Outside Magazine, November 1994
Even before you're reunited with your luggage, the stress of altitude is undermining your ski vacation. The drop in atmospheric pressure between home and resort--the average flatlander lives at 500 feet, and the average western ski area sits at 7,000 feet--means it's harder for the oxygen to saturate the blood. So you're panting through your trip to deliver oxygen to your needy muscles and brain.
You can't acclimatize from home, but you can prepare for the stresses. Starting a week before your trip, drink a gallon of water a day; you lose a lot of moisture every time you exhale, you'll be doing a lot of that at high altitude. And get to bed at a decent hour--many people experience insomnia at higher elevations.
For the first couple of days at the ski area, try not to spend a lot of time above the 8,000-foot mark, where the thin air can be truly dangerous for the unacclimatized (see below). If you get a headache from the drop in oxygen pressure, which causes the arteries in the brain to expand, Johnson and other experts recommend popping some ibuprofen.
Altitude: Sea Level
Altitude: 5,000 feet
Altitude: 8,000 feet
Altitude: 10,000 feet
Altitude: 12,000 feet
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