Dogs have been man’s best friend since they were domesticated some 40,000 years ago. Since then their role in society has been shaped by their loyalty and ability to work closely with their human owners. Dogs have been used in avalanche rescue situations since at least the early 1900’s. With their heightened sense of smell, tracking abilities and agility outdoing all human efforts they are some of the greatest rescue assistants.
Meet our avalanche rescue dogs who live and train with lucky members of our ski patrol team. They are a vital asset when there is an emergency situation on the mountain and have helped out on more than a few occasions.
(ski patrol assistant – Forest)
Like many avalanche dogs, Tarn started training to be able to find people in an avalanche situation at just 8 weeks old. Now 6 years old (turning 7 in January 2016) him and his human assistant Forest are daily companions. They ride the lift together in the morning, (occasionally mixing it up with a snowmobile instead) and ski down to the base at the end of the day. On a usual day at work for Tarn, there’s time for a little bit of play at the patrol shack at the top of the mountain although he’s always ready for a rescue mission if need be. Watch our Youtube video to learn more about the ski patrol program at Fernie and to see Tarn working and playing around on the mountain.
(ski patrol assistant – Steve)
Another one of our veteran avalanche rescue dogs, Neko – now 5 years old, has taken part in several rescues. Working closely with his human assistant Steve, they have over 35 years of combined search & rescue and ski patrol experience.
Neko is an extremely friendly and personable dog, here he is (below) teaching us about his job during our Avalanche Awareness Days, held annually each January (and getting in a photo bomb while he’s at it). This season’s event is scheduled for January 16th, 2016, check out our online events calendar for more information closer to the event date.
And now introducing some of our junior program members, training to take their certification courses soon;
Mogul & Tabor
Mogul is a one and a half year old German shepherd (left) he’s in training to become an avalanche rescue dog and has his exam this January on Whistler. His human assistant, Megan Kelly, has been a ski patroller for nine years at Fernie. When not training, Mogul loves playing with his favourite toy a ball on a rope. You can see him and Megan from Wednesday’s to Friday’s at the top of the mountain practicing his obedience and having lots of fun! Tabor and his human assistant Sean (right) are training for his exam, coming up soon. This will be Tabor’s first winter season at Fernie Alpine Resort – welcome to the team Tabor! Tabor fun fact – him and Neko are half brothers!
Find out more about our Avalanche dog & ski patrol program at on our Ski Patrol page.
Did you know?
Cats also assist our team at Fernie, watch this super serious and definitely informative video here.
Words by Cali Sammel with contributions by Steve Morrison, Jeni Pearson & Megan Kelly.
Photos by Fernie Alpine Resort Ski Patrol & Vinnie Mo.
Feature photo by Dave Watts.