Avalanche dog teams coming to the rescue 

25 teams backing up security forces during 2010 Olympics


Four-year-old Wiser was hard at work this week boning up for the volunteer job of a lifetime.

By early Monday morning he had already sniffed out and recovered three sweaters buried in 70 centimetres of snow at Kicking Horse Mountain Resort near Golden.

He was rewarded with high praise from his handler Kyle Hale, president of the Canadian Avalanche Rescue Dogs Association (CARDA).

This weekly search practice will serve Wiser well when he comes to Whistler during the 2010 Games, where he will be one of 25 CARDA avalanche dog teams serving at official venues.

"We will be on site to provide site safety to all the integrated security staff that are working in the area..." said Hale.

Hale and Wiser will be covering the Creekside venue, staying in town for 10 days. The dog teams, which will come from B.C., Alberta, the Yukon and as far away as Squaw Valley, California, will be rotating in and out of the area over the course of seven weeks.

In addition to providing back up for the security personnel who will be working in the backcountry around Whistler, the dog teams will also be beefing up public safety, responding to any potential calls from skiers, riders, snowmobilers and hikers caught in avalanches.

Hale pointed to last year's devastating avalanche fatalities where 26 people lost their lives.

"You can imagine if an event like that happened during the Olympic timeframe the media attention it would draw, as well as the resources that would need to be in place," he said.

The teams will be stationed at the Callaghan Valley, the Whistler downhill course and the Cypress Mountain venue over the course of seven weeks.

"If there's an incident at one of the venues and we don't have a team there, getting them there could be an issue for sure," said Whistler Blackcomb pro patroller Anton Horvath.

Horvath, whose 10-year-old avalanche dog Macklin will be retiring this year, said most of the 12 dog teams at Whistler Blackcomb will be needed on the mountains throughout the Games. But on days off, some of the teams will be volunteering, including Horvath and Macklin.

In addition, four teams will be coming from Squaw Valley, which is celebrating 50 years since it held its Olympic Games in 1960.

The Squaw Valley teams are members of CARDA.

Horvath said the teams here have a close relationship with their Californian counterparts

"They've adopted the CARDA standards and we've sent instructors down to assist them to develop their programs," he said.

"We thought it was fitting to have four of their handlers come up."

Horvath said CARDA is the only volunteer organization assisting the ISU (Integrated Security Unit) in the 2010 Games.



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