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Frostbite toe- skiing questions.

post #1 of 9
Thread Starter 

So I had a pretty bad experience yesterday getting stuck in 4-5 feet of upside down snow, and basically spending 2+ hours in around 4* air temps trailbreaking my way back, detailed in this post. By the time I got out, I was very cold, very worn out, and very much hurting.


On the ride home, my toe started throbbing. I took my shoe and sock off and found about a dime-size patch of frostbite on the tip of my big toe. I warmed it with my hands for the rest of the trip home, then got it into a bath where I could expose it to warm water and slowly bring the temperature up until it was hot over about 1 1/2 hours.


Last night it still throbbed a bit, this morning it feels fine, no pain, slight tenderness. but has reduced sensitivity.


This is my first ever experience with frostbite. I'm familiar with the normal steps you take to treat the area and think I did so properly, but I don't want to end up with a bunch of necrotic tissue from being stupid.


If I ski next Saturday, is that enough recovery time assuming that the toe continues to feel ok until then?


Should I take any special precautions?


I don't feel I typically have a problem with cold feet in ski boots, but my feet spent several hours buried 4-5 feet deep in snowpack on a 4* day...

post #2 of 9

Looks as if no one has responded to your post yet, Anachronism. How are you doing? It is really hard to comment without looking at your foot, and none of us wants to be responsible for saying the wrong thing and then your end up with longer-term problems. My usual advice is that when in doubt, see a medical professional just to have it looked at (but then, I am a medical professional, so that is what I would say!). Which is easier said than done when medical care can cost so much even for a simple problem.


That's good that you are thinking about being gentle to it while it is healing. Trust your gut instinct and take care of it. I think that I slightly frostbit one toe a bit while in college and it always seemed to have decreased sensitivity over the years, but never looked any different. Nerves will often regenerate over time, depending on the extent of the damage and reason for damage.


But toes are pretty important, so keep an eye on it.


Sorry that that happened to you. But glad that you otherwise made it out okay. It sounds as if you used common sense first aid treatment - good job!



post #3 of 9

I think it depends on how serious your injury was?  Did you toe turn black? Was the spot white when you first saw it? I had a serious frostbite injury.  My toes were black, then various shades of yellow and purple. I lost a lot of skin and other tissue off my big toes. I was off my feet for 3 days and couldn't ski for 6 weeks.

One thing that happens is that the cappillaries in your toes can be destroyed. They don't regenerate very well, so circulation is always compromised a little.  One way to check if you are healed sufficiently is to squeeze the injured spot.  When you release the pressure the spot will be white.  If it turns pink right away, you should be OK.  If it stays white for a long time, be careful.

Good luck.  It's still early, and there's still time to have a good season.



post #4 of 9
Thread Starter 

Thanks for the replies.


On Sunday, it was deep purple under the skin, numb, and firm with a waxy feel to it.


It didn't hurt after the first night, no black spots, no blisters. Still reduced sensitivity.


I tried the squeeze test and it took several second for the color to come back, much longer than the other toe.


It should be much warmer and not a day of 5 feet of snow, so I am leaning towards taking care to keep it warm but otherwise not worrying about it.

post #5 of 9
Thread Starter 

I've had a lot of ski days since this post. No further problems, although I make sure that I take a break and warm the boots up the instant I get any cold feeling in my toes.


Most of the sensitivity has come back (but not all), and the capillary action seems to be improving.

post #6 of 9

Good for you, anachronism! Thanks for the update. Keep enjoying the snow!


post #7 of 9

My guess from the discription is you never had frostbite.  Just a well bruised  and cold toe.


Not saying that is any better but common for people to think they have frost bite when you get cold feet.  By the response and the symptoms when it happened I'd bet it was simple a badly bruised and cold toe.


All this tells me it was not frostbite, "Last night it still throbbed a bit, this morning it feels fine, no pain, slight tenderness. but has reduced sensitivity.

On Sunday, it was deep purple under the skin, numb, and firm with a waxy feel to it.

It didn't hurt after the first night, no black spots, no blisters. Still reduced sensitivity."


No blister and no pain the next day.  Aint frostbite.


Ya wanted help your feet stay warm?  ..try punching your boot out in front of that more bruising and you'd be amazing at how fast your nerves come back  to life if you stop pounding them every time you put on a pair of ski boots :)

post #8 of 9
Thread Starter 

I appreciate the response, but I am 99% sure it was frostbite. Numbness/bruising would not explain the nerve damage (still there to a small extent) or the loss of capillary action several weeks afterwards.


Definitely not a severe case, thank god. No blisters but the outer layer of skin flaked off afterwards.


You do bring up a point- I replaced my liners this season and they are nice and snug- which means colder feet than I am used to.  The toe that got it I could just barely wiggle in the boot.  That definitely contributed, but it was not a bruise.

post #9 of 9

No argument from me either way.  Just an educated observation based on your comments.  Just glad it wasn't any worse and you are doing better.


FWIW I do a lot of cold weather climbing and skiing. Decades as a guide and instructor in some of the coldest places in the world.   I've seen frostbite.


I've also seen a lot more of nerve damage that people think is frost bite in cold weather.  It's not frost bite when  you have little or no recovery time.   But it is either immersion foot or simply bruised feet from getting pounded while front pointing in crampons or tight ski boots.


Neither are a good thing.  And you do want to worry about the casue and end results.


"It didn't hurt after the first night, no black spots, no blisters. Still reduced sensitivity."


Trust me even a mild case of frostbite hurts like a bitch the next day and then some. Not soemthing you'd put back in a ski boot for while.   Frost bite by definition is frozen tissue.


There are several classifications for tissue damage caused by extreme cold including:

  • Frost nip is a superficial cooling of tissues without cellular destruction.[1]
  • Chilblains are superficial ulcers of the skin that occur when a predisposed individual is repeatedly exposed to cold
  • Frostbite involves tissue destruction
  • .

At worst you had "frost nip" by definition.  But I would even doubt that  definition in your case.


Frost bite kills the tissue just as a hot poker would if it was applied to your skin.  If it didn't

hurt the next day I can guarantee you it wasn't frost bite.  Think hot poker here...on how long the pain would last. 


The nerve damage is very indicative of a boot bruise when you have cold feet.  Cold feet are easier to damage bucasue you aren;t as sensitive to the wrong feelings.  Also common tos loose some skin from a bruised toe.  Very, very common to do something similar in climbing boots front pointing hard ice and have nerve damage and cold sensitivity for literally years as the end result .


Knowing the difference on what actually did happen might help keep it from happening again to you or others.  Easy for all of us to confuse what is really going on and why, when it comes to cold feet.


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