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Avalanche Dog finds in the U.S.

teams work a large accident in Alaska

Search teams work a fatal avalanche accident in Alaska.
Photographer: Jeffrey O. Wells

This is an incomplete collection of finds by trained avalanche search dogs working at the request of official agencies in the U.S. As indicated by the number of "deceased" finds, by the time search teams are called to rescue someone buried in an avalanche, time has usually run out for the victim.

Data from a Swiss study on avalanche mortality published in 1992 indicates that approximately 90 percent of persons buried in avalanches survive if recovered in the first 15 minutes. For backcountry travellers this means having party members that not only have the proper equipment (shovels, probes and avalanche transceivers) but also the knowledge to quickly and effectively use these tools to perform a rescue. Chances for a live recovery at the 35 minute mark fall to 30 percent and after two hours the survival rate is three percent.

I'd like to expand the information here to include data from avalanche accidents in Canada. If handlers/teams have current or historical information about recoveries in Canada effected by avalanche dogs, please contact me.

Year Location Status(number) Depth Burial duration
2006 Rainy Pass, AK deceased (1) 30 2.3 m 10 days
2003 Avalanche Bowl, Teton Pass WY deceased (1) 29 1 m + at least 24 hrs
2002 Jackson Peak, WY deceased (1) 28 unknown unknown
2002 near Victor, ID deceased (1) 27 < 1 m unknown
2002 Mt. Rose, NV deceased (1) 26 0.5 m 3-3.5 hours
2002 Mt. Abundance, MT deceased (2) 25 ~ 1 m 5 hours
2002 Big Cottonwood Canyon, UT deceased (2) 24
2001 Big Cottonwood Canyon, UT deceased (2) 23 2-3 m < 24 hours
2001 Eureka Lodge, AK deceased (2) 20 3 m 2 hours and 24 hours
2001 near The Canyons, UT deceased (1) 22 3.2 m 3 hours 12 minutes
2000 Snowbasin, UT deceased (1) 21 1-1.8 m approx 40 hrs
2000 near Redoubt Volcano, AK deceased (1) 19 0.6 m 48 hours
2000 Araphoe Basin, CO deceased (1) 18 0.2m < 24 hours
2000 Summit Lake, AK deceased (1) 17 1.5m 19 hours
2000 Crystal Mountain, WA deceased (1) 16 1 m 2 hrs
1999 Diamond Peak, CO deceased (1) minimal 24 hrs
1999 Little Willow, UT deceased (1) 13 0.6m 2 hours
1998 Little Cottonwood Canyon, UT deceased (1) 12 0.6m 1 hour
1998 Donner Summit, CA deceased (1) 14 1 m 1 hour
1998 Cantwell, AK deceased (1) 5 2.1m ~20 hrs
1997 Girdwood, AK deceased (1) 4 .6m 23 hrs
1997 Kenai Mountains, AK deceased (1) 1.2m 24 hrs
1997 Beavers, CO deceased (1) 1.1m 1 hour
1997 Cottonwood Creek, CO deceased (1) 1.4m 24 hrs
1996 Galena Summit, ID deceased (2) 3 ~.6m 1.25 hrs
1996 WY deceased (1) 1.5m 2-3 hrs
1995 Crystal Lakes, CO dead (1) 1.1m 24 hours
1994 Summit City, CO alive (1) 1.1m 14 minutes
1994 Peters Ridge, MT deceased (1) 3.7m ~24 hrs
1994 Lulu Pass, MT deceased (1) .5m 24 hrs
1993 Kirkwood, CA alive (1) 6 1.6m 15 minutes
1993 WY alive (1) 2.1m 1-2 hours
1993 Vail, CO deceased (1) 1.9m 20 hours
1993 West Yellowstone, MT deceased (1) 1.3m 3 hrs
1992 Montezuma, CO deceased (1) 2.9m 19 hours
1990 West Yellowstone, MT deceased (1) .5m ~6 hrs
1990 Alta, UT deceased (1) 11 0.6m 2 days
1988 Plummer Peak, WA deceased (1) 2m ~30 hrs
1988 Berthoud Pass, CO deceased (1) 1.9 m 4-7 days
1987 Shrine Pass, CO deceased (2) 2 m 5 hours
1987 Breckenridge, CO deceased (1) 2 m 3 days
1987 Pearl Pass, CO deceased (1) 6+ m 6 months
1987 Big Cottonwood Canyon, UT deceased (1) 10 0.7m 1 hour
1986 Big Cottonwood Canyon, UT deceased (1) 9 1.7m 45 minutes
1982 Alpine Meadows, CA alive (1) 4m? ~48 hrs? 2
1981 Big Cottonwood Canyon, UT deceased (1) 8 1.7m 2 hours
1980 Big Cottonwood Canyon, UT deceased (1) 7 2.1m 7 hours
1978 Taylor Creek, AK deceased (4) 1m 6 mos 1
1976 Sheep Mtn, AK deceased (1) 1.4m 3 days
1969 Mt. Rainier, WA deceased (1) 15 1.4m 48 hours

Also, check reports of recent slides at the Cyberspace Snow and Avalanche Center. There may be more detailed information about the above incidents there.

Thanks to those that have provided information to create this list:
Corey Aist
Patti Burnett
Mary Cablk
Bruce Cheshier
Cameron Daggett
Hatch Graham
Dan O'Connor
Sally Santeford
Ray Shriver
Mark Sickles
Bill Tai
Deb Tirmenstein
Janet Wilts

Revisions, additions or corrections to this information should be sent to dan*@* (take the *'s out for a valid address)

Note 1: "Taylor Creek AK, slide 1/21/78, search 7/28/78 4 persons (deceased), one victim surfaced, solid dog find on 1 victim (3+ feet depth), and alerts on other two which couldn't be recovered but surfaced Sept/Oct 1979."
Note 2: Information regarding the Alpine Meadows find is from my (Comden's) memory and most likely not completely accurate.
Note 3: "January 5, 1996 avalanche at Galena Summit, Blaine County, Idaho (20mi.Nof Sun Valley) Avalanche was triggered by two snowboarders walking out onto the slope 50' from the highway. A third person (skier) had already crossed the slope and skied down 250' and was waiting. It happened at 14:45 hrs., the rescue teams arrived and then the dog team arrived at 15:56 hrs, at 16:17 dog makes first find at 16:18 dog makes second find. The two victims were 4' apart buried about 2' deep. They both died, one pronounced dead at Sun Valley hospital at 17:49 hrs of asphyxiation, the second was life-flighted to Boise and pronounced dead at 20:47 of hypothermia."
Note 4: Subject was hiking with partner on Sunday, November 23, in the Crows Pass area when she was caught in the avalanche at 1400 hrs. Searchers arrived on the scene after slope stabalization was done (12 charges) on Monday, November 24. Within 4 minutes the first search dog alerted on the subject.
Note 5: "Two dog teams responded on April 25-26, 1998 to an avalanche just inside Denali National Park near Cantwell, Alaska in the Bull River drainage area. One snowmachiner was buried for about 20 hrs. Both dogs gave mild alerts on the subject within the first 15 minutes of the search and indicated a location for probers to work. The subject was buried in seven feet of dense snow. The dogs alerted 6-8 feet up hill of the subject."
Note 6: Burial and recovery at Kirkwood ski area. Information taken from Modesto Bee article at,1153,64424,00.html
Note 7: Activity was x-country skiing. Refer to Snowy Torrents 80-2.
Note 8: Activity was x-country skiing. Refer to Snowy Torrents 81-3.
Note 9: Activity was snowboarding. Refer to Snowy Torrents 86-9.
Note 10: Activity was x-country skiing.
Note 11: Lift Skier, skiing alone, collision with a tree, died on impact. Blizzard that night and next day, and victim could not be found. Day 2 the weather cleared and Dog Team located the victim. Not an avalanche find but same Dog Team skills, although the alert was initially apprehensive.
Note 12: Activity was snowboarding.
Note 13: Activity was Snowshoeing.
Note 14: Activity was snowboarding. More info at
Note 15: Snowy Torrents (69-15) reports that subject was buried in an avalanche at about 1030 on March 9th, 1969 near Panorama Point, above Paradise. At about 1030 on March 11th, (about 48 hours later) his body was located. His head was about 2 feet down and his feet about 5 feet down. He was located by a dog from the "German Shepherd Search and Rescue Dog Association", according to Snowy Torrents.
Note 16: Activity was skiing in closed area. More info at
Note 17: Activity was high marking with a snowmobile. More info at
Note 18: Activity was backcountry snow boarding. More info at
Note 19: Search was for victims of December 20, 2000 air crash. Subject was buried under 2 feet of snow. While this was not specifically an avalanche recovery, it demonstrates the effectiveness of using trained dogs to located buried people.
Note 20: Activity was snowmachine riding. More info at and
Note 21: Search was for single victim of plane crash within ski area boundary. More information at
Note 22: Activity was backcountry skiing. More info at
Note 23: Activity was climbing. More info at
Note 24: Activity was snowboarding. More info at
Note 25: Activity was snowmobile riding/highmarking. More info at
Note 26: Activity was snowboarding in closed backcountry area. More info at
Note 27: Solo snowmobile rider. More info at
Note 28: Backcountry skier. Details at are thin.
Note: 29 Activity was snowboarding in backcountry area. "[subject] was buried under about two feet from the slide he provoked. The other two feet of snow slid into the gully from the search team’s avalanche bombs." More info at
Note: 30 Activity was snow machining. Subject located adjacent to snow machine

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Text and photos copyright Dan Comden, 1995-2006 last updated: 06APR2006
Dan Comden
Seattle, WA U.S.A.
Email -- dan*@* (remove the asterisks around the "@" symbol)