We all know that dogs are a man’s best friend. Well now dogs can be a skier’s best friend. And they might even save your life.
Many resorts in Northern California have a team of ski patrol dogs who are highly trained to find and rescue people in the rare case of an inbound avalanche. The dogs use their speed, agility and sense of smell to find and rescue people buried in snow faster than any team of humans. In fact, it is said that one dog and its handler can do the job of 150 trained human searchers in the same amount of time.
These dogs are not only hand-picked by their trainers, they also must undergo rigorous training exercises to stay in tip-top in case of an emergency. Heavenly ski patroller Colton Terry identifies the top five characteristics of a good avalanche rescue dog:
- Good prey drive, which is their desire and drive to locate a victim.
- Good victim loyalty, which will help them to better identify a victims location. With good victim loyalty, they will not leave the area until the handler comes and investigates what they have found. It helps eliminate false indications.
- High energy is a plus. This gives them the ability to search for extended periods of time.
- Obedience. Professional rescues are very serious and involve a lot of distractions and people. The dog needs to stay focused on the task at hand.
- Good physical condition. Avalanche rescue can be very demanding on a dog and requires good physical fitness and agility.This would cover general health, which would include a good sense of smell.
In the past, these dogs were kept hidden behind the scenes, but today the resorts are giving them a public persona. Let’s meet ski patrol dogs of Northern California:
Squaw Valley Resort
Squaw Valley probably boasts the largest team of ski patrol dogs in the area, and rightfully so. With the large, robust terrain of backcountry mountain at Squaw, it would be safe to assume that it would have a higher risk of inbound avalanches compared to other resorts.
Enter the all-star group of four-legged ski patrol:
These mutts are highly trained and ready to save some lives! For more info go to squawdogs.com.
Heavenly’s ski patrol dogs have become a cult following among Tahoe locals. It’s no surprise that Heavenly found maybe the best looking dogs for their team. While any avalanche trouble at this resort would be extremely rare, it is always good to have these mutts on your team.
Learn about their training regimen with Truckee the dog:
While having these dogs around the resort are a lot of fun, just know that they take their jobs extremely seriously. Take a look at just how fast they rescue someone in a training exercise:
While we love having these awesome dogs around our ski areas, let’s not forget they play a crucial role in the ski patrols at these resorts. Last season, they helped find a buried ski instructor just outside the boundary of the resort.
While none of the dogs or the terrain on which they patrol are the same, handlers use the same tactics with their dogs to keep them trained and ready for action.
These really are some awesome dogs and for many reasons, we’re happy to have them on the hill with us!