Don’t be alarmed by the packs of dogs roaming around Revelstoke Mountain Resort this week — they’re here to help.
Revelstoke is hosting the annual Canadian Avalanche Rescue Dog Association training course this week.
Over the course of five days, 21 dogs and their handlers will be in Revelstoke for either their beginner, intermediate or advanced course. The teams are coming from across B.C., Alberta, the Yukon and the USA. The dogs are being trained to assist in avalanche search and rescue situations.
It takes several years for a dog to be certified by CARDA.
New teams attend a course in the spring where they are assessed to see if they have the basic skills to enter the CARDA program. Handlers must be part of a search and rescue team, be strong skiers, have their CAA Level 1 for Ski Operations, and 80 hours of First Aid training. Dogs must have basic obedience training and be at least one-year old before their first winter course.
If a team is accepted, they will attend the winter course as part of the beginner group.
“The first winter course is when they get introduced to the whole game of playing in the snow — digging holes, master runaways, all kinds of stuff like that,” said Al Roberts, a local CARDA handler who is organizing this week’s course.
Teams that pass the beginner course become a team-in-training and enter the intermediate course the following winter. If they’re successful in that course, they apply to be validated as an avalanche dog team with CARDA.
“It takes two years, two winter courses to validate and then you re-validate every year after that,” said Roberts.
The advanced course consists of backcountry situations, such as glacier travel, winter camping and more complex searches.
The course begins today and runs until Friday. The beginner course will take place near the Revelation Lodge, while the intermediate course will take place at various locations around the mountain. The advanced course will start at the resort and participants will also get heli-drops into remote backcountry locations.
After it’s all done, CARDA is hosting a fundraiser at the Big Eddy Pub on Friday, Jan. 16, at 7 p.m. at the Big Eddy Pub. The Funky Snow Monkeys will provide the music and there will be a raffle with some big prizes as well.
“We’ve had a lot of good support from local businesses, especially the mechanized world, for our fundraiser,” said Roberts.
Revelstoke currently has six CARDA teams, with a seventh currently working towards certification.
There are 30 CARDA teams in Canada.