Shortly after my husband I were married, I eagerly booked a ski vacation. We took a red-eye from JFK, at sea level, landed in Denver, loaded up the rental car and drove straight to the resort, on the Continental Divide, with an elevation of some 14,000 ft. I gleefully gave my husband his first ski lesson, enthusiastic to share my love of mountains with my athletic city boy spouse. He learned quickly and by noon was cruising the blues. I was elated, my introduction was going so well.
After lunch, however, our skis were not the only things going downhill. My husband felt exhausted and nauseous, with a severe headache. I unsympathetically let him sleep in the car while I crushed a few more runs, assuming he was just tired from our long flight. When the lifts shut down and I returned to wake him up, I realized that his condition was more serious. My poor husband was suffering from altitude sickness. To make matters worse, I neglected to insist he wear sunscreen and sunglasses. The sun’s strength, which is ultra-potent at high altitude, combined with the glare from the snow’s surface left my husband with an awful sunburn on his face and in his eyes, commonly known as snow blindness. After a visit to the ER, he spent the next three miserable days holed up in a darkened hotel room to allow his eyes to recover.
If you are considering a high elevation event (and you should, it’s gorgeous here), learn from my mistakes and ensure your guests a more pleasant mountain experience. Encourage your guests to use sunscreen and sun glasses. Don’t forget lip balm with sunscreen. In our dry climate, chapped lips are a constant curse. Drink loads of liquids. Dehydration accelerates altitude sickness. A touching welcome gift could be a beautiful basket filled with sunscreen, lip balm, lotion, and a water bottle. Personal bottles of oxygen, some scented with revitalizing oils, would be an exceptionally thoughtful addition. Be aware that alcohol can increase the symptoms of altitude sickness. The lack of oxygen in the mountain atmosphere can intensify the effects of alcohol and make hangover recovery a bit more of an ordeal.
Know the symptoms of altitude sickness: nausea, fatigue, dizziness, swelling hands, feet or face, nosebleeds, excessive flatulation, shortness of breath, and general malaise. If someone is suffering, hydrate and move them to a lower elevation. At your venue, place lots of water stations to remind people to drink. Consider a specialty infused water, cucumber or watermelon, to add a unique touch. It would be fun to offer your guests personalized cups or water bottles with the names of the bride and groom and the wedding date. An oxygen bar at an event presents a fun and unique form of relief for altitude sufferers. Many spas in the Reno/Tahoe area offer oxygen treatments.
A high altitude event can be a truly stunning and memorable affair. With a few thoughtful considerations your guests will have an amazing time.