The air is crisp as I open my eyes and they adjust to the dim morning light. Making my way to the window I see the freshly fallen snow blanketing the backyard. “You wanna go play buddy?” I say to Kicker as I give him some love. Instantly his ears perk up and his eyes brighten as he wags his tail vigorously in agreement.
For me, snowboarding with my dogs has always been an almost spiritual experience. My first dog Booter loved being in the mountains with me and Kicker has the same passion for the outdoors. The first time I took Kicker out for a pow day I was nervous that he wouldn’t enjoy it as much. He proved me wrong by taking off after me, his little puppy paws going in overdrive, and tomahawked himself through the snow. I waited for his reaction and to my pleasant surprise he popped back up right away and charged on.
Being able to ride alongside Kicker now and see him come into his own as an adventure dog is one of the things I am most proud of in life. The connection I feel with him as we charge down the mountain together is indescribable. Kicker knows where to run without me having to tell him and his face lights up as his eyes follow my every move.
When I first moved out to Utah I took an intensive 4 day course through the National Avalanche School to get familiarized with snowpack, characteristics of avalanches, and observation techniques. That was 10 years ago and I plan to refresh my avalanche knowledge this year with the AIARE Level 1.
Safety is always of utmost importance to me, especially when Kicker is tagging along. Before heading out in the mornings I always check the avalanche forecast to make sure the conditions are safe. When going out with dogs it’s key to ski on mellow terrain. Ideal conditions are a firm base with 6-18 inches of soft snow on top. Any deeper than that and they end up swimming and using more energy than necessary. If you’re just starting to take your pup skiing with you it would be a good idea to stick to low angle terrain and train them to stay a safe distance away and not run into you before hitting the steeper slopes. It is VERY important to be mindful of your edges around your dog. Running into them with an edge can cause serious if not permanent damage which is why training on smaller slopes where you have the best control is ideal.
The bane to every adventure dog’s existence is becoming an abominable snowman with ice balls stuck to their fur. I have found that cold, dry snow is best for preventing ice balls from forming. If it is warm and sunny, I’ll spray a little cooking spray on Kicker’s legs and underbelly or use Musher’s Mix. He’s so used to the ice balls now that he'll just start biting them off on his own too. Keeping him happy and comfortable is my main priority so I’ll typically wrap him in a blanket or towel when we get home as they melt or run him a warm bath and let him soak.
In the end, as long as dogs are warm and comfortable, they will have a blast being outside with you getting some exercise.
- Andrew Muse (+ Kicker)
Man, we can't wait for winter now! Start doing those snow dances and flush those ice cubes down the toilet for Ullr!
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