If you have asthma, your very best bet is to steer clear of the ski slopes, since breathing in dry, cold air can be a strong trigger for symptoms. But if you can’t resist the thrill downhill or cross-country skiing provides, don’t despair. Many asthmatics do strap on their ski boots and skis with few ill effects. The key, though, is to prepare in advance and also be sure to have an emergency plan.

The Lure of the Slopes

Many people love to ski, and even those with asthma can do it safely if they are willing to proceed cautiously without taking any unnecessary risks. When you consider that skiing is an outdoor winter sport and that the cold, dry winter air can irritate your airways and cause your asthma symptoms to flare, you realize that this may not be the easiest sport to explore. But many serious athletes, including skiers, suffer from asthma and are able to manage the symptoms in what can often prove to be challenging conditions. Further, while downhill skiing causes you to breathe in a rush of cold air, it is actually cross-country skiing that pushes your lungs even more. So no matter which form you prefer, there will be some work involved in mastering the sport.

A Comprehensive Approach

The key to skiing well with asthma is to make sure your symptoms are well controlled before you even head out your door. Experts stress the importance of using your control medications on a regular basis to manage the condition to ensure the best results on the slopes. In addition, if you have a cold or other respiratory infection, it’s essential that you forego going out in the cold.

But if you feel great and are up for a day of skiing and fun, here are some tips to help you ensure the best results:


  • Always bring your rescue inhaler with you and make sure it is easy to grab in case you find yourself needing it suddenly.

  • Cover your mouth and nose with a ski mask or scarf to help avoiding breathing in air that’s extremely cold.

  • When your face is uncovered, try to breathe through your nose so the cold air will have a chance to warm before it hits your lungs.

  • Make the time to warm up your body in advance, and cool down afterwards, to minimize the strain on your body and your breathing.

  • Recognize your warning signs of an impending asthma attack and be sure not to push yourself too far.

  • Plan to build up your stamina if needed. Each time you go you may be able to accomplish a little more.

  • Be sure to follow your asthma management plan and be prepared so you’ll know exactly what to do in case you do feel your asthma flare.

Don’t Give Up

While skiing with asthma may not be easy, if you truly enjoy the sport, it is well worth all of the hard work. Many people with asthma have been able to overcome their symptoms and even compete in their favorite sports on the Olympic level. Further, a number asthmatic Olympians have even gone on to win gold medals, proving that this condition doesn’t have to stop you from achieving your goals.