If you’re feeling hung over on your ski vacation, that last après cocktail may not necessarily be the culprit. The most common type of altitude sickness, acute mountain sickness, mimics the headache, nausea and general malaise you’d feel after a night of drinking. “Most people who spend most of their time at sea level start to experience symptoms of altitude sickness at about 7,500 to 8,500 feet,” says Luke Bauer of the American Alpine Club. “Ten thousand feet is where it starts to become pretty obvious.” Also like a hangover, altitude sickness can put a serious kink in your plans the next day. Bauer offers these pointers to help your body acclimatize:
Take it slow. If time permits, sleep at a moderate elevation for a night or two before charging above treeline. For example, if you’re headed to the Colorado Rockies, spend a night in Denver (5,280 feet), then head to Vail (8,000 feet) the next night before your first ski day.
Hydrate. Drink plenty of water both before your trip and once you arrive. Your body dehydrates more quickly at altitude, thanks to more rapid breathing. So, drink even if you aren’t thirsty.
Medicate. According to a new study, taking ibuprofen starting a few days in advance of your high-altitude trek and continuing while you’re there can also help avoid the onset of mountain sickness, Bauer says. Just be sure you don’t have any conditions that could be worsened by taking it.
Sober up. Steer clear of alcohol for the first few days of your trip. Not only will it further dehydrate you, but you may wake up wondering if your hangover is the mountain-induced kind or the genuine article.