It turns out those stoned huckers aren't the only radicals you have to guard against on the mountain. A recent Hungarian study in the Journal of Sports Science and Medicine reports that when you spend time at altitude, you increase the formation of free radicals, naturally occurring molecules in your body that disrupt DNA and may promote skin cancer, cardiovascular disease, and other chronic illnesses. A day of schussing at 10,000 feet exposes you to a trifecta of factorsthin air, UV rays, and exercise stressthat can ramp up free-radical production by as much as 50 percent. Fortunately, you can fight back by loading up on antioxidants (see "The Elevated Diet," below), which minimize the damage from free radicals. You'll still have to watch out in the terrain park, though.
food at altitude
The Elevated Diet
Studies by Wayne Askew, director of the Division of Nutrition at the University of Utah, in Salt Lake City, suggest that taking 500 milligrams of vitamin C and 400 of vitamin E, through a combination of supplements and diet, should help counter the ravages of free radicals. "When you're at altitude, antioxidants are more important than any other vitamins," says Askew, who has spent ten years researching the subject. Here are a few tasty ways to prime your defenses.
AT THE TABLE
Blueberries, strawberries (are you feeling the pancakes?), peanut butter, red apples, oranges, olives, kale, broccoli, tomatoes, spinach, red bell peppers, squashes, citrus juices
ON THE TRAIL
Antioxidant medley: dark chocolate chips, almonds, sunflower seeds, dried mango, dried cranberries, dates, and raisins
The ultimate take-it-with-you recipe, from the Alaskan Alpine Club, this mix should last you three long, powderful weeks. » 45 ounces powdered milk » 2 pounds cocoa (mix-with-milk type) » 1 pound powdered sugar » 11 ounces nondairy creamer » 13 ounces Carnation malted milk » Use a half-cup powder per cup of hot water