Crystal Mountain’s Avalanche Rescue Dog Program has been active for nearly 30 years. Since it’s start, the professional ski patrollers at Crystal have trained search dogs as an additional resource during an avalanche response. The dogs are trained to find human scent coming from underneath the snow. Primary training and work occurs at Crystal, but at the height of their certification are available for backcountry responses anywhere in the Cascades. The Crystal Mountain Avalanche Rescue Dogs is a member of Back Country Avalanche Rescue K-9 (B.A.R.K) group, a collective of professional ski patrollers and avalanche rescue dogs. Other BARK members include Stevens Pass and Alpental, and are trained to work with local county SAR Sheriffs Deputies to respond to remote avalanche accidents. The dog teams consist of a skilled professional ski patroller and highly trained working dog who was raised training at Crystal. Over the last three decades, several generations of solid working dogs have played a key role in avalanche recovery.
We have four working dogs at Crystal: Kala, Piper, Darwin, and Iggy. Field Labradors are often ideal for this work, but you will also see other breeds with a strong work drive and are small enough to be carried into a remote site. These dogs are more than a mascot for the ski patrol and certainly are not carrying whisky around under their necks. They are highly trained working dogs, and like the ones you see out working as a service dog, or keeping our airports safe, please do not approach or distract the dogs when you see them on the hill.
What to do if you see an Avalanche Dog at Crystal
You might see one of the Avalanche Rescue Dogs while skiing at Crystal. Training is always happening with these dogs. Perhaps you will see them loading a lift, running next to their skiing handler, or working a search drill. It is important that you are respectful and help set the dogs up for success: please do not approach or distract the dogs by yelling or barking at the dogs, or calling the dog’s name. Distraction and skiing too close to the dogs is a major safety concern for the working team. Please give the dogs plenty of space and check your speed when skiing past a team. A ski edge to a dog’s leg from skiing too close or colliding with a dog can cause a cut that can result in a career ending injury.
How can I support the Avalanche Rescue Dogs?
The dogs at Crystal are part of Cascade Mountain Rescue Dogs (CMRD), a 501 (c) 3 that supports the training and care of rescue dogs who train to be ready to respond anywhere in Washington State.
One of our many fundraising methods is through seasonal dog shirts. Every year we offer a new design created in the partnership between our handlers and local artists. Our shirts can be found for purchase in the Aid Room at Ski Patrol.
We’d love to hear from you!