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Photos: Alyeska Resort avalanche rescue dogs

Alyeska Resort ski patrollers Brian McGorry, at left with his dog Fundy, and Mik Jedlicka, with her dog Zooka, get ready to ride the lift up the mountain. McGorry is also the lead dog handler for the Patrol Avalanche Canine program. Jan 24, 2012
Loren Holmes photo
Alyeska ski patroller Mik Jedlicka and her dog Zooka ride the ski lift up the mountain. Jan 24, 2012
Loren Holmes photo
Alyeska ski patroller Tim Glassett and his dog Yuki ride chair 6 to the top of the mountain. Jan 24, 2012
Loren Holmes photo
Zooka, Mik Jedlicka's dog, inside the ski patrol hut underneath the roundhouse near the top of Alyeska. Jan 24, 2012
Loren Holmes photo
The kennel inside the ski patrol hut near the top of Alyeska. The rescue dogs are one tool available to patrollers responding to an avalanche, the others are the Recco radar system, beacons and probing. Jan 24, 2012
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Yuki, patroller Tim Glassett's dog, runs towards a "buried" skier during a training. The dogs are trained to find people by scent, and are rewarded after each successful find. Jan 24, 2012
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Yuki finds a buried subject during a training exercise. Jan 24, 2012
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Zooka successfully finds a buried subject during a training. Jan 24, 2012
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Lead dog handler Brian McGorry rewards Zooka after a successful training exercise, where the dog located a buried subject. Jan 24, 2012
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Mik Jedlicka plays with her dog Zooka after a successful training exercise. Play is an important reward for the dogs. To the dogs, everything they do is play, even locating someone trapped in an avalanche. Jan 24, 2012
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Mik Jedlicka loads her dog Zooka onto her shoulders for a ride down the mountain. While almost any dog can be trained to find a scent, these dogs are also chosen for their small size, since for safety reasons they are often carried around the mountain. Jan 24, 2012
Loren Holmes photo
Alyeska ski patroller Tim Glassett and his dog Yuki ski down the mountain. Jan 24, 2012
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Alyeska ski patroller Tim Glassett and his dog Yuki search for a buried subject during a training exercise. The dog quickly located the subject, who was buried under a foot of snow. Jan 24, 2012
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Alyeska ski patroller Brian McGorry arrives on the scene of a simulated burial. McGorry is carrying a Recco unit and probe, tools that, in addition to the dogs, can help locate a subject buried in an avalanche. Jan 24, 2012
Loren Holmes photo
Tim Glassett and his dog Yuki make their way down the mountain. If there is any risk of the dog getting hit by a skier, the dog will ride on the shoulders of their owner. Jan 24, 2012
Loren Holmes photo
Alyeska ski patroller Mik Jedlicka and her dog Zooka heading down the mountain. Jan 24, 2013
Loren Holmes photo
Alyeska ski patroller Tim Glassett and his dog Yuki ride the chairlift up the mountain. Jan 24, 2012
Loren Holmes photo
Avalanche rescue dog Yuki relaxes in the ski patrol hut at the top of Alyeska Resort. Jan 24, 2012
Loren Holmes photo
Loren Holmes

GIRDWOOD -- For the dogs of Alyeska’s Patrol Avalanche Canine (PAC) program, the tough job of saving lives is “kind of a big game,” says Alyeska Resort ski patroller and dog handler Brian McGorry.

Not that they don’t take it seriously -- the dogs train regularly to find and recover skiers and snowboarders buried by avalanches. They just don’t know how important their task is.

“Their entire existence is kind of a big game,” McGorry said. “The more fun you make the game, the better they do their job.”

This is apparent in the way the dogs attack that job. When it’s time to do a recovery, they bark excitedly, bounding up to snow caves where “subjects” -- staged avalanche victims -- are buried. They claw at the snow until they make a hole large enough for their ...

Full story: Avalanche rescue is all fun and games