Alta ski patroller takes on a four-legged trainee

Posted at 9:49 PM, Dec 20, 2016
and last updated 2016-12-21 10:47:20-05

SALT LAKE CITY —If you're ever caught in an avalanche, the first rescuer you see might wear a fur coat and walk around on all fours.

Alta Ski Area is adding a new rescue dog to the team. Her name is "Lucy," and don't let her puppy dog eyes fool you. She's up to the task.

“She gets to get in the snow. She rides around on the rope tow. She goes on the chair lifts,” said David Kelly with Alta Ski Patrol.

Complete with a patrol vest, Lucy’s paws pound the powder. This playful pup is preparing to be a professional, with Kelly's help.

“For the first year and a half, she'll work pretty much just with me,” Kelly said.

She’s learning the tricks to saving lives.

“She's being trained to find people buried in the snow,” Kelly said.

Rescue dogs can be vital in an avalanche rescue- when every second -and sniff counts. A trained nose can trace a buried victim faster than any human.

“They find the scent and use their noses and the wind direction to sniff in and find it,” Kelly said.

Lucy's training will start with a basic game of hide and seek.

“We do a lot of training with people buried in big snow holes so then they start to associate the smell of people with the game,” Kelly said.

Lucy is joining three other rescue dogs at Alta who work all over the Wasatch.

“Working with my dog is a special thing, you know. Being able to communicate with them at that level and work together and try to find someone under the snow is a very rewarding thing,” said Adam Naisbitt, Alta Ski Patrol.

In 18 months, Lucy will be tested and then certified and can go out to any rescue along the Wasatch Front when she's needed.