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In an effort to continually improve its nationally recognized Snow Safety and Ski Patrol, Alyeska has developed the Alyeska Patrol Avalanche Canine Program, a reflection of Patrol’s on-going commitment to skier and snowboarder safety and rescue. The program utilizes highly trained air scenting rescue dog and handler teams. Since their arrival, the dog and handler teams have been training daily at Alyeska Resort.
The objectives of the Alyeska Ski Patrol Avalanche Canine Program are:
When it comes to avalanche rescue, time is of the essence. Rescue dogs provide a fast and efficient way of searching a large area that would take teams of rescuers a much longer to search with probes. Certified avalanche rescue dogs can detect human scent under layers of snow; ultimately increasing a buried skier or rider’s chance of survival. A trained rescue dog can indicate the location of a buried person or article by aggressive digging and barking. They also have the ability to tell a handler that an area is clear of human scent so decisions can be made to call off search efforts once it is determined that no one was involved in a slide.
The canine breed selected for the dog program is the Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever, a small retriever with a distinctive red coat and fox-like markings. Lead dog handler Brain McGorry explains, “The Toller’s intelligence, trainability, and compact size make them an ideal candidate for search dogs. The dogs routinely load ski lifts, travel on snow machines, and are carried on the shoulders of their handlers.” Carrying the dogs keeps them away from sharp ski edges, crowds, and also enables patrol to transport them into far outer areas with deep snow and steep terrain. Smaller breeds typically have less health problems and a longer life span, and therefore a longer career as a search dog.
The Alyeska Ski Patrol Avalanche Canine Program is an affiliate of Alaska Search and Rescue Dogs (ASARD). The ski patrol has worked closely with ASARD since 1986, and they where instrumental in mentoring our patrol dog teams. The three full-time dog teams are Brian McGorry and Fundy, Mik Jedlicka and Zooka, and Tim Glassett and Yuki. Brian was one of the original founders of the group along with Shane Patrick who was the original handler of Zooka. Mik joined the group in October of 2011 when she took over as primary handler of Zooka. Tim joined in 2010 when Yuki came to the team as a puppy. In summer 2013 the resort welcomed the newest addition to the team, Monty and his handler, Kent May. With training, Monty should be certified and officially an avalanche rescue dog by the time he is two years old.
Special thanks to supporters of the Alyeska Patrol Avalanche Canine Program
Brian McGorry has been with the Alyeska Ski Patrol Avalanche Canines since its inception in 2007, and has been a professional ski patroller since 2002. Brian handles Fundy, a certified 5 year old Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retreiver from Sagewood Kennels in Wisconsin. After seeing the success of ski patrol based dog programs in other states, Brian worked closely with former patroller Shane Patrick to do the research and program development that served as the foundation of today’s dog program. Brian serves as the Assitant Unit Leader for Alaska Search and Rescue Dogs, and the Kenai Region Director for the Alaska Search and Rescue Association. Other seasons find him freelancing as a firefighter/ EMT, Sea Kayak Guide and Instructor, Deckhand, house husband, and recent father.
For Mik Jedlica patrolling was supposed to be a five year plan. Eleven years later (five years spent at Arapahoe Basin, Colorado) she still loves her job and having Zooka as a sidekick throughout the day makes it even more fun. She always loved helping with the dog program so when Shane Patrick (original handler) asked if she would take over as primary handler for Zooka in 2011, she gladly accepted. (she secretly wanted Zooka for her own dog since the day she met him). Search and Rescue work is rewarding in several ways. She likes the service oriented mentality of the SAR community, it is great for building outdoor skills, and working with dogs is REALLY fun. During the summer Zooka and Mik live and work in Seward instructing and guiding sea kayaking and mountaineering.
Timothy Glassett has been on Alyeska Ski Patrol for the last 6 years. His dog Yuki joined the Patrol 4 winter seasons ago and they became certified in avalanche rescue in 2013 under Alaska Search and Rescue Dogs. Tim's fulltime job is with the State of Alaska DOT & PF in Girdwood. Ski Patrolling has been one of the best jobs he has ever had. No other job is so involved with rescue, medical, snow safety, and skiing powder!
In 1995, Stacie decided she wanted to experience the mountains; having grown up in Texas, all she knew was flat and hot! Working in Denali for the summer of ‘95 turned into 18 years and counting. She began working at Alyeska in the winter of 1995. She had never skied before but within a few years, she joined Ski Patrol and have worked here ever since. 2013 is her first year being directly involved with the Alyeska Avalanche Dog Program.
After researching working dog breeds, Stacie eventually decided on the Mudi. The Mudi is not a common breed. The largest concentration of them is in Hungary where they are typically used as herders of sheep and cattle. They have been used in other European countries as Search and Rescue dogs. So, off to Hungary she went. She decided to fly there to pick Kilo up so they could begin their “bond” as early as possible. She had a wonderful time meeting the breeder and seeing his dogs in action! She ended up bringing back a little black merle Kilo (in Hungarian it means ‘to fire’ or ‘to launch’). They began our training in early October 2013 and things are going well! When given the ‘search’ command, he shoots out of my hands toward the ‘buried’ subject like a speeding bullet-living up to his name!
In the summer, Stacie works at Alyeska with the grounds department as a Master Gardener caring for and maintaining the flowers around the resort.
Kent grew up on a small beef farm in southern Illinois and was always surrounded by dogs and cats. Growing up he had a yearly "critter zoo" with his buddies which showcased all of their "critters" they had caught on daily adventures. They were also known to have a family cat or dog on display...the entry fee to the zoo was cheap. After graduating college he started working on Ski Patrol in the winter and working with the Forest Service in the summer "packing" horses and mules in the backcountry Wilderness of Utah and Idaho as a Horseback Wilderness Ranger. Kent’s five year tenor and love of dogs made him a perfect handler candidate for the youngest Duck Toller on our crew, Monty. Although Monty is just a puppy he is currently in training and will be fully certified by the time he is two years old.