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Tahoe's Ski-Patrol Dogs
All around Tahoe, from bars to ski shops, you'll spot posters of dogs wearing ski-patrol vests riding a chairlift. Stars in their own right, these pooches are the search-and-rescue dogs of Alpine Meadows.
In 1982 an avalanche inundated Alpine's base lodge, destroying a building and a ski lift and killing six people. Search-and-rescue teams brought in a German shepherd named Bridget to help recover the missing from beneath the snow. Though she was unable to help save any victims, she inspired the idea for trained "staff dogs" to be on hand in case of another catastrophe.
Now an integral part of Alpine's safety preparedness, these golden retrievers and chocolate Labradors are the personal pets of ski-patrol employees. Each dog meets exacting standards of obedience and conduct and must undergo two years of rigorous training. They must be able to get on and off a ski lift, ride a snowmobile, and keep up with patrollers anywhere on the mountain, including icy cornices, craggy chutes, and steep slopes. Goldens and labs have the right temperament, the right size, and the right fur—long enough to keep them warm but short enough not to get covered in chunky snowballs that weigh them down. They're also able to smell human beings through heavy snow.
Currently there are 12 dogs on staff, including three puppies in training. You can visit them at the ski patrol hut at the top of the Summit Six, Sherwood, or Lakeview chairlift. And if you've become a fan, you can pick up the poster or patrol-puppy trading cards, with an image of a dog on the front and obscure facts and figures on the back. To obtain the free cards, call the resort at 530/583-4232 or email for more info to skialpine.com.
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