Health: Antidotes to What Jackson Throws at You

PHOTO BY BRADLY J. BONER

The elevation and climate that make Jackson Hole a paradise also make it hard on your body. Take care of yourself.

// By Melissa Thomasma
Dehydration

It’s easy to get dehydrated at higher elevations. Drinking alcohol and caffeine can dehydrate you more quickly, as can being active in the mountain sun and wind. Long-distance athlete and Jackson Hole Fire/EMS captain and paramedic Henry Cadwalader says that dehydration is something that he and his team see frequently, especially among visitors. Common signs of dehydration include a headache, lethargy, dizziness, and a dry mouth. “People are very often dehydrated day-to-day, and coming to altitude only exacerbates it,” he says. “In a place like Jackson, you need to be drinking at least one hundred ounces of water a day—with some kind of electrolytes as well—just to stay at baseline.” (One hundred ounces is about four-fifths of a gallon.) If you’re hiking or biking especially hard, go for a full gallon at least. Sports shops and grocery stores around the valley carry NUUN drink tablets, which have electrolyes and are gluten-, dairy-, and soy-free. From $7

Dry Skin

During Jackson Hole summer days, the relative humidity can drop as low as twenty-five percent. Add in a mountain breeze, the extra-powerful sun, and the fact that few of us drink as much water as we should, and it’s no surprise that dry skin happens very quickly here. The skincare line Alpyn Beauty, which was founded here in 2018, uses plants foraged and/or grown locally to make super-hydrating products like Plantgenius Melt Moisturizer and a Calming Midnight Mask with Melatonin & Wild Dandelion. (Get rid of existing dry skin with the brand’s new Wild Huckleberry 8-Acid Polishing Peel.) From $56

Sore Muscles

There are so many trails to explore, mountains to climb, rivers to raft, and horses to ride in Jackson Hole. “All of the endorphins people release while exerting themselves in the mountains begin to sit in the tissue, and the muscles create waste,” says Amanda Jean, founder of Jackson Hole’s Massage with Amanda and Brandy and a massage therapist for almost two decades. “Massage can be a great way to help alleviate muscle soreness. It can begin to break down and move the lactic acids out of the tissues and into the bloodstream, helping ease discomfort and get you back on the trail faster.”

rapidly changing weather

In a ten-minute span in Jackson Hole, you can go from dripping sweat to freezing. Enter dressing in layers. Start with a short-sleeve tee so you’re ready to enjoy the warmest part of the day, then add a long-sleeve layer like Royal Robbins’s Expedition Pro L/S ($85). If the current weather doesn’t require a water- or windproof jacket, make sure to still have one handy. The new Black Diamond StormLine Rain Shell ($129) is lightweight, packable, waterproof, breathable, and windproof. In the mountains, you might want a lightweight puffy like the Outdoor Research Helium Down Hoody ($279), too.

Altitude

Crystal Wright, the 2009 and 2012 Freeskiing World Tour champion and founder of the Jackson gym Wright Training, knows that even the fittest folks can feel the effects of elevation. At sea level, air has over 20 percent oxygen. In Jackson Hole, the air contains about 16 percent effective oxygen. This can leave you feeling dizzy or nausous. At the valley’s elevation, it usually takes about one week to acclimitize, although this is different for everyone. “Being conditioned helps a ton with [acclimatization], so doing some type of strength training with heart rate work before coming to altitude can really help,” Wright says. “Once you’re here, try to start with shorter hikes or bike rides, and work up to the tougher stuff. Also, good nutrition helps keep you energized and prevents headaches.” 

Sunburn

Because the higher above sea level you are the less atmosphere there is between your skin and the sun, it’s easy to sunburn here. Every 1,000 feet above sea level means between 4 and 8 percent more UV intensity. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, if you’re standing at the top of the Jackson Hole Mountain Resort tram (10,450 feet above sea level), UV radiation may be 35 to 45 percent more intense than at sea level. To make combatting sunburn even more difficult here (where temperatures don’t often get above eighty), you might be burning without feeling hot. Protect yourself by proactively using, and reapplying every two hours, sunscreen. Jackson-based Trilipiderm makes All-Body Moisture Retention Creme with broad spectrum SPF 30. $39.95 for eight ounces

Stiffness from Sitting in a Car

Whether you’re peeping thermal features in Yellowstone, cruising back roads seeking a glimpse of a griz, or heading to one of Grand Teton National Park’s iconic vistas to catch the sunset, sitting in a car isn’t easy. When you get out to walk around the Upper Geyser Basin, you might feel stiff. Chiropractor Dr. Laura Petersen Wright of JH Backcountry Health recommends a series of stretches to keep you feeling flexy. “First thing to stretch is your hip flexors; they are in a shortened position and get tight when sitting,” she says. “Lunges are a great way to get them.” She also suggests a simple hamstring stretch: Keeping your legs straight, reach down and touch your toes. To maximize the stretch, keep your back as flat as you can. Finally, show your calf muscles some love. An easy, gentle stretch is to place your toes (while keeping your heel on the ground) on any immobile vertical surface, like a stair riser, or even a concrete curb.JH 

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