When seconds count, these noses are your best chance for survival…and they are cute as heck!
As more people venture into side and backcountry terrain on skis, snowboards and snowmobiles, the chances of encountering an avalanche rise. Additionally, while more rare, they occur within resort boundaries as well. Your chance of survival is about 90-percent if found within 15 minutes, but that drops to 30-percent after 35 minutes.
Avalanche dogs have added speed and efficiency to searches since the 1930s. A dog’s sense of smell overpowers a human’s. By sniffing for “pools” of human scent, a trained avalanche dog can search a one-hectare area in 30 minutes. It would require four hours and 20 humans to search the same area. In simpler terms, a dog can search an area in an eighth of the time a human can. Additionally, avalanche dogs can locate victims buried 30-inches (or more) under the snow. This level of speed and efficiency makes avalanche dogs more than a cute face and wet nose—they save lives.
To become an avalanche dog requires aptitude and good temperament. Once identified as having potential, dogs begin training at around 18 months of age. The training lasts at least two years. Most are Labrador Retrievers, German Shepherds or Golden Retrievers or a mix of those breeds. Other herding breeds are common as well.
Knowing there was a lot of cuteness protecting people across the US and Canada, we put out a call for pictures of these four-legged “heroes of the slopes.” What poured in was cuteness overload.
If you’re lucky enough to meet one of these sweeties on the slopes, or any other working dog, please respect that there are guidelines for interacting with them:
- No petting (unless invited to do so). Search and rescue dogs need to focus on their work without distraction.
- No feeding. Like athletes, rescue dogs have set diets. An upset tummy, thanks to a treat, could mean sitting out a rescue.
- Be careful with your skis. The sharp edges of your skis could slice an unprotected paw, so stay clear.
Hopefully, you will only meet an avalanche dog on safe terrain, but if you ever do need help, these trained noses could make the difference between life and death. Chances are, there is a rescue team near your home mountain. For now, I’ll introduce you to a few heroes and their dedicated handlers:
1. Rio at Arapahoe Basin
2. Homewood Mountain Resort
View Homewood lift tickets.
3. Homer at Horseshoe Resort
4. Atlas at Mammoth Mountain
View Mammoth lift tickets.
5. Murphy at Squaw Valley
6. Stash at Snowbasin
7. Trailer at Snowbird
View Snowbird lift tickets.