamide - Never heard of it before, good to know.

Hydrated - Yeah, makes sense.  I find winter outdoor activities in general can be dehydrating, so I’m usually pretty aware.  I usually even carry a small water bottle in a pocket.

Alcohol - Not much of an issue for me - my alcohol intake has decreased significantly over the years.

As always, lots of good information.  One of these days hopefully I’ll make it out west.  Fortunately, I love West Virginia and Vermont, so if a western trip takes awhile, that’s okay.

2 months ago

MDSkiGuy wrote:

So what’s really keeping you from setting up a ski trip out west?

Ha, ha, it’s like ski therapy.  “Doc, I keep having these dreams about two parallel sticks, what could it mean?”

In my case, while the cost and to a lesser extent the time commitment are big factors, the biggest factor is my wife.  Any western trip will have to suit her as well and while she was a skier and skied out west as a young adult, she is not as enthusiastic about skiing as I am.  I might get one shot at it before the youngest kid is out of college, and even if I’m skiing into my 60s and 70s, I doubt she will be.

Have you ever slept at over about 5000 ft?

Other than in an airplane, I don’t think I’ve ever slept higher than Snowshoe.  I think airplane cabin pressures don’t go higher than 8000 ft altitude equiv., and they’ve never bothered me, but probably not really a good indicator.

Whistler - Whistler is like a dream to me.  So many runs!  Seems super-expensive, though, especially if combined with a visit to Vancouver.

Steamboat - This is a pretty good possibility.  Maybe a little glitzier than my taste, but lots of other good qualities.

Tahoe, Jackson Hole, Park City, SLC/Cottonwood - These are all good suggestions, I’ll look into them.

Acetazolamide - Never heard of it before, good to know.

Hydrated - Yeah, makes sense.  I find winter outdoor activities in general can be dehydrating, so I’m usually pretty aware.  I usually even carry a small water bottle in a pocket.

Alcohol - Not much of an issue for me - my alcohol intake has decreased significantly over the years.

As always, lots of good information.  One of these days hopefully I’ll make it out west.  Fortunately, I love West Virginia and Vermont, so if a western trip takes awhile, that’s okay.

Tell us more about your wife.  Approx age, skiing ability, fitness level, interests, etc.

- Likes to ski groomers for a few hours then have a beer in a lawn chair and sit in the sun?

- Likes to ski double blacks bell to bell?

- Prefers spas, nice restaurants, and shopping?

You’re smart to try to make the trip appeal to her as well.  Most of the places you listed are incredibly and all have their own charm:

- I’d avoid Whistler.  It can be great, but probably has the most variable weather of the resorts you listed.  Decent chance you can have rain at the base, which could be a big downer.  Excellent chance you’ll be skiing in a snowstorm or dense fog.  I wouldn’t say it is THAT expensive, but it’s not cheap.  It is, however, far.  Long flight to Vancouver (or Seattle), and long drive (especially if driving from Seattle).  

- I wouldn’t call Steamboat glitzy; it’s one of the most authentic western resorts.  You’ll see real cowboys there, especially if you visit during the cowboy downhill (google it).  Good snow, low elevation, and intermediate-friendly terrain.  It’s a winner, with the only caveat that it doesn’t have some of the lodging options other resorts have.  If you go, the DC REI has sold 3-day passes with no blackouts at an event every fall for like $225 ($75 per day).  Otherwise, lift ticket rates are high (like $150) if you don’t get an Ikon Pass.  Steamboat also has a great town with good dining, shopping, and bar options (although you can’t walk to it from the slopes, have to drive or take a shuttle).  You either fly into Denver (cheap) and drive 3.5 hours, or fly into Hayden ($500+) for a shorter drive.

- Jackson Hole is similar to Steamboat, with better (more advanced) terrain.  We used to stay at Snow King (maybe a 30 minute drive?) which is right near the town of Jackson, and was dirt cheap (like $85 per night).  Jackon is probably my favorite ski town I’ve visited, very western.  Again, another winner, just check lift ticket deals / prices.  Airfare can be expensive.

- SLC is perfect for ski purists, but your wife might be underwhelmed because you’re generally staying in something like a Homewood Suites and much of the city is very “blah”.  Skiing is wonderful, but that’s all there is.  You could go downtown to nice restaurants.  Cheap lodging and lift tickets, moderate airfare, great snow.

- Park City is great.  You give up a little snow from the Cottonwood resorts, but they generally still have plenty, and you gain a great town similar to Steamboat’s, with the lifts and runs going right into the town.  The town is only 45 minutes from the SLC airport.  You can get great deals on condos through VRBO, and lift tickets are reasonable.  

- You didn’t list the Summit County resorts (Colorado - Breck, Keystone, Copper, A Basin) which are very popular.  They are high, and can be expensive, but you can find deals.  Breck is a great town and a big mountain, even if not my personal favorite.  Generally great snow due to the location and elevation, and lots of sunshine.  Similar to Park City, only farther from the airport, and higher.

If you love West Virginia and Vermont, you need to make a western ski trip happen soon.  The only difference between now and next year is you’ll be a year older when you do it.  You only live once, and it really is that good.  As much as I love West Virginia and Vermont, there is no comparison.   It’s like comparing a 6 cylinder Mustang to a Bugatti, or a Cessna to an F18.  It can be done on a budget if you plan carefully, are flexible, and willing to make a few tradeoffs.

If it were me, I’d look closely at Jackson Hole, Steamboat, and Park City.  I view those as the most wife-friendly resorts (shopping, spa, restaurants, authentic towns), without going to someplace like Vail or Beaver Creek and turning your wallet inside-out.  Those are places were my wife sometimes agrees to take a half day off to do something else (spa or shop) and I can get some extra turns in.

 

marzNC - DCSki Supporter
2 months ago

MDSkiGuy wrote:

So what’s really keeping you from setting up a ski trip out west?

Ha, ha, it’s like ski therapy.  “Doc, I keep having these dreams about two parallel sticks, what could it mean?”

In my case, while the cost and to a lesser extent the time commitment are big factors, the biggest factor is my wife.  Any western trip will have to suit her as well and while she was a skier and skied out west as a young adult, she is not as enthusiastic about skiing as I am.  I might get one shot at it before the youngest kid is out of college, and even if I’m skiing into my 60s and 70s, I doubt she will be.

As always, lots of good information.  One of these days hopefully I’ll make it out west.  Fortunately, I love West Virginia and Vermont, so if a western trip takes awhile, that’s okay.

So if you were to plan a ski trip, would working around school schedules be a factor?  Do the kids likes to ski?  Or is a trip with just you and wife a possibility?  What region did she ski at out west?  Tahoe, PacNW, or Rockies?

Does wife has similar skiing ability?  Did she just figure out how to ski or were there lessons involved?  Have read of all sorts of reasons that women think they can’t get better on TheSkiDiva.com .  In many cases, once they ski with a few other women their attitude can change.  Have also read success stories on co-ed ski forums by husbands who planned well for the first ski trip out west with a wife who wasn’t that keen on the idea.

Not really looking for answers, but those are the questions that come to mind from the perspective of an older woman who is a ski nut married to a husband for 25+ years who is a non-skier.  Totally not his thing.  Have seen him try twice.  He supports … puts up with … my increasing interest in ski trips that started after I got the kid on skis almost 15 years ago.  She’s too busy to ski much these days, but I’ve found other ski buddies to share expenses with for trips out west.  I’m already in my 60s and fully intend to be skiing for a few more decades.  Skiing midweek, I get to see how many seniors over 70 who are still out there enjoying the slopes on a regular basis.

2 months ago

School schedules are the main constraint with us. Some school districts actually give the kids a week off in February (my sister’s kids, who live in Atlanta, were off Feb 18 - 25 this year) but I think this is an exception to the rule. More common in Italy and France, I think, where everyone gets their “Settimana Bianca” or “Semaine Blanche”.  I still think we will be buying an Ikon Pass for next year and look to schedule a trip out west during spring break  (first week of April), with maybe a long weekend in VT thrown in (and of course more frequent trips to SS).

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