Pushing the limit: Understanding the body’s performance at high elevation
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September 6, 2019
Member since 04/15/2008 🔗
684 posts

Interesting article from Summit County, Co. about what happens to flatlanders' bodies when they go to the mountains



marzNC - DCSki Supporter
September 6, 2019 (edited September 6, 2019)
Member since 12/10/2008 🔗
2,319 posts

One of the better articles about the amount of time needed for flatlanders to adjust to high altitude, meaning over 8000 ft.  Was interesting to read that the oxygen boosts sold at many ski shops in Colorado don't really do anything useful.  I also saw canisters in shops at Taos.

For my trips to Taos, I've always stayed at least two nights at lower altitude before moving to TSV at 9000 ft.  Staying in the town of Taos or Santa Fe is around 7000 ft.  Even a night or two in Albuquerque at 5000 ft helps.

During a summer trip to Denver with my family, we'd been in Denver for a couple days before I took my daughter for a trail ride in Rocky Mountain National Park.  The ride was at around 11,000 ft.  Just the short 5-min walk we did while waiting for our ride to start had me completely out of breath.

Denis - DCSki Supporter
September 6, 2019
Member since 07/12/2004 🔗
2,184 posts

For what it’s worth,


I’m proud of this.  If you read to the end you’ll see why.

Performance at altitude is a funny thing.  I have no background in the science of it but have often wondered if frequent visitors to altitude either adapt very quickly or retain some ability to go to altitude and perform.  Examples could be Denver or salt Lake skiers who go every weekend, seemingly with no ill effects.  Even more so for Mammoth.  A majority of Mammoth skiers live in the LA Basin, at sea level, and go to an 11,000 summit.  Could many cycles of this be helping them to perform.

Again, FWIW, I seem to be gifted for altitude, despite having a heart condition.  When working I made many business trips to Pasadena and Boulder and often fitted some skiing into the preceding or following weekend.  Several times I skied Loveland pass in summer by thumbing rides to the top at 12,000 ft., hiking out a few hundred feet and skiing down following a streambed to the turnout where I had parked.  Many CO locals do this.  I would leave DC on an early AM flight, and be doing laps on Loveland Pass by mid PM mountain time.

September 6, 2019 (edited September 6, 2019)
Member since 04/15/2008 🔗
684 posts

Denis wrote:

 I’m proud of this.  If you read to the end you’ll see why.

Performance at altitude is a funny thing.  I have no background in the science of it but have often wondered if frequent visitors to altitude either adapt very quickly or retain some ability to go to altitude and perform.   

My personal experience is that is the case. For years I lived at 600 feet an would go to Breckenridge and sleep at 9600 feet,

but would regularly end up skiing at or near 12,000 feet. My first trip of the year I really felt it - no altitude illness, but pretty severe fatigue. My first walk of the season up 3 flights of stairs carrying 100 pounds of stuff to get to my  condo was a killer. After about 3 days, I was good to go.

My ski schedule for almost the entire winter was 12 days at altitude (skiing 10 of the 12) and 9 days at 600 feet - rinse and repeat all season (except for Christmas/News Years and spring break where I'd spend more time away). After the first trip I found that I could go back to 600 feet and then return to altitude and have absolutely no altitude issues. After doing this for years, I realized that once I got used to altitude that I could leave it and as long as I returned within about 30 days, that I would be fine at altitude again.

That being said, altitude never gave me real problems (this before my 12/9 regimen began). I can remember taking early morning flight s to Albuquerque, getting a rent car, driving to Santa Fe, booting up, and then skiing til the lifts shut down -- with no problem.


Acetazolamide did help.


marzNC - DCSki Supporter
September 7, 2019 (edited September 7, 2019)
Member since 12/10/2008 🔗
2,319 posts

Found an article about the study done a few years ago that was trying to see how long the changes required to adapt to high altitude usually last.  A group of volunteers spent two weeks at over 15,000 ft, then left for 1-2 weeks, and returned for another short period.  A factor related to why the adaptation can last for a few months is that red blood cells survive for about 120 days.


Last winter I spent 10 days in NM for a trip to Taos, mostly sleeping at TSV at 9000 ft, went home for a week, and then back to Taos.  I stayed at 7000 ft in town the first couple days for the second trip.  I noticed I had less symptoms related to high altitude.  Mostly that I slept well by the second night.  Usually takes until the third or fourth night before I sleep as I usually do at home.

After the second Taos trip, I was home for a week before flying to SLC to ski at Targhee, Bridger, and Big Sky.  Driggs is around 6000 ft.  Now that I think about it, I slept pretty well even the first night.  But I figured that was because I was under 7000 ft.

October 21, 2019
Member since 03/8/2018 🔗
298 posts

When I did Utah last spring I about died when I went to the summit at Solitude. I had been in the area a few days, but staying down in the valley.  I was doing ok on the lower mountain, so I thought I'd head up.  Big mistake. Ended up getting dizzy and not able to stand up.  Some people passed by and got patrol up there.  They gave me some oxygen and brought me back down. Ended up ending my day earlier, and was sick the next day.  Headed home back to sea level next day.

I think the sleeping at altitude does help.  The time I went to Winter Park we had a suite at the base. Stayed there a few days then went skiing.  Did much better that time.

kemperski - DCSki Supporter
October 22, 2019 (edited October 23, 2019)
Member since 11/10/2013 🔗
221 posts

I suppose we all have different priorities on our vacations, or different time frames.  I either have 5 days on my trips out west, in which case every moment counts, or occasionally 8-10 days, in which case every moment counts.  It makes no difference. If I land in Denver I will be skiing at or above 12,000 feet within 12 hours.


I never used to get Altitude sickness, aside from shortness of breath, and skinning short distances above slackcountry passes which I often do the same day I land, is a killer but lately it's been harder.  Still this is a little above Loveland Pass before sunrise, it was very cold and windy, no one else was there so kind of spooky. I would not trade it for anything.


I had landed the night before, coming from 500 ft and I was a little sick, but those early runs were too priceless to miss and hitching with workers on their way to A-basin was esp. easy with no competition

So after that I did research so I could still make the most of these trips.  First: Ibuprofen, not as a treatment but as a preventative, genuinely good science on this:




But more controversially, I squirrel away prednisone tablets, if I get them for poison ivy, or joint pain, or if my dogs skin conditions improve.   15 mg the day before departure and the first two days of arrival helps enormously.  There is science behind this as well, I mean I'm not crazy, like DUH!




your results may vary

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