The short answer: Anyone.
You wedge an opening in your schedule to make a ski getaway and come to Tahoe, leaving the Bay Area or Sacramento early in the morning. The slopes have awesome snow, and you hit them hard that first day, maybe a bit too hard. That night, as you are about to fall into the sack, you start to feel sick and you wonder if it was your over-exertion or your celebratory beer or wine.
Probably, it was neither. It was altitude.
Altitude sickness can hit anyone, even people in very good shape. Typically, it strikes when you live near sea level and go up to 8000 feet or more. While most of the lodgings in Tahoe are below 7500 feet, much of the skiing and boarding is above 8000 feet. For example, if you go Heavenly, Tahoe's highest area, and ride the upper mountain on either the California or Nevada side, you will spend much of your day above 9000 feet. At Kirkwood or Mt. Rose, it's also possible to spend much of your day above 9000 feet.
A body has a strong reaction to being deprived of oxygen. The reaction can even be dangerous. Altitude sickness will initially manifest as a major headache. I don't want to scare you, but if it progresses to nausea and vomiting, you may be at risk for pulmonary edema or cerebral edema. It's time to get down to lower altitude fast! Seriously. Otherwise, you could suffer a cascade of events that lead to coma and death. A drop of 2000 feet or more will make a big difference. If altitude sickness strikes in Tahoe, taking an hour to drive down to Reno or Carson City (both around 4500 feet) can make you feel much better and can even save your life. Even if you only go down for a few hours, it can revitalize your brain and body. (Of course, if you are really sick, seek medical attention.)
Why does does altitude sickness happen and how can you prevent it? Tune in next week...