Anything can happen out on Crested Butte. The 12,168-foot mountain is a popular destination for skiers visiting the Crested Butte Mountain Resort. To help patrons in the event of an avalanche or other emergency, the resort employs six avalanche dogs—four who are already certified and another two puppies who are learning the difficult task of locating people buried under feet of snow after an avalanche. According to the Colorado Avalanche Information Center, 11 people died in the United States as a result of avalanches during the 2014-2015 skiing/snowboarding season. Dogs trained to use their sharp sense of smell to sniff out individuals trapped can be the matter of life and death during these events.
At a year old, Moose is one of the puppies who started training when he was only 8 weeks old and should be fully certified by age three. In a video below, produced by Crested Butte and posted on Vimeo, Moose’s handler, Dustin, describes the training process and the day-to-day life of an avalanche dog.
While the dogs are still young, the video explains, the training involves simple games of hide-and-seek. As the dogs get further along in the process, handlers will bury a sweater in the snow and see if the dogs can detect the human scent on it and locate it. The trainers also hide in holes in the snow for the dogs to find them.
“Seeing how fired up the dogs get when they’re out there training and searching—it’s really fun to be a part of,” Dustin says. “As well as the appeal of getting to bring my dog to work every day.”
While not working, Moose and Dustin remain active, going out on runs together or cross-country skiing.
“When Moose gets out on the snow, he just seems to come to life and little of the wild animal comes out in him,” Dustin says. “There’s a new adventure around every corner.”
See Moose in action in the video below.
Also, meet another puppy who was training as an avalanche in Salt Lake City, Utah.