I am writing in response to the article printed Jan. 30 in the Juneau Empire about avalanche search and rescue dogs. I agree that an avalanche search and rescue dog is only "part of a whole quiver of assets." First and foremost, self-rescue is the best chance your buried partner has for survival in a backcountry avalanche rescue.
Education and practiced self-rescue skills should be the first assets you call on in a rescue situation. Education is needed so you can understand the dynamics involved in not putting yourself in a compromising avalanche situation, and to learn the skills and thought processes to execute a successful rescue. Practice those skills to identify and understand avalanche hazards and how to mitigate those hazards and still have fun. Practice self-rescue skills and drills. Know how to use the tools for avalanche self rescue. Tools include an avalanche transceiver, a probe, a shovel and your brain.
The first 15 minutes of an avalanche rescue are very critical. Going for help burns precious minutes of rescue time. Self-rescue is the best option. Only venture into avalanche terrain with people who carry the tools and knowledge for avalanche awareness and self-rescue. It's like wearing a seat belt in a car. You never plan to get into a car wreck, but you wear it just in case.
As the director of the Eaglecrest Ski Patrol, I can say that we at Eaglecrest look forward to having Avadogs become part of Juneau's rescue assets.