Avalanche Dogs Play Vital Role in Ski Resort Rescues

This winter has already seen the highest number of deadly avalanche accidents in 20 years, so it stands to reason that ski resorts across the country are ramping up their search and rescue capabilities. 

At Telluride Mountain Resort, the ski patrol’s team of avalanche dogs are a vital part of their front line rescue efforts. 

The team Telluride Avalanche Dogs were recently featured in a GoPro video, showing how they go about training the dogs and just what it takes to make a rescue. The resort maintains five avalanche rescue dogs, which really love what they do. 

“Going to work is her favorite thing,” said Kim Richards about 5-year-old Lady Bee. “Summers are okay for her but coming to work in the morning is the best thing. She gets really excited about it and knows that it’s just kind of what she does.”

Program director Gary Richards said the dogs scream and yelp they get so excited to train.  

“It’s embarrassing sometimes,” he said. “But they are just communicating that’s how we feel on a powder day when we say yahoo.”

To train the dogs, handlers use play toys the dogs can sniff out through the snow. Slowly they graduate to finding human beings.

“It’s really like a game for them,” Richards said. 

When it comes to ability, a dog can cover areas much faster than traditional probes. It takes a dog about 5-10 minutes to cover a football, which would traditionally take about 50 people with probes roughly an hour. 

It’s unclear how many dogs played a role in recent recoveries in the Northwest, but one recent rescue in the Himalayas of a man buried under snow for six days was credited to a canine.

Photo credit: Youtube