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Bridger and his handler, Kyle at Solitude Mountain Resort photo credit: Heidi Gilbert

Utah skiers are fortunate to have a well developed Avalanche rescue dog program. WBR, a 501c3 nonprofit is an organization comprised of dog teams and medically trained rescue personell at all of the major ski areas in the wasatch. Click here to learn more about the organization:WBR

Resorts that have dogs:Edit

  • Alta
  • Snowbird
  • Solitude
  • Brighton
  • Park City 
  • Canyons
  • Snowbasin 
  • Deer Valley
  • Sundance
  • UDOT also has a dog in training 

Each resort has between 2-6 dogs that range in experience from uncertified pups in training to the older stars of the wasatch that have been certified every other year for searching and every year for obedience under rigourous guidelines.

A Typical Day in the Life of an Avy Dog:Edit

While some resorts own the dogs (All of snowbird's dogs and one of Solitude's), each dog has a dedicated handler that takes care of them day in and day out. A typical day for a dog includes a routine similar to the one listed here:

  • Wake up and head to work with its handler
  • Hang out while the patrol has its morning meeting
  • Run around with the other dogs for a few minutes and then loads the lift with its handler to head to assigned spots on the hill
  • Sits in a kennel, usually at the top of the mountain for best access, and waits for the call
  • There are many drills a dog will do to practice on days that aren't busy. This includes obedience, searching for scented articles of clothing, and even searching out buried patrollers or volunteers from the snow. Training is imperitive for keeping a dog ready for an avalanche
  • At the end of the day, the dog will head down the hill with its handler. On flatter terrain, the dog may be able to run alongside, but on steeper or icy terrain, a dog is carried or rides in a sled in order to preserve their joints 
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    Bridger gets a ride down at the end of the day in a sled

  • The end of the day is the best time for an avy dog. There are usually kids mobbing them with affection at the base of the mountain and maybe a sip or two of beer waiting for them in the locker room
  • Dogs go home with their owners and live a fairly normal dog's life off the mountain

Training and Certification:Edit

An Avalanche dog begins training as soon as they are picked from the litter. Puppies often work on obedience, hide and go seek in open areas, and familiarization with helicopters, snowmobiles, and lifts. After they're about a year old, dogs begin searching for scented articles sitting out, chasing people with food or toys into uncovered holes in the snow, and more advanced obdience. Typically, a dog will certify around two years of age, which requires very good obedience, digging out people from holes in the snow, and finding articles buried under the snow. There are varied levels of certifications for a dog, but ultimately a handler will want there dog certified as an  "A" dog. Here, rescue levels, WBR describes the levels of certification.  A dog at this highest level not only will pass obedience training including an extended stay of two minutes in sight of its handler and three minutes out of sight, but will be able to confidently clear an area in twenty minutes. The handler and dog do not know how many articles or people are buried in this area, so it's a very challenging search, but replicates a real avalanche scenario well. 

Find out about skiing in the wasatch on this page, Skiing in Salt Lake City