Summit County Sheriff Commendations

Last week, the Summit County Sheriff awarded commendations to seven C-RAD members and three avalanche dogs for separate backcountry rescue missions performed during the 2017-18 winter season. We're extremely proud to work with these folks, and the commendations are well-deserved. Awards were given to Bob Nothnagel, Hunter Mortensen, Greg Dumas, Keith Hiller, Dom Vallone, Jake Ziemski, and John Reller, along with validated dogs Loki, Sasha, Max and Recco.

C-RAD is supervised by and works closely with Colorado Sheriff's Offices (and sometimes agencies outside the state, as was the case with a rescue in Montana last winter). When an avalanche incident is called in and it's determined a rescue is necessary, the local Sheriff's Office helps to deploy a dog team, which consists of an avalanche technician, avalanche dog and dog handler. These teams are generally on-call at a ski area. Usually Flight for Life Colorado and other search and rescue personnel are also part of these missions. You can read our public missions reports here.


What's it like to be a new dog handler?

C-RAD has some new faces this year, including new avalanche dog Tikka and her handler, Erich! Tikka is eight months old and just started work at Arapahoe Basin Ski Area. We chatted with Erich about his first months as a dog handler.

1.Why did you want to be an avalanche dog handler?

I’ve always had a connection with dogs and it was never really a plan, but when I started ski patrolling, I saw an opportunity. It seemed like it would be an awesome thing to do to bring my two passions together.

2. How did you choose Tikka?

We talked to multiple breeders that we had past experience with, either through A-Basin or C-RAD and settled on one that had a litter with timing that worked for us. We visited the puppies at about six weeks old and evaluated them. We examined their curiosity, temperament, drive and a few other behaviors. Ultimately, We felt Tikka had the best chance for success in our program.

3. So far, what’s the most rewarding part of the job?

Watching Tikka grow from 9 weeks old to now and seeing how much she’s progressed and what she’s done; having the opportunity to mold and shape a puppy into a well-behaved dog and getting into the rescue training.

4. What about the most challenging part of the job? 

Trying not to make mistakes that will have lasting effects on Tikka's training. That, and feeling like I never have enough time to train with her as much as I'd like. But, I just keep reinforcing positive things and going with my instincts, and it usually works out.

5. Tikka just started work at A-Basin. Tell me about her first few days.

Her first few days have been filled with brand new experiences. Snowmaking guns, snowmobiles, snow cats, being around skis and skiing, and being in a new place up at Patrol Headquarters. She’s been adapting and getting used to her new workplace and everything that comes with it.

6. What’s your favorite part about working with C-RAD?

The camaraderie with the other handlers and the openness and willingness to help each other succeed. Also, having the opportunity to potentially save a life one day.

Fall C-RAD Scholarships

Every fall, C-RAD awards training scholarships to enthusiastic dog handlers and avalanche technicians for multi-day avalanche rescue courses. These include Wasatch Backcountry Rescue’s International Dog School in Utah and the American Avalanche Institute K9 Training Course in Wyoming.

The curriculum for these courses includes some of the highest level of instruction in the world, and serves as an invaluable resource for new and experienced dog teams alike. Students are able to immerse themselves in hands-on training they can't get anywhere else, and are able to learn cutting-edge techniques from a diverse group of trainers and avalanche experts. They bring this knowledge back to their teams, and help Colorado continue to stay at the forefront of avalanche rescue. This type of training carries a hefty price tag, and we’re thrilled to be able to help offset the cost with scholarships for deserving members.

We couldn’t do it without the generous support of our donors. If you feel compelled to help dog teams attend training, please head to our donation page. Thank you for your contribution! If you're a member and want to apply, please complete your application in the member portal and get it back to us no later than Thanksgiving.

2018 Fall Training

We hosted our  annual C-RAD fall training last week in Summit County, Colroado. Participants from all over the state joined us for the four-day training, including handlers, dogs and avalanche technicians (avy techs). We were lucky enough to have some very talented instructors from all over North America to share the best dog training techniques. We were not so lucky to have cold, snowy weather for our outdoor scenarios, but everyone toughed it out and did a fantastic job!

The main focus of the training was avalanche rescue, but included obedience and agility work, as well as water rescue.

Flight for Life Colorado joined us so the dogs, handlers and avy techs could train with the helicopter, which is a key part of many avalanche rescue scenarios.

Thank you to all this year’s instructors and participants. It was a very successful C-RAD training and we’re looking forward to many more!