Diabetes Blogs

Hitting the Slopes with Type 1: The Nystrom's Share Their Top 10 Tips

In January I got the chance to leave the man-made hills of Minnesota and head to Colorado and Utah for some real ski mountains.

My brother Will, who also has type 1 diabetes, hosted me in his adopted home state of  Colorado. He’s had T1D for 22 years and has managed his blood sugar the old-fashioned way—with multiple daily injections (aka MDI). I prefer using technology to aid my diabetes management and have used an insulin pump for more than a decade—since I was 16.

If you're hitting the slopes this winter, here's what we've learned over the years about blood sugar, cold temperatures and exercise. We are not medical professionals but you may benefit from our practical advice.  

Will’s Top Tips: Making Injections Work on the Slopes


Quinn Nystrom and her brother Will skiing in ColoradoWill manages his type 1 diabetes with injections. To keep his insulin pens from freezing, he stores them close to his body deep in his ski jacket.

  1. Before he leaves for the mountain in the morning, Will targets his blood sugar to be at 190-200 mg/dL.
  2. For breakfast, he subtracts a couple units of his short-acting insulin since he knows how active he’s going to be. (If he's skiing a full weekend, Will decrease his 24-hour long-acting insulin dose.) 
  3. He makes sure that he’s wearing his Dexcom G6 and Apple watch so that he’s constantly monitoring his blood sugars. 
  4. If his blood sugar goes to 130 mg/dL, Will's go-to is a Welch’s Fruit Snack. He eats one as many times that day as he needs to in order to keep his blood sugar steady. 
  5. Will keeps his insulin pens in the inside pocket of his jacket to make sure that they stay warm again his body while skiing. 

Quinn’s Tips for Skiing While Wearing an Insulin Pump


Quinn Nystrom on a Ski LiftI've been skiing since I was a kid and have always loved the fresh powder and big mountains in Colorado where my brother lives now. Having diabetes doesn't mean you have to give up the things you love but you may need to develop a "ski plan" for the day.

  1. When I wake up in the morning, I decrease my basal rate by 50%. I keep there all day for as long as I'm skiing. I find that with all the exercise of downhill skiing, my blood sugar tends to go low. 
  2. For breakfast I try to eat more carbohydrates then I would on a typical day and I make sure to include some fat and protein in my morning meal as this can help guard against going high and then shooting low. 
  3. Make sure you know where your insulin is! I either leave it in the hotel room, or else I call ahead to the ski resort and ask if they have lockers that are indoors to rent. If they do, I bring my insulin and put it in there for the day. Remember, you don’t want your insulin to ever be exposed to low temperatures, because it will go bad. 
  4. Like Will, I also always make sure I’m wearing my Dexcom G6 and Apple watch so I can be monitoring my blood sugars. With the altitude I often can’t feel if I’m high or low. 
  5. Instead of fruit snacks, I prefer Transcend Gel Packs as my low snack. I pack a couple of those in my pocket (they’re easy to pack and never freeze). If I drop below 95, I eat one gel packet.

Make sure that you talk with your endocrinologist and/or your diabetes nurse educator before making any adjustments to your regular insulin doses.

These are the things that Will and I have found to be helpful when we’re hitting the slopes, but every person varies. Just know that because of the activity level there will probably have to be a “ski plan”, but that shouldn’t stop you from getting out and enjoying the beautiful mountains. 

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