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Fit Bits: Optimize Your Ski Vacation

Three health tips for making the most of your ski getaway.

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Sleep On It

If you skimp on sleep while on a ski vacation, you can increase your chances of having an accident, according to Dr. Bob Ballard, director of the Sleep Disorder Center at the National Jewish Medical and Research Center in Denver, Colo. “Ski injuries occur when skiers are fatigued,” he explains. “Muscles don’t work as quickly, and the body can’t react as fast.”

So, when traveling across different time zones, try setting your circadian clock a few days before your trip to ease the adjustment period. While on the plane, do your best to stay awake. At your destination, avoid heavy meals and alcohol late in the evening, along with over-the-counter sleep aids. Finally, read a book and drink a glass of warm milk or chamomile tea before bed, even if you’ve been out partying.

Breathe Easy

Forget keeping the doctor away. There’s now a better reason to down a granny smith a day: It may help you last longer on the slopes. Based on a study of 2,500 middle-aged men in Wales, researchers concluded that eating apples may help your lungs work better. The reason is unclear, but researchers speculate that the antioxidants in apples may act as a breathing aid. Antioxidants¿which include vitamins C and E, as well as the flavonoid quercetin found in apples¿counteract free radicals in the body. Free radicals cause oxidation, or cell damage, which can lead to health problems such as lung cancer and heart disease.

Prefer your apples in liquid form? You may get some of the same benefits because apple juice is also high in quercetin. Now if they could just find a veggie that improves your bump technique. 

Kiss Dry Goodbye

Like liftlines and icy roads, dry, itchy skin is a common winter phenomenon we’d rather avoid. The culprit of “winter itch” is low humidity, which keeps the skin from taking in enough moisture, says Robert R. Walther, M.D., clinical professor and vice chair of dermatology at the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons in New York City.

Because this type of dry skin is due to lack of water, not oil, it’s important to stay well hydrated and apply an oil-free moisturizer twice a day. Walther recommends the “three-minute rule”: applying an oil-free lotion within three minutes of bathing to trap water in the skin before it evaporates.

Also, avoid extreme hot and cold temperatures, and protect your skin from the wind and sun. The key is to prevent winter itch before it starts, because if your skin starts to resemble an alligator’s, you may need to forgo some prime skier comforts-such as the Jacuzzi, hot showers and sitting in front of the fireplace-that can exacerbate the problem.