Published By: Ashley Navratil/Written By: Kate Corrigan
My name is Kate and I live in Golden, BC with my dog Kinney. She is a 2-year old Aussie x Border Collie who loves to tag along on adventures. Our favorite winter activity is to go skiing together out in the Rocky Mountains. Winter came late this year and we are excited to finally get out and do some backcountry skiing. Here are some tips I have picked up over the years to help you include your furry friends on skiing adventures.
Commands to Teach:
Recall: Kinney has about a 99% success rate with recall. This is extremely important when going downhill as she is often off-leash (when she is allowed to be). Oftentimes, I will ski down first while someone holds her back. After I finish my turns, I call my dog or give her a little beep beep on her e-collar and she comes running through the snow! Luckily being an Australian shepherd, she doesn't like to stray far from me.
Heel: She also has a really strong heel command so I do not hit her with my skis on the uphills. She walks beside me for the most part or her leash is long enough for her to be in front of me without me hitting her.
Park it: Another fun command I taught her is “park it”. This is where she does a simple sit and stay in between my legs. This command is useful because it lets people be able to pass us and it lets me fix any of her gear like her booties without taking my skis off.
Stay: She also has a strong stay command, this is important for transitions as she is often just waiting around. Of course I keep her on-leash for the transitions as I do not want her to venture off while I cannot give her my full attention.
Getting Out There:
Training: I recommend taking your dog out to an old flat road to try out skiing together first before you hit the trails. Practice commands and make sure you are getting good consistency on your dog listening and understanding the commands. I also recommend getting them used to their gear before heading out as well. Do short walks in your neighborhood with booties and coats on so that they feel comfortable when you take them out on the trails.
How I choose a trail: I ask myself a few questions before heading out to a trail; Once all these questions are answered then I can make an informed decision about whether it's a good trail for me and Kinney.
- Is it dog friendly?
- Are there any wildlife closures?
- What is the avalanche danger rating/ bulletin saying?
- What are the hazards?
- What is the weather doing?
- Can my dog and I handle being outside for the next 6-8 hours?
My Favorite Trails:
- North Bench Dog and Pony Club: Golden, British Columbia. A perfect place to test gear, try out commands, and get your dog used to you being on skis. With no avalanche danger and a fun downhill.
- Boom Lake: Banff National Park
- Narao Glades: Yoho National Park
- Bow Summit: Banff National Park
Gear to Bring:
There is no doubt about it, my dog is one spoiled pup. I know how uncomfortable I can get if I am damp and cold, so I imagine our dogs can get pretty chilly in the elements too. Here is a list of some of our essentials with a link to them as well! Disclaimer: you do not need all this gear for your dog, but it works for us!
- All Terrain Harness (Rocky Mountain Dog): love the front and the back clip. Easy to adjust size in case she is wearing layers underneath. Extremely durable! I use this harness all year round. The back grab handle is great to keep control of your dog too.
- All Mountain Dog Leash (Rocky Mountain Dog): I have had both the 6ft and the 8ft and I prefer the 8ft for skiing as my dog has more room to roam around. The bungee is amazing for high output activities. Lots of fun colors and patterns to choose from too!
- Dog Goggles (Rocky Mountain Dog / Rex Specs): My dog is 40lbs and wears a size medium. I got the V2 in Blue to match her harness. Dog goggles are to protect their eyes from any shrubbery while bushwhacking and their eyesight during the bright blue days. It is amazing that the dog goggles come with 2 lenses depending on conditions! This may also take some training for dogs to get used to. High value treats go a long way!
- Mini Nalgene: (Rocky Mountain Dog): this is a great way to carry treats or kibble for your dog and the lids work well enough for you to not have to take your gloves off to give your dog some food! When transitioning, I like to sprinkle some in the snow and have Kinney ‘find it’- great nose work opportunity and keeps her busy while we are busy!
- Sender Summit Snacks (Calgary, Alberta):one of our favorite small businesses in Canada! These freeze-dried treats are of high value to my dog and they keep her fuelled up for long days on the skin track. There are a variety of treats ranging from energy balls, to cheeses, to duck neck chews, and our favorite, quail medallions. These snacks are lightweight and you will often find us with our mini-nalgene stocked full of Sender Summit Snacks!
- Snow Gaiters: I never invested in booties for Kinney because I could not find a pair that would ever stay on, but these snow gaiters are a game-changer. The suspenders are adjustable and you will never lose another bootie again! It is important to take care of their paws as they can get full of snow easily, cut by a ski, or way too cold.
- Paw Cream: (Rocky Mountain Dog) On the topic of paw care, after a day in her booties, I make sure to give her a paw balm massage. This paw cream is made with all natural ingredients and helps keep her paws soft.
- Winter Jackets: (Rocky Mountain Dog) I recommend packing some layers for your dog! Oftentimes they do not need one when skinning up or skiing down because they are working so hard, but it is a good idea to keep one in your pack in case of an accident or if they are not moving around as much. The brighter the color, the better for visibility.
We hope this helps you get you and your dog ready for some skiing adventures! Make sure to always plan ahead, and have a great time! You can follow our skiing adventures @adventureaussiekinney
~Kate & Kinney