FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. (KSAZ) - Ava, short for "Avalanche", is the first avalanche rescue dog to be trained at Snowbowl. The Golden Retriever is only 12 weeks old, but it is already ready to hit the slopes.
"She sometimes gets a little grumpy on the first chair in the morning, just cause it's cold out, but she comes around and gets excited all day," said Hailey Hagerty, Ava's owner and trainer.
Hagerty takes Ava with her for Hagerty's daily patrols, in an effort to acclimatize Ava to snows, skiers, and the chair lift. Before Ava learns to find people under snow, she learns to play hide and seek.
"She's going to associate human scent with that hard play," said Hagerty. "So, it's gotta be the most exciting thing she's ever done. That way, she's super excited about it, and really has a strong drive."
Ava will become a certified avalanche rescue dog in a year or two. Until that point, Ava is going to keep training, and, perhaps more importantly, enjoy being a puppy.
While avalanches are rare in parts of Arizona that do get snow, it could happen. The ski patrol at Arizona Snowbowl is making sure they are ready, and a new rescue puppy is undergoing avalanche training at the ski area.