As the ski season is coming to an end I thought I would share my experience of skiing with insulin pumps. Having always skiied, without even considering my diabetes, I feel I enjoy my ski first and control my diabetes around that. I have spent a ski season working in a French resort where we skiied both on and off piste. However this isn’t a resume of my ski prowess…. I’m writing this blog to encourage you to take your diabetes skiing.
The first thing I take into account is the affect that temperature has on my blood sugar, on my insulin pump, my meter and my food. I store my insulin pump in my bra to keep it warm and easily accessible. If it’s not in my bra it is definitely underneath my thermals somewhere! Next I keep my meter in an inside pocket so it doesn’t get cold and not work, I keep a disposable hand warmer in that pocket too for extra safety. Although if your meter is too cold I have found that putting it under my armpit warms it up rather quickly. After that I take an ample amount of food on the mountain with me. I like torq gels, fudge bars and star-burst to allow me to quickly snack on a lift. Moreover temperature doesn’t seem to make those food items inedible! In addition to carrying extras I use High5 powder in my drink so that I can dribble in sugar throughout my ski. Simply using a camelback rucksac allows me to do this. I usually mix 30g of carbohydrate into 1.5 litres of water and take that much skiing with me.
I know that the harder I ski, the more energy I burn. I know that everyone needs to reduce their basal by different amounts. I find that a 60% reduction in the morning and a 40% reduction in the afternoon followed by a 30% reduction over night works the car for me. I reduce more in the morning as I find when I get hot my blood sugar drops, therefore putting on my equipment and taking lifts up the mountain can cause hypos. I reduce over night as I know that my glycogen stores will be replenishing and I am more likely to hypo post exercise that involves intense muscle usage!
This year while skiing I used the FreeStyle Libre to help me identify trends and patterns. This ensured that I was able to act before drops / rises occurred. I simply scanned in the lift queues.
Mountain lunches seem to be quite carbohydrate heavy and I do treat myself to a hot chocolate therefore my afternoon reduction is smaller. I bolus as usual for my lunch.
Some people have previously expressed concerns about altitude or cold and their insulin pump. I find I need to check more for air bubbles at altitude. Finally… Always ensure you take spares on holiday with you. Spare cannulas especially! The number of times I have ripped a cannula off removing my multiple layers is unreal!