Spring break is the ideal time for you and your family to take an unforgettable ski trip. With tickets booked, chances are you’re dreaming of epic lines and deep powder. However, what many people don’t consider are the dangers of sun exposure in snowy environments. Due to the extreme mountain climates, the risk of dehydration, sunburn, and snow blindness is very high.
Sun exposure in high elevation environments is a significant factor to consider when skiing or snowboarding. On sunny and even cloudy days, snow can reflect up to 90% of sunlight and UV rays. Whether you are a local or visitor, such factors drastically increase exposure to sun damage. According to Dr. Christopher Hull with the Dermatology Services at the University of Utah Health, the percentage of skin cancer cases is much more common in ski area employee populations, raising concern for sun safety education resources.
While many people believe they are safe from sun damage when covered up and in cold temperatures, any exposed skin is still at risk. Every 1,000 feet above sea level, the exposure to UV rays can increase by up to 6-10%. Therefore, it is strongly recommended that you use sunscreen of SPF 40 or higher and remember to reapply throughout the entire day. On top of skin protection, it is crucial to avoid snow blindness caused by UV rays bouncing off of the snow and back into your eyes. Always wearing sunglasses or goggles when on the mountain can reduce the risk of eye cancer, cataracts, and corneal sunburn.
Many of these same factors also contribute to dehydration when on the mountain. High altitude, sun, and wind all play a role in dehydrating the body. Working up a sweat and not properly rehydrating will lead to extreme moisture loss. Prioritizing hydration, particularly if you are visiting from a lower elevation, is crucial. Taking the necessary precautions upon embarking on a memorable ski trip will result in a safer and healthier outcome.