PROTECTING YOURSELF FROM THE EFFECTS OF ALTITUDE
Temperature is inversely proportional to altitude: the higher you go, the lower the temperature drops. Every 100 m (328 ft) rise in altitude above sea level equates to a shift north of around 161 km (100 miles). So, if you climb to 2500 m (8203 ft), it is equivalent to travelling to the Arctic Circle from London.
Conversely, the sun's radiation increases with altitude. For every 100 m you go up, solar UV intensifies by about 2 per cent; so at 2500 m, you are being fried twice as quickly as you would be on a Mediterranean beach.
Skin & Eye Protection
On overcast and snowy days the clouds disperse the UV-rays, but they do not stop them. Sunscreens absorb a set percentage of the UV reaching you; a total sunblock and technical eyewear provide the best protection. Don't forget that snow reflects the sunlight, including the UV-rays; make sure you apply sun protection under your chin, below and behind your ears, on your eyelids and under your nose. Goggles provide all-round eye protection and enhanced visibility; sunglasses are fine for lounging on terraces and strolling around a resort, but they are not best suited for the slopes.
Dress for the Occasion
Weather conditions in the high mountains change rapidly and dramatically, so dress for all eventualities; it is easier to cool down than it is to warm up. Most heat loss occurs through your head, so always wear a hat. Wearing a hat not only keeps you warm, but protects you from sunstroke too. Wear a helmet in the snowparks and when freeriding; all the best riders do.
Water, water everywhere…
Dehydration is a problem in all active sports. When you add an increase in altitude into the equation, the problem becomes compounded and potentially fatal. Dehydration leads to fatigue, and tiredness is the primary cause of most accidents, injury and hypothermia. The best way to ensure that you are well hydrated is to start that way and maintain a good fluid balance throughout the day. The trick is to sip water or isotonic fluids little and often. Invest in a hydration backpack or carry a couple of bottles with you.
Always carry the following items with you in the mountains:
• SUNBLOCK (+ LIP BALM)
• PISTE MAP
• NON-ALCOHOLIC DRINK
• HIGH-ENERGY SNACKS
• SPARE MID-LAYER TOP
• BASIC FIRST-AID KIT
• SOME FORM OF IDENTIFICATION
• INSURANCE SUMMARY
Effects of Altitude
Snowsports Accident Cover
Accident rescue services are not automatically included with standard lift pass or instruction packages: it is your responsibility to make sure that you are adequately covered by your travel insurance policy, or to purchase a supplemental piste-rescue upgrade from the lift pass office in resort.