“The goal in the end,” Betsy Norsen explains about her avalanche rescue dog Riggins, “is that he never has to be used to find someone buried in an avalanche.” This Oregon Public Broadcasting video showcases the work that Norsen, Director of Mountain Operations at Mt. Bachelor, and the rest of the rescue team puts into training the avalanche rescue dogs of Mount Bachelor.
“The goal is that he just continues to do drill after drill, after drill, and he retires having never had to be deployed to rescue someone. The whole point of the program, is for that one time that we need them and we’ll have them, and we’ll be able to deploy them with the goal of saving someone’s life.”
Watch as pros Riggins, Banyan, and Mango show Shasta, a rescue puppy in training, how to search for buried skiers and snowboarders in the snow.
“It takes about two years to fully train an avalanche dog. The first year the focus is a lot on just basic obedience. Learning to travel around the mountain. Riding chairlifts, riding snowmobiles. Getting used to the guests calling for them and teaching them not to, you know, run towards the guests and maybe get hit by their skis.
“The second year, we really focus on the game of finding someone buried in the snow and it really is hide-and-seek for them. It’s a game… We’re training them to find with their nose what they can’t see on the surface.”
And via Bend, Oregon’s The Bulletin:
“Typically, two dogs are at the mountain each day, but are hardly ever used for rescues since avalanches are rare at Mt. Bachelor, Norsen said.
“For example, Riggins has been a part of two rescues in his 9-year career, called upon to confirm nobody was trapped under a slab of snow.
“Mostly, the rescue dogs spend their days training with their handlers and doing demonstrations for school groups and the resort’s periodic safety awareness presentations.
“’We keep them here just in case,’ Norsen said.”
Watch these related dog and snow videos next:
• How do dog noses know so much?
• Canadian Inuit dogs, an ancient breed with incredible wilderness skills
• Travel through Greenland on a dog sled
• Kids Meet a Guide Dog for the Blind
• A 1,300-year-old wooden ski found in Norwegian ice