Start Gate – Altitude Sickness

Altitude Sickness

Altitude Sickness and Prevention

Occasionally a student or adult may experience discomfort or sickness due to the higher altitude during their trip to Winter Park.  Gaining elevation too high and too fast is reportedly the major cause of Altitude Sickness or “Acute Mountain Sickness”.  Some reports indicate that oxygen levels contribute to the sickness.  Higher altitudes have thinner air with less oxygen available. Altitude sickness occurs most commonly at elevations greater than 8,000 feet above sea level.  The Winter Park Resort Base is around 9,000 feet and the ski resort summit is above 12,000 feet.

Dehydration and physical exertion are major contributing factors toward the sickness.  The most common signs of this sickness are a feeling of dizziness or lightheadedness, headache, fatigue, insomnia, unusual drowsiness, shortness of breath, nausea, vomiting, persistent rapid pulse, and/or loss of appetite.  These symptoms can, either alone, or in combination, indicate altitude sickness.

Altitude sickness doesn’t discriminate- it can affect anyone regardless of age, sex or physical conditioning. In fact, some of the best and most well-conditioned athletes can suffer altitude sickness. Altitude sickness can even occur despite a history of not being susceptible.

Some sources recommend the following to minimize the effects of altitude sickness:

  • Stay well hydrated by substantially increasing your water intake
  • Get adequate rest and take it easy on your first day in the higher altitude
  • Eat a balanced diet with plenty of carbohydrates (avoid fats and sugars) and decrease salt intake
  • Eliminate caffeine intake (caffeine is a diuretic and will dehydrate)
  • Take over the counter products for altitude sickness (use your own discretion with these)

Our best recommendation for preventing or remedying altitude sickness is to stay hydrated with water (more than normal) while enroute and during your stay.  Everyone should drink water instead of soft drinks.  If you fly into Colorado, we highly recommend that your group drink plenty of water prior to the flight, during the flight, and upon arrival.  If traveling by bus, have water available the entire trip to increase hydration before your arrival to Winter Park.  If at any time on the trip, a person experiences any of the above listed symptoms- choose any medical remedies you wish but consider having the person increase their water intake for immediate results.

Based on our long experience with groups in Winter Park (and even our own staff) – we have been around the emergency room several times for the treatment of this sickness.  Inevitably- dehydration is the cause.

High altitudes can accentuate previous or existing health conditions.  Persons with respiratory or vascular illnesses should consult with a medical doctor prior to determine whether travel to Winter Park is safe for them.

If ANY serious medical symptoms occur with any group member (including but limited to persistent cough, fever, pale or discolored skin, gradual loss of consciousness, and/or bronchitis like symptoms) – please seek immediate emergency medical care by calling 911.  Do not ignore!


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