11.10
2012 Advice and tips

No, there are no reasons not to climb to higher altitudes, to flirt with pure air or to get excited about pristine summits. Yes, you have everything to gain from going higher.Whether you suffer from asthma or have small children, there are numerous benefits from being in the mountains.  

1 / What are the effects of winter sports on your body?

Like all sports, skiing increases your level of dopamine, an organic chemical which brings well-being to your body and pleasure to your mind.Dopamine - which is a potent weapon for producing high morale – also brings you motivation and happiness, by turning your mental activity towards the future, discoveries and new ideas.If we go beyond the inherent benefits of sport - particularly in the fresh air - and the advantages for your figure, wecome to the ‘fashionable’ theme of vitamin D.The pollution in towns and cities seems to limit the passage of UVB rays through the atmosphere, leading to a lack of this vitamin, particularly as we live mainly indoors.Turn your face towards the mountains and recharge your batteries, like a solar panel!

2 / Can you suffer from altitude sickness in the mountains?

There is altitude and altitude - wefind both lower and higher altitude resorts.The generally accepted lower limit for altitude sickness is situated between 2000 and 3000m depending on your body.Below this level there is no real difference with the valley.Because of this, in the resort village itself - i.e. the zones where (pregnant) women and very small children are likely to go - this “limit” is not exceeded.

3 / My child is 3 years old, can he stay for a long time in the mountains?

“There is no reason not to go to the mountains, particularly for children in good health”, indicates Juliette Blanc, ski patrol rescuer and nurse.“However, the problem is when you climb rapidly to high altitudes.Here at Tignes, you go from 2100 to 2500 m in five minutes with the funicular railway – which is not recommended for children under 3, particularly those with colds.As the Eustachian tube is inflamed, the eardrum - which acts as a barometer - can no longer regulate the pressure, leading to ear infections.”

4 / Can I take my baby ?

“Of course!” continues Juliette.“Infants should stay at lower levels if the stay is short as it takes 8 days to acclimatise, so if you only stay a week, it is best not to take the baby too high.In any case, under 9 months old, you should respect the principle of stages -you should go up gently, stopping for pauses and if possible letting the baby drink.  One piece of advice for short sleepers - itis possible that sleep can be disturbed due to the dry mountain air.A humidifier may be useful or, alternatively, you can put damp cloths near a radiator or place bowls of water in the room.” 

5 / What precautions need to be taken by pregnant women at high altitude?

“Above all, remember not to go up too fast”, advises Audrey, a mid-wife in Val d’Isère.Particularly at the start of pregnancy where the new embryo may detach.Whilst an express return trip to the Aiguille du Midi is out, short strolls at lower levels are very advisable, to oxygenate your blood and reap the benefits of gentle sport.If you are pregnant, you must make sure that you choose a lower altitude destination (stay under 1500m).Each case is unique, so it is advisable to consult a doctor before your stay.But remember that women living in the mountains have always had babies…

6 / Can I ski if I suffer from asthma? 

Whilst mountain air appears to be favourable (dry, pure, far from pollution and fine particles from cars), the same cannot be said for extreme cold (not the usual winter cold) which can lead to attacks.You can always opt for the Easter period, with milder temperatures.Another idea is the “Buff”, which is a small practical scarf that can be worn around your neck and brought up around your nose to “filter” the cold.Skiing can be a factor when asthma is poorly managed, but asthma sufferers will gain from doing physical exercise to preserve good lung health (reinforce the breathing muscles) and good physical condition with a healthy weight.This can all help to improve your long term condition, you just have to watch for exercise-induced asthma.  In summary, go carefully.

7 / I’m disabled, how I can go to winter sports?

Just do the same as everyone else!Whilst skiing for non-disabled people gets us out of the routine, it is nothing in comparison with what it can bring to a disabled person.In the ESF ski schools, some ski instructors are specifically trained to accompany reduced mobility people, for example in "tandem skiing”.Others guide blind people.Most ski schools have invested in special chairs for maximum comfort, and the mountain professionals understand the specific needs of each handicap (for example people who are tetraplegic do not feel the cold, and so need to wear appropriate clothing).  In the snow there is no difference between non-disabled and disabled people, as everyone can enjoy the thrills.

8 / Sun protection, what SPF factor do I need?

In the mountains, the air is thinner, and there are stronger UV rays.With snow, you are subjected not only to direct but also reflected rays.“Protection by clothing is most important, ideally with a cap, and you need to choose sunglasses which correctly protect your eyes”, advises Doctor Yvon Périllat, dermatologist in Grenoble.“Next, it is absolutely essential to protect yourself with a high factor sun block (30, 50 or 50+) to be applied before exposure, and very importantly, to be reapplied every two hours, otherwise it will not be effective.Also, don’t forget your lips, which are very fragile.”

9 / Why are sunglasses essential in the mountains?

Because we cannot yet put sun lotion on our eyes!More seriously, for the same reasons as above.The atmosphere is thinner higher up, increasing the number of UV rays, which are also 80% reflected.There is no problem with the excellent quality products on offer today from the specialised manufacturers.You just have to make sure that you wear your sunglasses or mask, and not use them as a fashion accessory!

10 / If something happens to me, am I insured?

Most travel insurance cover the practice of skiing, but make sure you read the small print.Am I insured for off-piste skiing (even three or four metres from the official slopes, where the snow looks really good…), am I insured if I need to be evacuated by helicopter?Etc. If you do not have specialist skiing travel insurance, the best thing is to opt for the insurance sold at the ski lift ticket offices - this insurance (which in addition finances the French skiing, biathlon teams…) was specifically designed for these events. Whatever you choose, insurance is a must!

For all these questions, if you have the slightest doubt, don’t hesitate to ask your doctor who will surely be able to advise on the period or type of mountain destination.  For insurance purpose, speak with your Tour Operator or Travel Agent, if you are booking through one.

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