Dogs wrapping up avalanche search and rescue training at Arapahoe Basin

Colorado Rapid Avalanche Deployment's Winter Camp (C-RAD) puts puppies as young as 8 weeks old through training scenarios that mimic real-life situations. Their prize is a game of tug of war
Dogs wrapping up avalanche search and rescue training at Arapahoe Basin
Posted at 9:45 PM, Feb 15, 2024
and last updated 2024-02-16 07:52:41-05

SUMMIT COUNTY, Colo. — Around 35 dogs and their handlers are wrapping up their final day of avalanche search and rescue training through Colorado Rapid Avalanche Deployment’s (C-RAD) Winter Course at Arapahoe Basin.

In January, we profiled Ripp, a Fort Collins Border Collie who needed the community's help with new winter gear and funding for this course.

RIPP (2).jpg

“Their ability to sniff out and identify people under the snow is far superior to anything we can do or any technology that we currently have,” said C-RAD President Erich Swartz.

Swartz said puppies as young as 8 weeks old from across the Western U.S. and Canada spent the last five days training on Arapahoe Basin’s snow-covered-slopes to be the best partners in search and rescue.

“We have other options like ball and food rewards for doing other stuff, but this game of tug of war is the be-all, end-all,” said Swartz.

Colorado Rapid Avalanche Deployment Winter 2019 course 2_Dave Camara

Local News

Colorado nonprofit is leading the way for avalanche dog training

Stephanie Butzer
12:20 PM, Mar 28, 2022

It’s the game of tug of war that keeps dogs like Ripp coming back for more.

At 8 months old, he went to his first avalanche training camp in Aspen.

Now, the 2-year-old Border Collie skis alongside his handler Jeanine Neskey as the first avalanche rescue dog for Diamond Peaks Ski Patrol, an entirely volunteer-based team which covers Cameron Pass, 65 miles west of Fort Collins.

“He’ll always keep an eye on me, but he knows he can cover ground a lot faster than me,” laughed Neskey.

PHOTO GALLERY: Avalanche dogs, handlers in Colorado train with C-RAD

More advanced dogs like Ripp will travel a couple hundred yards away from their owners, find several people buried at a time or even find avalanche victims in trees.

Now, "Ripp to the rescue" has become a trademark of sorts, for his lifesaving work.

“I can’t say enough about how much I love having a dog be my partner,” said Neskey.

So far this season, six skiers and snowboarders have been caught in avalanches, according to the Colorado Avalanche Information Center. Two people have died. One of the deaths happened last weekend near Crested Butte.

D7 follow up bar 2460x400FINAL.png
The Follow Up
What do you want Denver7 to follow up on? Is there a story, topic or issue you want us to revisit? Let us know with the contact form below.