Welcome to the Telluride Avalanche Dogs, where courage and cuteness converge on the snowy slopes of the Telluride Ski Resort. Our team is composed of seven incredible canines: Mona, Sadie, Stella, Gretchen, Pika and 2 new trainees; Misty and SWE. Patrol dog legend, Lady Bee, retired in 2023 after over 13 years on the team. These adorable pooches may steal your heart with their puppy eyes, but don't let that fool you. They are highly trained professionals, dedicated to their critical role in rescuing skiers buried in avalanches.
Set against the backdrop of the awe-inspiring Telluride Ski Resort, these dogs and their human handlers navigate epic terrain, venturing into the wildest corners of this winter paradise. Each dog forms an unbreakable bond with their handler, built upon trust, mutual respect, and countless hours of intensive training. From digging patrollers out of dog holes to riding chairlifts, snowmobiles, and sleds; these canines are full-fledged members of the Telluride Ski Patrol. They must pass regular exams and stay up to date on their skills. Both handler and dog are a highly trained, inseparable duo that works in tandem to protect our majestic mountains in the face of adversity, and save lives.
The Telluride Avalanche Dogs represent safety and companionship amongst the backup of this adventurous winter sport we all enjoy. A profound love of these mountains and the people who explore them is at the heart of it all. Each team's unwavering devotion and tireless efforts serve as a reminder that amidst the thrill of the slopes, there exists a compassionate force standing ready to defend all who venture into these unforgettable peaks.
Stella is our beloved patrol McNab Border Collie. The McNab is a specific breed of herd dog bred for their agility and ability to run distances of up to 100 miles a day while herding cattle. Stella runs about 4-5 miles daily in the summer with Michael and his family. She often runs 10 miles plus in the winter at the ski area. She loves humans, dogs, snow and lots of affection. She is afraid of cows and horses. She loves her job and has a very high energy approach to her work.
Handler: Michael Lane
Mona is a Black Labrador retriever from the Ouray valley and a veteran member of the Telluride Avalanche Dogs. Like all good retrievers her favorite thing in the world is to find things. She has been working hard getting ready for the upcoming ski season. She spends her summers on the trail and swimming in the alpine lakes of the San Juans. She can't get enough of that water!
While she does have a beautiful, mysterious smile, her namesake is not the Mona Lisa, but former Ski Patroller Mona Wilcox.
Handler: Erik Larsen
Sadie is a professional working Avalanche Rescue Dog at the Telluride Ski Resort and in surrounding regions. Every day she rides a ski lift & snowmobile and runs to her job. Winter is her favorite time of the year and ski patrolling is her calling in life! When the snow isn't falling her other hobbies are: pheasant and duck hunting in the fall, going on long hikes in the summer with her mom, and retrieving anything!
Born: February 22, 2013
Handler: Andy Bagnell
Gretchen is a yellow lab from Craig, Colorado. She started coming up to the ski mountain when she was only 12 weeks old in the winter of 19/20. She loves to train and work on the resort. Between long naps by the wood stove at patrol headquarters, she’s eager to play around in the snow and find patrollers buried in dog holes. It’s been remarkable to watch her develop and learn her job these past few years. As a semi-recent pup herself, she's excited to help train up some of the newbies this coming season!
Handler: Sam Schlepphorst
Pika was up on the mountain mere weeks after she was born! She joined the Welter family in early 2022 and is sneakily named for a legacy patroller...
While she never knew Peter Inglis, affectionate-ly referred to as PI; his nickname is hidden inside hers. She's also a cute, tan little alpine animal—just like the high mountain rabbit-rodent. She loves her avalanche dog team and being up on the mountain working & training.
Born: December 17, 2021
Handler: Karl Welter
LADY SWE OF THE SAN JUAN was born at Gun Dog Ranch in Idaho in 2023 and joined the Richard family soon after. A yellow lab, she is younger sister to Lady Bee, who retired from the Telluride Avalanche Dogs at 13 & a half years old. SWE is going to work tirelessly to earn her C-RAD certification and join the team as soon as possible! She is a sparky, curious, adventurous girl who can’t wait to get on the mountain this winter!
Born: August 31, 2023
Handlers: Gary & Kim Richard
Misty was born in Salt Lake City, Utah & became a part of the Greene family on August 1st, 2023. She has since been getting accustomed to life in the mountains around Ophir and the Telluride Ski Area! Misty loves the outdoors, playing in snow, running through the woods and swimming in high alpine lakes. She’s ridden Lift 4 several times and rides all over the ski area on ATVs. She’s looking forward to snowmobiling, snowcats and dogsleds soon. We are thrilled to add Misty to the team as she begins her professional training on the resort this winter!
Born: June 1, 2023
Handler: Jim Greene
Bee put over 10 long, hard, loving years into the Telluride Ski Patrol. She retired at the age of 13 after devoting every winter of her life to avalanche rescue, training and patrolling. She is now the "big sister" to a new pup, SWE, who joined the team, and the family, in 2023. We will miss our Lady Bee, but she certainly has earned her retirement and more days playing carefree in the snow.
Handlers: Gary & Kim Richard
Ellie, sister of Dulce
Dulce, sister of Ellie
My adventures with Wiley started when we picked him up from a Montrose breeder in May of 2006. He was one of two golden labs out of a litter of chocolate labs. He was born in April and started his training on the ski area the following May.
It was amazing to see how quickly he learned from the senior avalanche dogs on the team. His favorite things were avalanche rescue drills, running off the hill at the end of the day, and riding in the dog sled. We grew up together and he was right there when I got married and brought home our baby daughter a few years later.
Looking back on the last 14 years I would say he lived his best possible life. I would like to thank the Telluride Avalanche Dog association and all of our donors for all their support over the years.