Skiing is one of my most favorite winter sports. The fresh air, snow and beautiful views are second to none. Skiing with diabetes can present its own set of challenges unique to this disease. Having fun while maintaining safety is a priority in the mountains.
There are plenty of unpredictables in the great outdoors. Getting a grasp on what is expected of you as a participant in a winter sport at high altitude is important. I’ve created a list of things for you to mull over.
Safety tips for skiing with diabetes
- Both diabetes and altitude are players in the dehydration game. It is a necessity to drink water both before, during and after skiing at high elevation. This holds true for our non-diabetic counterparts. When the blood sugar is high, the body is working really hard to eliminate the extra sugar from the body. Water is the vessel for that sugar throughout this purging process. Therefore, when the blood sugar is high, drinking even more water than usual serves as an important point.
- Blood sugars need to be monitored frequently while skiing. This holds true with any physical activity. The challenge of maintaining blood sugars while skiing can be a positive experience. Hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) happens when we are physically active. Active muscles utilize the insulin we have active in our body more efficiently than if we are at rest.
- Don’t forget to pack sports bars and my favorite “Gluten Free Shot Bloks for Fuel” (read why I love them so much)
- One of the more important times to be sure that the blood sugar is well revolves around the use of a chairlift. Chairlifts are high off the ground, quick moving and sometimes lack a safety bar on your lap. Having a severe low on a chairlift or a seizure can be a really scary situation. Ensuring your sugar is in range prior to riding a chairlift is not a task to overlook with this sport.
- Brrr… It’s cold when you ski, unless its spring skiing of course. Most people are averse to playing in the deep cold and so are glucometers. How am I supposed to check my blood sugar when its zero degrees outside? That’s a really good question!
Storing your glucometer and insulin (if your injecting) in a backpack or fanny pack is not an option in this cold weather play. Maintaining the equipments temperature is vital in getting it to work and also for accuracy. I always carry my glucometer in an inner pocket, one close to my core.
When you are ready to check your sugar, you may need to take a minute to pop inside. If your fingers are cold it may be difficult to obtain a blood sample. Your glucometer may also decide not to work in the frigid air. If it does give you a hard time and starts to error, stick your glucometer in your armpit and wait a few minutes. This usually solves the problem pretty quickly.
- Being cold throughout the day causes the body to shiverand burn more calories. Most people regardless of exercise tend to have more lows when they are cold for extended periods of time
- I love skiing with my Dexcom continuous glucose monitor (CGM). It gives me the freedom to maintain safety with less checking. The high and low blood sugar alarms are audible through my down jacket. I love being outside and peeking at the CGM for trending of my blood sugar and a current reading without having to check a blood sugar.