Okay, if you’ve never seen an avalanche dog demo before, I seriously highly recommend it. The whole experience was way too cool! It started with a little talk about the Solitude Mountain Ski Patrol and how they get the mountain ready, how they patrol the mountain, how they navigate and mitigate avalanche terrain, and what their daily responsibilities are. It was interesting to hear how much work they actually do because they do more than I thought!
The lead patroller discussed the types of dogs that are best used for avalanche rescue and how they get their dogs ready for training. They want to start no later than 7 weeks old – that was crazy! Then, it’s an intense training period for a number of months and years. This training includes the dogs sniffing out where a human could be buried under avalanche terrain, and training the dog to bark and mark the spot where they think the victim is. Then, the rescuer can probe for the victim and dig the victim out (maybe even with the help of the dog – they do like digging holes for bones, after all). These types of rescues are used when the victim may not be carrying a beacon – otherwise, an avalanche transceiver could be more beneficial!
Now, for the fun part! These were some cool photos to take. The dog quickly sniffed out the victims! And, since the victim wasn’t buried very deep, the dog dug out the snow to reveal the buried ski patrol guy – and the tug-of-war toy! The lead patroller told us that they don’t have a release word for the dog because they want the dog to have a sense of accomplishment for finding a victim. After all, when they’re in the field, it’s a matter of life or death and the buried people may only have 6-10 minutes to be found.
After the demonstration, there was time to ask the patrollers questions about avalanches, the dogs, their work, and anything else they could answer! If you have the opportunity to see an avalanche dog demonstration, I’d highly recommend it, even if you’re not into avalanche education. It was just way cool!! Here’s some information on the Solitude Avalanche Dog Demonstrations. There’s more at different resorts as well – check with them on their websites! There’s also an Avalanche Beacon Basics class taking place at Solitude on March 18th, 2022. Check it out if you’re interested in learning how to find victims!
That’s all from me for now. These recent blogs have been different than my usual hiking, informational-style blogs. What do you think about them? I’d love to hear feedback! I’m writing because I love this style of writing – it almost feels like a journal entry. I’ll get back to informational-style blogs and guides in the summer when hiking season ramps back up, but for now (and hopefully longer), it’s still ski season!
Next blog: Honeycomb Canyon. You ready?