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A porcupine in a avy dog vest

Avalanche Porcupines

By Alta Ski Area 04-01-2024

Say hello to the prickly patrollers of Alta.

Nestled in the rugged splendor of the Wasatch Mountains, Alta Ski Area is recognized as the birthplace of avalanche mitigation in North America. Since its inception in 1938, Alta has been at the forefront of pioneering techniques to mitigate the risks posed by avalanches.

Did You Know?!?

Alta was home to the first United States Forest Service (USFS) avalanche rescue dog. In the winter of 1952, USFS Snow Rangers Monty Atwater and Ed LaChapelle employed Cola, a German Shepherd. Alta Ski Area was a founding member organization of Wasatch Backcountry Rescue and has one of the oldest avalanche dog programs in the country dating back to our first dog, Hey You, in 1980.

Alta recognized early on that avalanche dogs would be an integral part of the ski area’s Avalanche Rescue Plan; as a result, Alta was one of the first areas to own its dogs and provide full support to the ski patrollers who train them.

The Future of Avalanche Rescue...

A new chapter is set to unfold as Alta Ski Area will replace traditional Avalanche Dogs with Avalanche Porcupines—continuing its legacy of innovation in avalanche mitigation and rescue.

Building upon its pioneering spirit, Alta Ski Area remains at the forefront of avalanche mitigation practices by integrating these unique creatures into the renowned Alta Ski Patrol team. The decision to transition from Avalanche Dogs to Avalanche Porcupines reflects Alta's commitment to embracing novel approaches that harness the natural abilities of animals to enhance rescue operations.

Patrol-cupinesAn avalanche porcupine in a tree

This bold move underscores Alta's willingness to challenge convention and explore unconventional solutions to complex avalanche challenges. As the first ski area to adopt Avalanche Porcupines, Alta Ski Area once again asserts its position as a trailblazer in avalanche rescue, setting a precedent for innovation in the industry.

With their exceptional sense of smell, agility, and resilience, porcupines offer a promising alternative to traditional avalanche search and rescue methods.

Also, they eat trash.

As skiers eagerly anticipate the arrival of these prickly patrollers on Alta's slopes, excitement brews for the potential benefits they bring to avalanche rescue efforts.

Cuddles in trainingPorcupine on a lift

With their keen senses and natural instincts, Avalanche Porcupines are poised to make a significant impact on mountain rescue efforts, ensuring that Alta Ski Area remains a beacon of excellence in the realm of avalanche mitigation.

Dog and porcupine

An avalanche porcupine casts a shadow of a dog

Amidst the breathtaking beauty of the Wasatch Mountains, Alta Ski Area's embrace of Avalanche Porcupines signals a harmonious fusion of tradition and innovation—a testament to its enduring commitment to safeguarding the well-being of all who venture into its pristine alpine playgrounds. As Alta embarks on this groundbreaking journey, the spirit of exploration and discovery that has defined the ski area for generations will continue to thrive.

Please help us welcome Alta's avalanche porcupines*—a germane addition to the Alta Ski Patrol. *Petting these new patrollers is not advised.

Learn More!!!

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