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Mammoth High Altitude Tips

Mammoth Lakes and the Eastern Sierra offers many recreational opportunities all in the majestic high mountains of the Eastern Sierra Nevada. The center of Mammoth Lakes town is approximately 7,900 ft. elevation above sea level, and the elevation at the base of Mammoth Mountain near the Main Lodge is 8,900 ft. Canyon Lodge is at 8,300 elevation and Little Eagle lodge is also at 7,953 elevation. Visitors may experience some minor side effects due to Mammoth's high elevation. Here are a few tips and suggestions for staying healthy and enjoying your stay in the mountains.

When you first arrive acclimatize yourself for a period of time prior to beginning strenuous activities. At high elevations, the atmosphere is thinner and there is less oxygen and less humidity available to you than at sea level. This can result in a number of symptoms, such as muscle fatigue, insomnia, mild headaches, or slight shortness of breath. Sleep can also be disturbed. Our thin atmosphere filters out only a minimum of the suns ultraviolet "UV" rays and can result in severe sunburn. So be sure to take adequate precautions to protect your eyes and skin.


EAT LIGHTLY AND DRINK PLENTY OF LIQUID. You may tend to become dehydrated more quickly at high altitude than at sea level, so drink plenty of water and other fluids (8 to 10 glasses daily). You should also avoid drinking alcoholic beverages for the first 24 hours of your stay. Sometimes the first night people are a bit restless. This is normal. Some common aspirin before bed can help. KEEP WARM At this elevation, the weather can change quickly. Winter or summer, prolonged exposure to the elements can cause serious problems. Children are not always aware that they are becoming cold. Parents should watch for red noses and red ears. If this occurs, bring the child in from the cold, remove wet clothes and warm the child and affected areas immediately. Moderation is the key word...

It is wise to layer your clothes, no matter what the season. A T-shirt, wool sweater, nylon windbreaker with a hood and a bottle of water are basic equipment for just about any summer activity. Winter sports enthusiasts should wear warm waterproof gloves, hat, and socks, plenty of water-resistant clothing and goggles or sunglasses with adequate UV protection. Local sporting goods carry outdoor wear which is both wind and water resistant, an ideal choice for unpredictable mountain weather.

Adequate UV (Ultraviolet) protection is a must. At this elevation, the atmosphere is thinner and provides less protection from the sun's UV rays. UV exposure has been linked to an increased incidence of skin cancer, so use a sun block lotion with an SPF of 30 or greater. During high exposure activities such as spring skiing, those with fair skin may experience a sunburn after only two hours of sun exposure even after applying maximum sunscreen protection.

Parents should be especially careful with young children, and apply a generous amount of sunscreen to both you and your children prior to any outdoor activities. Be sure to reapply it at least every four hours. If you're perspiring or getting wet from the snow or water, apply it more frequently.

PROTECT YOUR EYES FROM SNOW-BLINDNESS It is also important to use proper UV protection for your eyes. The surface of the snow or water can act as a reflector of UV rays and can generate a great deal of UV exposure the eyes. Equip yourself and your children with UV sunglasses or goggles. Failure to wear proper eye protection can result in an actual burn of the eye's surface-a painful condition requiring medical treatment.

If you experience symptoms such as headache, insomnia, and/or fatigue, you may have a mild form of "altitude sickness". These symptoms are a warning to decrease your activity level. The body takes time to adjust. If symptoms persist or begin to worry you, don't hesitate to come to the Emergency Department, day or night - or to Sierra Park Family Medicine Clinic, from 9 am-4:30 PM.

Drink plenty of liquids prior to any activity. Performing a few stretches before engaging in strenuous physical activity can help your muscles respond to the challenges ahead.

Be aware of trail conditions. A stiff wind can blow the powder snow, exposing an unexpected patch of ice that can send your skis or snowboard sailing. Hikers and mountain bikers should keep in mind that creek crossings during spring runoff can become impassable due to high water levels.

It's wise not to have an alcoholic drink at lunch if you plan to return to the slopes afterwards. Most ski accidents occur in the afternoon, as muscles begin to fatigue. The effects of muscle fatigue are increased by the consumption of alcohol. Caffienated drinks have a similar effect as they too cause dehydration.

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