Downhill skiing attracts those from all ages to ski hills and resorts during the winter months to enjoy the thrill of “carving pow” and enjoying time with friends and family, sipping hot chocolate in the chalet après ski. Downhill skiing also boasts health benefits, with moderate skiing burning approximately 400 calories per hour, increasing aerobic capacity, and improving leg strength and core stability. However, it is important to recognize some risks of skiing with allergies.
Ski hills are often located in exciting and remote locations, often a few hours from hospital facilities. Many ski hills and resorts can be situated near local hospitals, or even major health centres, but on a mountain, it may take time to get down to transportation. There are locations on the mountain that lend themselves to further isolation, such as chairlifts and gondolas. Often times you can find a skier having a bite of a snack on the chairlift or in the gondola while enjoying the wondrous mountain views. An allergic reaction in this situation, albeit rare, may be tricky. Furthermore, the best ski conditions are during or after heavy snow falls, so prime skiing may involve a treacherous drive to the closest emergency facility. In 2012, a news reporter Gemma Morris suffered an anaphylactic reaction at the chalet of a European ski resort and was transported to hospital where she spent 24 hours in the intensive care unit (Daily Mail). Thankfully the weather was clear, but a snowstorm in this situation may have impeded Morris’ travel to hospital and possibly worsened her care. Knowing how long it might take get to a local hospital will definitely keep your mind at ease while enjoying some exciting skiing or snowboarding after a fresh, crisp snowfall.
It can be good to know that some ski hills do house physicians on site. Larger resorts often have medical centres where physicians or nurses are able to diagnose and treat skier and snowboarder ailments, such as broken limbs, and even help treat allergic reactions. However, some patients may need definitive care at a local hospital. Knowing the resort’s medical facilities in advance can also help ease the stress of being in a relatively remote location.
Ski and snowboard trips often extend for a few days, so it’s important to understand the implications of an allergic reaction on the ski hill. Let me put forth an example where a young male skier suffers an anaphylactic reaction on day one of a three-day vacation. He is taken to the medical facility on the mountain where he is treated, observed, and then safely discharged. There may be considerable anxiety about having another reaction, especially if the first one occurred accidentally at one of the chalets or restaurants. It might be a good plan to bring some safe food that you know is allergy friendly in the event that options may be limited at the mountain. This is also why it is important to take a few minutes and either call or research the food options at the mountain before departing.
I am an adult with several life-threatening food allergies and I enjoy skiing. I live about 2 hours from a large, Canadian ski resort, but the first time I was planning to venture up the mountain I was scared of an allergic reaction on the ski hill. The hill is remote. What if a reaction happened while skiing after a snack and I crashed? What if it happened while snacking in the gondola up the mountain? I listened to some advice from a friend, brought extra food which I knew was safe, made sure to pack two auto-injectors in my jacket and not forget them in the car or in my backpack, and researched how far away the nearest hospital was (including a print-out of directions to the hospital). The first time I visited the hill and skied, I was anxious, but after some brief but important preparation, I had a blast! I skied there 16 times that winter, and this winter I’ve been back for more wide turns, fresh powder, and allergy safe hot chocolate! Shred the pow!
– Fraser K.