Ski sickness is quite common – approximately 1 in 20 skiers experience the condition. The disorienting, nauseating and dizzying feeling, which is quite similar to car sickness or seasickness, often results from the skier’s body lacking the ability to make sense of the barrage of conflicting stimuli.
If you are just getting started with skiing, becoming sick while exploring the slopes can make you hate wearing your ski jacket. However, if you already know how to deal with the condition, you should be able to have fun. In this guide, you will learn how to prevent and treat ski motion sickness.
What Exactly is Ski Sickness?
The condition was described scientifically for the first time back in 1994 by Rudolf Häusler. According to Häusler, sickness is a special form of motion sickness usually produced by contradictory and unusual sensory information between the somatosensory, vestibular, and visual system.
The main symptoms of the condition include dizziness with pendular or illusionary rotatory sensations and disequilibrium which is usually accompanied by nausea. In extreme cases, some skiers may vomit.
The condition is generally related to vestibular overstimulation which often results from ski carving (winding turns) on uneven ground and poor or insufficient visual control (especially during the foggy days). The types of boots one wears can also cause the condition, for example, if the boots are too tight, they could alter the somatosensory input.
What Causes the Condition?
Some aspects of skiing are known to cause sickness when skiing. Some of these aspects include:
- Riding chairlifts or gondolas – These usually rise high above the mountain, over the steep slopes. This may end up triggering fear and panic in some skiers.
- Downhill skiing – If you decide to ski downhill after donning your ski helmet, chances are, you will end up picking up speed pretty quickly. This fast movement can trigger unpleasant symptoms.
- Looking down the steep slopes – This can trigger acrophobia. In some instances, it may trigger height vertigo.
- Low visibility weather (in a whiteout) – Even if you are donning your ski goggles, you may not have the ability to tell the difference between the white sky and white ground. This could make you disoriented.
- Tight boots – If you are wearing tight ski boots, this could deprive your brain of important sensory feedback on your feet. This may end up triggering nausea, dizziness, headaches, and other symptoms.
Before we show you how to prevent ski motion sickness, it is important you understand that there is no ideal way to completely mitigate the sickness which often results from skiing. This is because different skiers will have varying sensitivities and triggers. Below, we will show you some of the tips you can use to lower the chances of feeling dizzy or nauseated when you are skiing steeps:
1. Use a Drag Lift
Often referred to as the T-bar or the Button lift, the drag lift will pull you up the slope while your all-mountain skis remain on the ground. If you ride the drag lifts, you will be exposed to minimal heights. This will reduce the chances of becoming sick while skiing.
Not all ski resorts have the drag lifts. Therefore, you may have to ride the chairlifts every once in a while. If you have to use the chairlift after mounting and adjusting the ski bindings, avoid looking down. When you are at the top, do not look too far into the distance or look over the ledges.
It is important that you avoid raising the bar on your chairlift too early. If you are wearing a ski backpack, take it off and put it on your lap. This will ensure that you do not get perched too far forward.
2. Consider Skiing Long Shallow Slopes
If the motion sickness affects you regularly, you can avoid the condition by exploring easy blue or green runs. Avoid coming into contact with the steep gradients that are usually found in more advanced trails.
While the green and blue runs may not be as challenging as the black and red runs, you will at least have the ability to have a good time on the slopes and also reduce the chances of becoming sick.
If you would like to go steeper, you should work up slowly. Ensure that you are completely comfortable with one run before you decide to move on to the next. This tip will apply to all skiers – every skier should explore color trails matching their skiing level.
3. Take Advantage of the ‘S’ Shape
At some point, you may find yourself coming to a steep section. If this happens, avoid stopping and looking down – looking down the steep section is one of the quickest ways of developing fear which could turn into ski motion sickness.
You should start skiing without overthinking the steep slopes. Break the sections into chunks. Stopping mid-way through the slope is much better compared to stopping at the top of the slope.
Use your ski poles and the skills you have acquired to ski long rounded ‘S’ shapes. Control your speed through the full arc of your turns. Keep in mind that sharp skiing is generally faster and more disorienting.
4. Ski with Someone Who Understands Your Condition
Before donning your ski gear, ensure that you will be exploring the slopes with someone who understands that you often deal with tough symptoms. Do not keep the symptoms to yourself – talk to your partner and let him or her know that you may need extra help or support getting down the slope if you end up dealing with nausea, headaches, or dizziness. If you know that you have someone to support you, this will make you more relaxed.
5. Avoid Offending Weather Conditions
As noted earlier on, one of the reasons a large number of skiers deal with the motion sickness caused by skiing is poor weather conditions. If you can manage to avoid the bad weather conditions, you may be able to avoid becoming sick while exploring the slopes.
Ski motion sickness does not have a cure. If you would like to reduce the chances of suffering from the condition to zero, you may have to avoid skiing completely.
If avoiding skiing is not an option for you, you should use the prevention tips mentioned in this article. If the prevention tips fail to offer you ideal results, you can use medications. The majority of the medications used to treat motion and travel sickness appear to help alleviate the symptoms for most people. Keep in mind that these medications will not cure the condition – they will just reduce your chances of dealing with the symptoms.
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If ski sickness has been keeping you from your cross-country skis, this article should help you get back on the slopes. While there is no cure for the condition, it possible to prevent it. We have outlined the tips you can use to prevent falling sick on the ski tracks.
To further reduce your chances of dealing with unpleasant symptoms, you can consider using travel sickness medications. For the majority of the skiers, motion sickness medication may help quell the queasiness.
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