Can Skiing Cause Vertigo or Motion Sickness?

Can Skiing Cause Vertigo or Motion Sickness

Do you suffer from vertigo or motion sickness? You might wonder whether skiing on the slopes can trigger the symptoms of these illnesses and what to do to prevent them.

Vertigo is a sickness that makes people have the sensation that the world or the surrounding is spinning. 

It’s more than lightheadedness or dizziness, given that it can accompany symptoms like nausea, increased sweating, headache, ear buzzing, vomiting, and more.

If you suffer from Vertigo and hit the slopes, you might lose balance and hearing ability for a while. This can be dangerous, as it can harm you and other slope users.

When I started skiing as a teen, I always felt unsteady after riding for a few hours on the slopes, but I learned an effective way to prevent the sickening feeling.

With the help of other experienced skiers and friends, I overcame motion sickness by taking short breaks between ski runs and drinking plenty of water to prevent dehydration. 

Reading Timothy Gallwey’s book, Inner Skiing, was also beneficial as I learned how to relax and stay calm when skiing on the slopes.

If you are wondering whether skiing triggers Vertigo and motion sickness, I’ll show you how to ski without triggering these illnesses for enjoyable rides on the slope.

But before we get into that, let’s find out what Vertigo really means and what causes it. 

What Is Vertigo and What Causes It?

What Is Vertigo and What Causes It

Vertigo is an intense sensation that makes you see everything around you spinning. It also makes you feel like you’ve lost balance.   

Depending on what triggered it and its symptoms, the intense sensation or panic attack may last for a few seconds, minutes, or even hours. 

A common cause of Vertigo is benign paroxysmal positional Vertigo (BPPV), which creates a strong feeling of rapid spinning. It can happen when there is a prompt head movement or a loud blow to the head.

When you suddenly tilt your head, wobbly pieces of Calcium Carbonate crystals break down the lining of your inner ear, sending confusing and contradictory sensory information to the brain.

Other causes of Vertigo include migraine, vestibular nerve infection, ear infection, neck or head injury, and certain medications.

Most individuals who suffer from any form of motion sickness are also more susceptible to vertigo symptoms.

Can Skiing Make You Develop Ski Sickness or Vertigo?

Can Skiing Make You Develop Ski Sickness or Vertigo

Yes, some aspects of skiing can trigger ski sickness and panic attacks related to Vertigo. Here are the primary causes of Vertigo or ski sickness:

#1. Downhill Skiing

Down-hill skiing can result in ski sickness for many skiers, especially those who ride on steep slopes. 

Riding down a steep slope means you can pick up speed and have limited balance in your body weight.

Even so, research conducted by a Bern University Hospital professor reveals that individuals who already suffer from Vertigo or are highly sensitive to motion sickness are likely to get sick when skiing.

#2. Riding Chairlifts and Gondolas

Chairlifts and gondolas are fun and a great way to get from one ski slope or mountain to another without having to struggle on the snowy surface.

However, they can trigger ski sickness and cause vertigo symptoms to manifest since they take you high above the slope over steep sections that can terrify you.

#3. Looking Down a Steep Section on the Mountain

Looking down a steep slope when skiing on the mountain can make you develop ski sickness or Vertigo.

Steep terrains give some skiers the feeling that they might faint or lose control when skiing down. This also initiates anxiety and nausea.

#4. Reduced Visibility in a Whiteout

When skiing in a whiteout or in areas with low visibility, the white sky and the white ground confuse your brain, making you feel disoriented and dizzy.

The feeling may escalate and make you experience extreme ski sickness with vertigo symptoms like headache, nausea, and lightheadedness. You might even vomit or fall on the slope.

I have experienced ski sickness a few times in a whiteout, and there are times when my friends and I had to stop entirely for a while due to insufficient visual control and nausea. 

Luckily, the vertigo episodes only lasted for a few minutes, and we got better after the break. The vision problems also reduced as we went down the hill, and the sickness faded. 

All in all, it’s essential to keep in mind that psychological factors like fear of mountains, heights, and high speeds may contribute to ski sickness. 

Changes in air pressure in the ear can also worsen ski sickness when descending quickly from summits to low altitudes. 

Is It Possible to Ski without Triggering Vertigo or Ski Sickness?

Is It Possible to Ski without Triggering Vertigo or Ski Sickness

Well, there is no effective way to diminish ski sickness, as different skiers suffer differently and have their own triggers. 

However, you can reduce the likelihood of getting ski sickness or a panic attack on the slope in a few ways.

Use Drag Lifts Instead of Gondolas and Chairlifts

If riding a gondola or chair lift leaves you feeling dizzy, you should consider using a drag lift during your next skiing holiday. 

While you may not have access to drag lifts without using a gondola first in most ski areas, some smaller ski resorts use drag lifts only.

Riding a drag lift prevents you from being exposed to scary heights, reducing the chance of triggering Vertigo and any other special form of motion or ski sickness.

Nonetheless, if you must use a chair lift or gondola, you should avoid looking down or how the ski lift towers appear in the distance. 

Keep in mind that the sickening feeling will manifest when you look far and the gondola moves at high speed.

Avoid Steep Terrain

As mentioned earlier, steep terrains, like the ones found on advanced ski runs, can trigger Vertigo and the symptoms of ski sickness.

Shallow slopes may not give you the exact challenge you are looking for if you are an advanced skier, but they will save you from Häusler’s disease. 

If you feel that you might go steeper to get your riding thrill, I recommend starting with shallow slopes and working up as you become comfortable.

Ski in Rounded S Shapes

If you reach a steep area and don’t want to stop or have the symptoms of motion sickness produced, don’t look too far down the mountain.

Just keep riding down without overthinking and ski along a curved S-shaped while controlling your speed with full arc turns.

Ski with an Experienced Person

If you are scared of heights or prone to car and sea sickness, you shouldn’t go skiing alone as you might fall sick while out there.

It’s essential to go with an experienced person who understands you as they’ll offer the support you need should there be extreme cases on the slopes.

An experienced person will also be able to predict the weather conditions and give you confidence, knowing that you are not alone on the slopes.

How Do You Overcome Altitude Sickness?

How Do You Overcome Altitude Sickness

Altitude sickness happens due to inadequate oxygen content in the body and dehydration. If you want to take a ski trip to a high-altitude ski area and have never been on tall mountains, you might experience altitude sickness. 

Climbing a tall mountain quickly can trigger altitude sickness, even in individuals who are physically fit.

The most common symptoms of altitude sickness include intense dizziness, headache, nausea, and vomiting. 

But you should not confuse it with Vertigo or ski sickness since these can happen even in low-altitude areas. 

To overcome altitude sickness, you need to stop skiing and rest a bit, drink more water, and take some painkillers if the headache is severe. 

You should also avoid smoking or going up the mountain until you completely recover from the sickness. This may take about 24 to 48 hours. 

The best way to prevent altitude sickness is to climb the mountain slowly and bring enough water to keep you hydrated throughout your adventure.



Q: Can You Get Motion Sick from Skiing?

A: Yes, you can get motion sick from skiing. Ski sickness and vertigo symptoms are common on foggy days, when riding ski lifts, skiing on steep runs, and when one looks down steep terrains.

Flat light that occurs on the so-called white days can increase your chances of getting sick on the slope. 

You should avoid riding on a foggy day, as you may run into a bump or avalanche without seeing it. If you want to improve your vision on flat light days caused by extreme fog, you can invest in high-contrast ski goggles.

As you ski down the hill, atmospheric pressure changes, and if you are descending rapidly, the air pressure in your ear can suddenly change, resulting in sensory conflict. This will cause a headache, dizziness, or even nausea.

Q: Why Do I Feel Nauseous After Skiing?

A: You feel nauseous after skiing due to motion sickness. Skiing involves vigorous movements that can affect your inner ear, causing it to send confusing sensory feedback to the brain. 

Riding on steep slopes at high speeds can also result in altered somato sensory input that creates confusion between your vision, vestibular organs, and the somato sensory system, making you nauseous. 

Other factors that trigger nausea on the slopes include poor vision, taking short winding turns, riding on uneven ground, and looking down steep terrain. 

Q: Is Ski Sickness a Thing?

A: Yes, skiing sickness is a thing. Some beginner skiers usually get skiing when hitting the slopes with sickness involving anxiety, doubts, and nausea. 

Younger skiers, especially those under 16 years old, are likely to feel sick when learning to ski. They experience symptoms like motion sickness, nausea, headache, and even vomiting.

If you are a new skier or want to help your child overcome skiing sickness, there are ways in which you can treat or prevent the symptoms. 

This includes bringing motion sickness medicine like Dramamine and taking short breaks once in a while on the slopes. You can try resting a bit after finishing one run. 

Q: Should You Take Ski Boots off When You Feel Sick Skiing?

Yes, you should take your ski boots off when you feel sick on the slopes. Taking your skis and boots off will allow you to relax and rest a bit if you have any symptoms of Vertigo or ski sickness. 

Final Word

Final Word

Feelings of fear, doubt, and anxiety are common among beginner skiers, but some people may feel troubled and overwhelmed by the thought of riding on steep snowy slopes.

Fortunately, it’s possible for new skiers to overcome their fears and reduce the likelihood of having such feelings triggered while out there. 

As you become used to skiing on the slopes, your confidence will build up and allow you to build resilience and better skiing ability. 

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Picture of Lisa Hayden-Matthews

Lisa Hayden-Matthews

An avid Skier, bike rider, triathlon enthusiast, amateurish beach volleyball player and nature lover who has never lost a dare! I manage the overall Editorial section for the magazine here and occasionally chip in with my own nature photographs, when required.
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