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Avalanche Dog Program

dog_photo1In 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:

  • Provide certified avalanche rescue dog team coverage in the ski area during all operating hours.
  • Provide resources to the Alaska State Troopers for conducting avalanche search and rescue in local backcountry recreation areas of South-central Alaska.
  • Promote avalanche awareness and mountain safety education to the local skiing community.

dog_photo2When 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, Tim Glassett and Yuki, and Stacie and Kilo. Brian was one of the original founders of the group. Tim joined in 2010 when Yuki came to the team as a puppy, and Stacie joined in 2013.

Brian & Fundy
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.  

Stacie & Kilo
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 has worked here ever since. 2013 was 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. 

Tim & Yuki
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! 





Special thanks to supporters of the Alyeska Patrol Avalanche Canine Program: