Dogs In The Backcountry Is A Hot Topic. If You Take Your Dog, Be Responsible And Be Ready.
Dogs absolutely love going backcountry skiing. No matter what trailhead you pull into during the winter season, there are bound to be a bunch of dogs ready for the ski day. There are no real rules about taking dogs backcountry skiing and the majority of the time it’s all fun and games. Yet taking dogs backcountry skiing is always a discussion point amongst mountain enthusiasts.
For a dog, a simple ski tour is the perfect way to spend the day. What could be more fun for your trusty old mutt than hiking through a winter wonderland with their owner. Then getting to chase their best friend down a mountain as snow billows over their heads. For owners, taking dogs backcountry skiing is the ideal way to spend time with your dog and give them the exercise they deserve during the snowy winter months. Plus, dogs will never come up with a lame excuse on why they can’t go, like a person might. It seems like a win-win, but not everyone thinks so.
As responsible backcountry travelers it’s important to understand the risks associated with bringing your dogs backcountry skiing. The hazards of traveling through complex terrain covered in wild snow is abundantly clear to any person, but not for a dog. Dogs are easily distracted. Chasing a moose or playing with another pooch can lead them off the safe route or cause them to get lost. Sharp ski edges can slice open your pup’s legs. Cold temps can frostbite your dog’s pads. Or the worst case scenario is that a dog can trigger a slide, get killed in an avalanche, or get buried in a tree well. It’s scary stuff that every dog owner needs to think about.
If bringing your canine companion on your backcountry ski trips is a top priority to you, here are a few things to keep in mind about taking dogs backcountry skiing:
- Never Ever Put A Beacon On A Dog – This is the #1 rule of traveling with dogs in the backcountry. Putting a beacon on your dog is a selfish thing to do. While it would be a devastating loss to lose your dog-buddy, it would be much worse if you saved your dog and not your human ski partner. Think about the consequences of this scenario.
- Keep Your Dog On Voice Command – An obedient dog is a good dog. Don’t let them chase wildlife or annoy other backcountry enthusiasts. Make sure your dog plays well with others so that you avoid any unfortunate dog vs dog encounters.
- Clean Up After Your Dog – There’s nothing worse than skinning through yellow snow or dodging dog poop as you’re skiing back to the car. The more dogs that are on the trail, the worse this situations becomes.
- Choose Your Terrain Wisely – While your hearty pooch can do a lot things, it’s best to pick appropriate terrain for your dog. Low angle meadow skipping may be more fun and more appropriate for your dog than bootpacking up couloirs.
- Think About The Snow Conditions – Running your dog up a few thousand vert in dog-neck deep pow isn’t the best for your dog’s health and joints. Consider the snow conditions and your destination to set your dog up for success.
- Watch The Weather – Weather plays a major impact on your dog’s enjoyment in the backcountry. Your dog will be exposed to the elements. Check the temps, winds, and visibility before you head out. Watch it throughout the day. It can effect your dog’s enjoyment and safety.
- Do You Have A Rescue Plan? – Accidents happen and you need to be prepared. Injured, uncomfortable, cold, lost, and even buried dogs is a reality of taking dogs backcountry skiing. Are you ready to handle these situations? Do you have the appropriate gear and mentality to deal with a lost, injured, or buried dog? Are you ready to evacuate your injured pooch from the backcountry? SAR isn’t going to help you with your dog.
The topic of dogs in the backcountry is always an interesting one that people feel strongly about. Everyone can agree that ski touring is a great way to spend time with your pup and get them the exercise that they deserve. At the same time, it has the potential to increase your risk, distract you from making smart decisions, and can impact the backcountry experience for other mountain enthusiasts. Keep these things in mind the next time you and your dog hit the trail for a backcountry ski adventure.
We fully support taking dogs backcountry skiing under the right circumstances. Please think about the risks and responsibilities associated with dogs in the winter backcountry environment. Be mindful of others. Don’t let your dogs ruin the experience for other people.
Share your thoughts on taking dogs backcountry skiing in the comments below.