The ski camper’s water problem is much the same as that of the Ancient Mariner, which caused him to lament, “Water, water everywhere, Nor any drop to drink…”
The need for water varies greatly. It averages about two quarts per day, but is more than doubled by excessive perspiration or by the extreme drying effect of air at high altitudes. Unless this physiological demand of the skier for water is fully satisfied, his efficiency and even his health may be impaired.
This does not mean that it is harmful to be thirsty. Since a gallon of water can be taken from the body without harm, a skier can travel a day without drinking, but at the end of the day the water should be replaced. Of course, if water can be obtained from normal sources during the day, it will save fuel required for melting snow, and, at supper time, will save space for more solid food. It should always be remembered that thirst is the best indication of need for water.
To this general rule there is one exception: when one is approaching exhaustion, thirst should not be satisfied. Under such circumstances a half cup of water each quarter hour should be the maximum allowed. Salt should be added freely if the skier has perspired excessively.
Snow may be eaten safely as a source of water, provided it is eaten slowly; otherwise the stomach will be chilled. It is best to allow the snow to melt in the mouth before swallowing. A fruit drop or piece of fruit candy adds both flavor and sugar and dissolving it in the mouth with snow while traveling is a popular habit among experienced ski tourers.
Full advantage should be taken of all open streams as a source of drinking water. If water is sipped slowly, a pint or even more may be drunk without ill effects except a temporary slowing of pace which continues until the stomach has had an opportunity to warm the water to body temperature. Since the ski mountaineer will consume about four million small calories of food a day, it will be seen that the very small number of calories required to warm the water may be disregarded. Hot tea, however, is naturally more pleasant.
Usually, open water holes are found in the center of deep pools and if the snow pack is thick, it is a long way down to the water. Water can, however, be easily secured by tying the cup or cook pot onto a ski or ski pole. Precautions should also be taken against slipping into the pool by breaking off an insecure snow lip. It is best for the “water boy” to stay on his skis and have the basket end of one of his ski poles held firmly by a companion. These simple precautions will decrease his chances of a cold bath.
The most convenient source of running water is a small waterfall, such as is found frequently on the side walls of canyons. The water runs free except in subzero weather, and even under such conditions a small free flow may be found under the ice glaze. The only way to find water is by paying attention so remain resourceful as you go.
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