About Altitude Sickness

Prevention is key

Altitude illness is usually preventable if ascent is slow. This is not possible for skiers who proceed directly to, and sleep at ski areas. Persons traveling above 8,000 feet (which includes Taos Ski Valley, Red River and Angel Fire) are most likely to be symptomatic. The chances increase to about 15% when sleeping above 8,000 feet. Being in excellent physical condition has no bearing on one’s ability to acclimate to altitude.

How can you improve acclimation to altitude?

Sleeping a night or two at a lower elevation will help speed up the body's process of acclimatizing. (Albuquerque, Denver, Taos, & Santa Fe).

Take it easy

Many skiers can not resist the urge to overdo it the first day or two only to ruin the rest of the week. Stop early when you start to feel fatigue or any prolonged breathlessness.

High Carbohydrate Diet

Increase carbohydrate intake (pasta, rice, pancakes) to 70% of total calories. This means reducing fat intake.

Avoid Alcohol, Tranquilizers and Sleeping Pills the first two nights.

All of these things slow down your body’s adjustment to elevation. This is critical if you exhibit any of the symptoms below.

Medication

There is prescription medication which helps prevent illness and speed acclimations. Any symptoms worse after second night sleeping at altitude will benefit from this medication.

Symptoms of altitude sickness

Mild

  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Poor appetite
  • Run down feeling
  • Shortness of breath with exertion

Mild symptoms are indistinguishable from hangover. Take Tylenol or aspirin for headache. Benadryl for nausea. Avoid all alcohol.

Moderate

  • Headache not relieved by Tylenol/aspirin
  • Vomiting
  • Raspy Cough
  • Weakness
  • Balance/coordination problem

If moderate symptoms occur seek medical care. Balance difficulty is a highly predictive serious progression of illness. See physician immediately!

Severe

  • Wet Cough
  • Disoriented “leave me alone”
  • Too weak to eat or get up
  • Lips or fingernails blue in color

Seek medical help immediately.