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Steamboat Magazine

New Patrollers in Town

04/11/2024 07:00AM ● By Suzy Magill
(Photo: Steamboat Ski Resort patrollers Nate Birdseye, Chad Feagler, and Eric Woods with their avalanche puppies Mudd, Daisy, and Ty had to postpone training with Classic Air Medical after CAM had to respond to a call. Photography courtesy of Noah Wetzel.) 

Steamboat Springs, CO - Last winter, you may have seen Steamboat’s newest patrollers getting used to the feeling of skiing, learning how to load a chairlift and practicing snowy searches – undoubtedly unusual activities for a professional ski patroller. That’s because Steamboat’s newest patrollers are four-legged friends: Daisy, a 2-and-a-half-year-old black Lab, and Mudd, a 16-month-old German shepherd and Belgian Malinois mix.


Daisy and Mudd are training to be avalanche safety dogs, crucial in avalanche rescue both at the resort and across Northwest Colorado. Over the last few years, a number of patrollers have been working to get a dog program off the ground at the resort. With a 650-acre expansion into Fish Creek Canyon, where more advanced terrain is prone to avalanches, the program was essential. Once certified, the dogs can also be deployed off the resort – in the Zirkels, Flat Tops, Buffalo Pass or Rabbit Ears Pass, and even out to Cameron Pass.
“With more people recreating in the backcountry, more people moving to the community, and more people choosing backcountry over the ski resort, the inevitable can happen where somebody kicks off an avalanche,” explains Nate Birdseye, a seasoned patroller and Mudd’s owner.
Nate bought Mudd as a puppy to be an avalanche dog and has been training her since last winter.
“She’s practically been raised at the ski resort,” Nate says. “I had her on snowmobiles and chairlifts and even skiing on my shoulders.”


This season, Daisy and Mudd were joined by Ty, a one-year-old golden retriever owned by Eric Wood. The dogs are working to complete classes with CRAD, Colorado Rapid Avalanche Deployment. Once certified at the “B” level, the pups can perform in-bounds rescue, responding to any situation that happens in bounds at the ski resort. When they become even more crucial, though, is when the dogs make “A” level certifications and can be deployed anywhere off-resort by helicopter.
“It’s for the ski resort, but it’s also for the community,” Nate explains. “The validation process takes time to become an A-level dog, but once they’re there, they become such an asset to the greater community.”
Even with the dogs being added to Steamboat’s team, skiers should still have proper gear and be knowledgeable about avalanche safety.
“The first step for people traveling in the backcountry is to have proper avalanche education. You need to be educated on rescue, safe travel in the backcountry, and the ability to use the tools available from the online avalanche bulletin, the CAIC,” Nate says. “It goes all the way up to knowing how to use your beacon, shovel and probe if there is an incident.”


“Avalanche survival is a ticking clock,” says Chad Feagler, who is Daisy’s owner and a Steamboat patroller. “Most of the time, once the dogs are deployed, it’s going to be a body recovery. That’s why it’s crucial people are prepared in the backcountry.”
The dogs are finishing their certifications this season as they still have more CRAD classes to attend, but Daisy, Mudd and Ty will continue training on the mountain so that they can lend a paw in the near future.