My father and I have an arrangement for our mountain vacations: He gambles and I cross-country ski. Unfortunately, this time we picked a week of record snowfall in which to pursue our passions. After three miserable snowbound days, we busted out — he went to the casino; I went to ski the backcountry near Lake Tahoe. —Shoshanna B.
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Dr. Gus Benner is Sierra Club Outings' medical adviser.
"Shoshanna's priority should've been to get back to civilization. Alcohol makes you feel warm, but in bringing more blood to the surface, it increases heat loss and your risk of hypothermia, and it may also impair judgment and physical performance. The longer skin stays cold, the worse the frostbite will be. Don't try to rewarm the skin in the wilderness if there's any chance it might freeze again. Also, don't try warming via physical abrasion or by rubbing skin with snow: The fastest way is immersion in warm—not hot!—water, up to 104 degrees."
Illustrations by Koren Shadmi