Whether you’re a seasoned skier or an experienced diabetic you’ll know that the key to enjoying yourself is preparation, and out on the mountain preparation is key. Being diabetic means more preparation than for most when skiing, but nail this and nothing can stop you conquering those slopes!
But first, a bit about me. I’ve been lucky enough to ski almost every year since I was eight years old, I’ve skied all over Europe and would love to ski Canada soon – definitely one for my bucket list! So whilst I’m very confident out on the slopes and consider myself an experienced skier I have only been diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes for 6 months. Last year was my first ski trip with Diabetes and I learnt a lot. I was diagnosed in October 2016 and two months later I was on my way to Val Thorens to see how I could get my diabetes and skiing to play nicely. Skiing is so important to me that I was determined to make this work. There were ups and downs….. literally, but I have a much better idea of what I’ll do differently this year and can’t wait to get back out on the slopes!
What to bring
One of the main things that annoys me about Diabetes is having to bring all of your kit with you every time you leave the house. Wave goodbye to the days of leaving your house with just keys and a credit card, you’re part of team handbag now (what do the boys do??!). I try and make this as easy as possible for myself by having a pouch that contains: My blood glucose meter and test strips, lancet and spares, glucose tablets and glucogel. This way when I’m leaving the house I just put the pouch plus my insulin in my bag and I’m good to go.
You’ll need to have all of your equipment out on the slopes which means carrying a rucksack, bumbag (no shame, I’m so pro the #bumbaglyf) or having large and numerous pockets in your ski jacket. Doesn’t matter how the job gets done as long as it does, am-I-right?
1. Whatever you decide to use you will require your insulin. I’m on MDI (multiple daily injections) so I use pre-filled pens. I only ever carried one pen out on the slopes with me as I knew if there were any problems I could always ski down to the hotel and grab another one. I also didn’t want to risk having more that one pen up the mountain in case I fell and the pen broke or started leaking. Do what you feel comfortable with. If you are on a pump you may still want to bring a pen up with you in case of any pump malfunctions.
2. Meter and test strips. Bring lots of test strips as you may want to test a lot more than usual. As we know diabetes is affected by everything including temperature, altitude, food and exercise. Skiing tests all of these things so be prepared. When skiing I use the Accu-Chek Mobile meter which is great as it uses a cartridge of 50 test strips so you don’t need to worry about carrying separate test strips or disposing of used ones. They are on a conveyor belt and when you want to test you just slide the testing point open and apply a drop of blood. Once its given you your reading the strip is taken away and you can cover the testing point closed again. Nifty. This meter also has a built in lancing decide that contains a barrel of 6 lancets. This makes it easy to change your lancet at the click of a button and again means you don’t need to carry extra lancets up the mountain.
3. This next one isn’t essential but I found it invaluable, a CGM. This stands for continuous glucose monitor and there are several devices that do this. The two I have used are the freestyle libre and a Dexcom. The freestyle libre requires only two parts, the sensor and the reader. The sensor is stuck to your arm and a small filament is inserted just under the skin to read your blood glucose. These sensors stay on for two weeks and to read your blood glucose levels you place the reader next to the sensor and your blood glucose levels will appear on the screen. You can do this as many times as you like and the sensor also sends a reading to the reader every 5 minutes in order to create a graph that can be viewed on the reader or uploaded to the computer to examine at a later date. You can also input things like carbs and insulin and exercise into the reader.
The Dexcom system works in a similar way but has a slightly different interface and set up. It is comprised of three main parts. The sensor, the transmitter and the reader/mobile phone. The sensor is inserted and attached to your body for 7 days. (This is the recommended length from the manufacturer, however most people use their sensors for around 14 days but note this is a personal decision and not endorsed by Dexcom.) According to Dexcom the sensor should be placed in the abdomen/hip area. The transmitter is placed into your sensor and sends readings via bluetooth to your reader or iPhone (if using the G5 system) every 5 minutes. You don’t need to do anything other than look at your reader/iPhone to know your blood sugars at any given time. The main selling point of Dexcom is that you can see the ‘trend’ of your blood sugar, i.e. is it going up, going down or staying steady? You can also set alarms for low and high blood sugars meaning you can act to stop a hypo or high blood sugar from happening! The technology is life changing. You can also input carbs and insulin into your reader/phone and just like the libre this can be transferred onto the graph which you can look at on your computer.
I am going to do a more in depth post on the Freestyle Libre and Dexcom systems soon, this is just a quick overview. If you were going to get one just to ski with I would get the libre. It’s a bit less expensive than Dexcom and the most simple to start with. The libre also doesn’t require bluetooth like Dexcom so you can save your phone battery for all those gorgeous pictures you’ll be wanting to take. Libre also includes alcohol wipes in each sensor package so you have everything you need to get going!
4. My fave topic……SNACKS. You are going to need snacks and plenty of them. Nothing worse than being stuck in a cable car or on a chair lift freezing cold whilst having a horrendous hypo with no food. Don’t let that be you. I favour easy to eat sugar such as glucose tablets and gels. I’ve used haribos in the past but found they got cold and that makes them really hard to eat which isn’t ideal. If your sugar is low you do not want to be struggling to eat, you want to get that sugar in ASAP. I also always carry energy and protein bars. High carb for after hypos or for a snack if you’re being really active and a protein bar/low carb for when you’re hungry but your blood sugar is behaving. Lows are bad out on the slopes but you also don’t want to be really high as that can be just as unpleasant!
5. Extras. These are non-diabetes items but I still consider them essential, you have to carry a bag anyway so you may as well take advantage…
- Lipbalm and suncream (you can buy teeny tiny ski friendly bottles) as chapped lips and a burnt face ain’t the one.
- Tissues and hand sanitiser, no explanation necessary – mountain toilets can be great but why risk it?
- Ski pass and insurance – you have the option of getting insurance with your ski pass and I’m telling you to get it. Yes, it you’ll have to buy it and you may not use it but do you know what’s worse? Breaking your leg and being picked up by the man on the snow mobile, a.k.a the meat wagon. Who before taking you to a hospital takes you to an ATM so you can pay them more than you would have paid for the insurance. No thank you.
- I ski with goggles but it can be an idea to bring some sunglasses with you for your lunchtime
drinkingsunbathing sesh and if the sun suddenly comes out.
- Moneys. Even if you’re doing a budget trip always have some money on you, you never know when you’re going to need that emergency hot chocolate.
So that’s everything you’re going to need for a great time out on the slopes! Check out my next post for advice on managing your diabetes whilst skiing.
I’ll ski ya soon!