Skiing at high altitude is one of the most common concerns of our guests. The following are some facts about skiing at altitude. Acute Mountain Sickness or Altitude Sickness is not a concern for heli-skiing guests as outlined below.
Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS)
AMS is the term used for a number of symptoms associated with the physiological reactions to altitudes above 2500 metres. AMS is not a concern for our heliskiing guests because although we are skiing at above 2500 metres we are always sleeping below this altitude, which means the body never has to fully acclimatise or adapt to high altitude.
High Altitude Pulmonary Edema (HAPE) and High Altitude Cerebral Edema (HACE) are two extreme forms of AMS. These are caused by a complex series of physiological changes that occur when we ascend and sleep above 2500 metres. This is not a concern for heliskiers because we do not sleep at altitude. Manali is below the altitudes at which AMS occurs.
If for some reason our guests are stranded above 10,000 feet, AMS would become a concern. To deal with this possibility, the company has placed Portable Altitude Chambers (PAC units) at strategic points around the mountains. These chambers were developed by Roddy Mackenzie in conjunction with Bartlett Industries Australia. They are the fastest selling altitude chambers in the world. More information about these products are available at http://www.bartlett.net.au. These bags are the most durable and most reasonably priced altitude chambers on the market. They were developed with the HHA heliskiing operation in mind.
Other Health Concerns at Altitude
Altitude induced headaches are a concern to heli-skiers. The air at altitude is much drier than at sea level. This means that the simple act of breathing dehydrates the body. To counter this, we strongly recommend that guests drink frequently from the small bottles of mineral water provided in the helicopter.
Certain cardiac conditions may pose a risk at altitude. This is rare, and guests should consult their doctor if they have any cardiac problems.
The reduction in available oxygen at altitude will mean that people will ski fewer turns before they feel tired. In the first few days of skiing, our guests generally ski 10 to 20 per cent fewer turns per pitch. After a few days, most people do not notice any difference.
The altitude is not a concern for reasonably fit people without cardiac problems.