Every winter at ski areas across North America, avalanche rescue dogs play a critical role in keeping us safe on the slopes. These highly trained dogs and their ski patroller handlers can regularly be spotted on the job — loading up on the lift, surveying the runs, or training for a potential rescue.
These working dog-and-handler teams train at their home mountains every day during ski season. They learn to find and dig out “victims” buried in and under the snow, modeling avalanche rescue scenarios. Afterward they enjoy a play session with their handlers, a reward for a successful search.
Over the years, Ruffwear has partnered with ski patrol teams to provide gear for their avalanche rescue dogs. We’ve also had the opportunity to participate in the training of these amazing working dogs and handlers at the Wasatch Backcountry Rescue International Dog School. These teams work in the most extreme weather conditions and demand a lot from their gear. We know we’re getting it right when our gear performs well and holds up in the environments encountered by these teams.
Feedback we’ve received from the teams on our gear has also been invaluable. In fact, several Ruffwear products have been specially designed to meet the needs of avalanche rescue teams.
New this season, the Patroller Leash is an adjustable leash that can be worn around the waist as a belt, allowing dogs and humans to transition smoothly between on leash and off leash without skipping a beat.
The idea for the leash came from working alongside avalanche dog handlers, noticing that they at times wore regular leashes bandolier-style in order to have a lead on hand, even as they were wearing backpacks on the slopes. Handlers frequently take their dogs off leash to work on drills and then put them back on between drills and during rest breaks. The handlers needed a leash that they could have on hand during these quick transitions.
We set the goal of developing something more streamlined — a waist-worn, easily adjustable leash to fit all sizes of patrollers either under or over their uniforms. We used metal hardware for function in cold weather, reflective webbing to add low-light visibility and colors that would coordinate with patroller uniforms.
After designing the leash and putting it through our standard testing process, we also sent the prototype to several hundred patrollers. They offered invaluable feedback from the field that helped further contribute to what became the Patroller Leash.
We offered the Patroller Leash to all for the first time this winter. It’s a handy for putting your dog quickly on leash as the need arises.
Web Master Pro Harness
For years, Ruffwear’s Web Master Harness was the go-to dog harness for avalanche rescue teams. Through our work with handlers, we gathered feedback that inspired us to build a “pro” version of our Web Master Harness that meets the specific needs of the professional dogs working in challenging conditions.
The Web Master Pro Harness features all-metal hardware that resists snow and ice buildup, low-profile pockets that hold small essentials, and easy access for sewing on working dog patches. It also has a handle large enough for a glove to grasp so handlers can lift and assist their dogs as needed.
The relationships we share with working dogs are meaningful for all of us at Ruffwear. We’re proud to partner with the National Ski Patrol and are grateful for the efforts of ski patrollers and their dedicated dogs.