Navigating the Mountain as a Dog Team

Stella on a chairlift (maziarz-3759)
Stella on a chairlift. p. Mark Maziarz,

A patroller who is part of a dog team is still expected to perform all the functions of regular patrol duty.  Therefore, the dog handler must be able to navigate the entire mountain with their dog.

Tremper and Andrew on a snowmobile (trember-snowmobile)Tremper and Andrew on a snowmobile

All the dogs are proficient at transporting via chairlifts, snowmobiles, snow cats and helicopters.  As much as the dogs love to run, the handler must balance the need for full energy available at a search site.  Often, the most appropriate method of transporting the dog is to have the handler carry the dog as they ski.  Carrying 60 pounds of high energy dog and a backpack full of rescue gear can be very challenging.

Bert carrying Stella as he skis (maziarz-3747)
Mark Maziarz,

Of all the methods of transportation, the dogs seem to like the helicopter the best.  Often we will run the dog through a drill immediately after the ride.  Then it is most likely that the dog associates the helicopter ride with one of their favorite games.  The purpose of having the dogs familiar with a helicopter ride is that a helicopter would be the most likely mode of transportation if the dog were to be dispatched to the backcountry at the request of the Sheriff.

Stella in a helicopter (stella-w-airmed)
Stella in a helicopter

If you should ever approach one of the avalanche dogs out on the mountain, please be aware that ski or snowboard edges are very sharp and can easily cut the dogs legs.  Let the handler know from a safe distance that you want to approach, then follow their instruction.  Stella and I look forward to saying hello when you see us out on the mountain.

Zeke and Andy showing the correct and incorrect way to approach a dog on the mountain.


zeke-incorrect (zeke-incorrect)


zeke-correct (zeke-correct)