By Matt Hansen
Hydration ain't sexy, although I did meet my fiancé in part because of how impressed she was after I took down a shot-ski next to a huge bonfire. Then again, shooting a whiskey tumbler beside a roaring flame is a bit different than making sure you don't bonk at the top of a skin track.
With apologies to an old friend of mine who claims that "you can't get dehydrated if you're drinking beer," H2O or some variation thereof is healthiest for traveling through the high mountains. Sweaty bonfires, however, are another matter.
The problem many of us have as skiers is that keeping properly hydrated seems difficult, almost a hassle or a chore. You bury a Nalgene in your pack. Your bladder freezes or, worse, it bursts. Better to save up your thirst for the bar, right? Complicating matters is that at cold and high elevations, the body tricks you into thinking you're not thirsty, further reducing your desire to hydrate, and thus making you susceptible to further sucking on the downhill, which deteriorates relationships, which in turn reduces your chance of getting laid. So if you really think about it, hydration actually is sexy.
Earlier this winter I went for a ski tour in Grand Teton National Park. One of the classics in western Wyoming, the tour climbs nearly 4,000 vertical feet through glades of mature Douglas fir and spruce. The temperature in the parking lot was two degrees, and it didn't get much warmer on the three-hour skin up the mountain. In my pack I had a plain old water bottle with plain old tap water. Everything was so cold—my lips, the bottle, the water—that I nearly choked even while taking small sips.
The next day, my ski partners and I returned for a different tour just to the south. Trailhead temperature: seven degrees. A Jackson Hole heat wave.
This time in my pack I had a thermos, a 16-ounce Stanley model called the Nineteen13, with hot apple cider from the Republic of Tea. (People give me a lot of shit for drinking hot tea in the mountains. Then I give them a sip, and the response almost always goes like this: "Damn that's good.") To increase the tea's drinkability, I fill three-fourths of the thermos with boiling water, and the rest with tap water. That way I can gulp it.
If you're not down with tea, try Nuun tablets. Pronounced "noon," these portable hydration tablets (they look like an Airborne and dissolve similarly) replenish your body with electrolytes without all the sugars of a Gatorade or other sport drinks. You get 12 tablets in one tube, and they are sold in four tubes per pack. Available in a variety of flavors, they are easy to drink either warm or cold. Marathoners are crazy about them, for good reason.
But back to the thermos. You probably recall your parents breaking out the big green thermos for camping trips. That would be the iconic vacuum bottle, invented by William Stanley in 1913. Stanley changed the way people insulated hot fluids by using steel instead of glass in a vacuum-sealed container, and the tradition continues. The 16-ounce thermos I use is part of the brand's "Utility" collection, which is part of Stanley's recent push to modernize how people drink by offering various personalized, easy-to-carry products. The thermos costs $28, fits easily in my pack, and is virtually indestructible.
Sexy or not, cold bodies find it tough to resist at the top of wind-swept summit. And it makes going down that much easier.
Stanley Nineteen13 16-ounce Vacuum Bottle
MSRP: $24 (four tubes)