Bert & Stella: An Avalanche Dog Team

bert-stella-2 (bert-stella-2)Bert & Stella

Much effort goes into developing a dog team.  A dog team consists of a dog handler, their dog and a second handler/shoveler.  Before a patroller becomes a dog handler, they will have dug many ‘dog holes’ and been buried in them during the course of training other dogs.  During this period the prospective handler learns a great deal about how the program is structured as well as how an avalanche dog is trained.  The prospective handler is also pretty good at digging snow caves and used to the feeling of being buried.  All of Park City Mountain Resort’s dogs train under the guidelines of Wasatch Backcountry Rescue (WBR).  There are three levels to the WBR program:  Level C Candidate Rescue Dog, Level B Ski Area Operational Dog, Level A Backcountry Avalanche Search and Rescue Dog.

Park City Mountain Resort normally has five dogs in the program.  The dogs vary in experience, the goal being to always have at-least a couple of Level A dogs.  At this time the PCMR dog line-up is as follows:

belle-star (belle-star)
Belle Starr (10 year, female, golden retriever), who has faithfully served the program for 10 years and is nearing her retirement. 

There are four current Level A dogs:

zeke-2010-evac (zeke-2010-evac)
Zeke (4 year, male, yellow lab)

kenai-3 (kenai-3)
Kenai (9 year, female, golden retriever mix)

bert-stella (bert-stella)
Stella (3 year, female, pointer mix) 

zoe-2 (zoe-2)
Zoe (8 year, female, black lab) 

tremper (tremper)
Last season, a new puppy, Tremper (10 month, male, golden retriever) began his mountain orientation.  Tremper is progressing very well in his training this season.

At-least one dog is on duty at PCMR when the mountain is open to public.  The dogs are trained to work together if necessary.  The Level A dogs are also available to assist in a rescue at our neighboring resorts as well as work in the backcountry at the Sheriff’s request.

Being able to work at a venue such as PCMR is truly a rewarding experience.  Being able to report to that job with a companion and co-worker like Stella is a life changing experience.  We both look forward to saying hello when you see us out on the mountain.