A day in the life of a Colorado avalanche dog
COPPER MOUNTAIN — One of the most loyal members of the Copper Mountain ski patrol is a 4-year-old with big floppy ears, beautiful golden hair and a penchant for tumbling onto his back to roll around in the snow before work.
He’s a golden retriever named Mason, and he’s one of Copper’s five trained avalanche rescue dogs. Mason spends his days hanging out in the ski patrol’s on-mountain “duty stations,” listening to classic rock on Sirius XM with his co-workers — human and canine — until it’s time to practice his avalanche rescue skills. He’s a shameless camera hound, and when a visitor shows up, he doesn’t wait for an introduction. He immediately walks over and licks hands.
When his handler leaves the duty station to make a run on the mountain, Mason goes to a window to watch her put on her skis. When she skis off, he curls up on a chair and takes a nap. It’s a patrol dog’s life.
Mason enjoys practicing his skills because he thinks he playing, but it’s a very serious responsibility. Ski area patrollers spend a lot of time mitigating avalanche risk, so slides within area boundaries are extremely rare, but patrollers and their avalanche dogs are sometimes called into the backcountry by county sheriffs to assist on search and rescue missions.
That happened this week near Telluride, when two avalanche dogs and their handlers joined a search outside the ski area that eventually turned up the body of a local man, Colorado’s fifth avalanche fatality this winter.
Read the full story on The Denver Post website, click here.
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