Hello seasonal travelers and eager snowsports enthusiasts! The time has come for your annual winter pilgrimage to Colorado’s Rocky Mountains. Your bags are packed, your ski and snowboard rentals reserved, your hotel rooms booked, your anticipation overflowing. Maximize your experience in Breckenridge this year, and every year, by integrating the following four health and safety focused habits into your skiing and snowboarding routine.
Take it easy
You have three days to get in your Rocky Mountain turns for the year, maybe four or five. If you are fit and motivated, you will be able to spend 30 hours on your skis or board during your vacation. This limited timeframe means that every run, every minute, every turn is of premium value and significant importance. And yet, we are encouraging you to take it easy? What gives?!
Well, the thought is that by easing into things — on, as well as off, the hill — you will be able to feel stronger, last longer, and remain safe and healthy throughout your trip. Rather than accelerating into your ski and snowboard routine at Mach Looney, and increasing the probability of headaches and hospital bills, why not start your trip off at a smooth pace? Try taking a half day or more of “easier” runs before tackling advanced terrain and intense maneuvers.
Easing into advanced terrain helps retrain your muscles to automatically find that sweet balance spot on your boards, so when terrain does throw you off, it’s easier to regain balance. After skiing or riding hard, remember to rest: Think about turning off the alarm and relaxing for an extra half an hour in that cozy mountain bed before hitting the slopes. Most injuries occur when people push themselves; when your muscles are a little tired, your turns can get sloppy, and your focus wanes, setting up a “perfect storm” for injury-prone falls.
Stop skiing and riding before the shadows grow long (or if the light becomes “flat,” which means you can’t see the moguls or drop-offs very well) and enjoy the complete mountain town experience with all of the extra energy you will have. Find your own way of staying relaxed throughout the beginnings of your trip, and return home happier and healthier than when you arrived.
According to dermatologist Dr. Cynthia Bailey, every 1,000 feet in elevation gain corresponds to a 4% increase in harmful ultraviolet radiation. In other words, when you are recreating at 10,000 feet, your skin and eyes are exposed to 40% more harmful radiation from the sun than they would be at sea level. Compounding this situation is that snow has the remarkable property of reflecting up to 80% of the sun’s energy, often straight back at the unknowing and sensitive-skinned skier.
This is not to say that playing outside has to be harmful to our bodies. Indeed, by selecting and wearing an appropriate set of sunglasses and goggles, and consistently applying the correct sunscreen, we can mitigate the harmful effects of the sun. Rather than returning home looking like Rudolph with your nose so bright, select a sunscreen that contains zinc oxide or titanium dioxide and protect your skin from both UVA and UVB radiation. For your eyes, most opthamologists recommend purchasing sunglasses or goggles that block at least 99% percent of UV radiation. And, remember to replace those old lenses now to avoid irritated eyes later!
Attaching 10-15 pounds of stiff plastic, cold metal, and bent timber to your legs and sliding down frozen water isn’t an everyday experience for most of our bodies. As such, our systems take on unusual stresses during ski trips — stresses that can be reduced by an active daily morning warmup. Take note: The days of toe touches and other static stresses have passed! That’s right; the ideal and proper ski and snowboard warmup will increase your heart rate and respiration and raise the core temperature of the body. Check out this video warmup from the experts at Moji Fitness, or do your own web search and create a low intensity routine to start your ski trip days. Your body will thank you, and so will your skiing and riding!
The higher we travel in our atmosphere, the lower the air pressure. The lower the air pressure, the quicker moisture evaporates from the surface of our skin and from our lungs themselves. Breckenridge, ranging in elevations between 9,500 and 13,000 feet, draws moisture from all places and all spaces. Further intensifying this thirsty situation is the reality that Breck’s high alpine environment often has low humidity, due to weather factors. The result of this dehydrating duality is that people lose much more moisture in the mountains than back home. Thankfully, this is an easy challenge to overcome.
Simply put: If you want to continue to feel great and stay safe, drink more water. One method to calculate how many ounces of water you must drink in the mountains is to divide your weight in pounds by two. For example, a person weighing 180 pounds would need to drink 90 ounces of water (just over 11 cups) a day to stay hydrated. On this note, caffeinated, alcoholic, and sugary drinks all serve to reverse the hydration process. For each of these type of fluids you choose to drink, it is necessary to down an additional glass of water to avoid the unhealthy effects of dehydration.
Enjoy your turns, and have a happy, healthy, and safe stay in Breckenridge!