A lot of hardcore skiers will trot out this bit of trivia: What percentage of the members of the U.S. Ski Team have undergone re-constructive knee surgery? Their answer is 100%. But what about the unsung, four-legged heroes of the ski hill, AKA the avalanche dogs? Recently, one canine followed in the US Ski Team’s tracks. Subi, a member of the Solitude Ski Patrol in Utah, underwent successful bi-lateral ACL surgery after tearing both anterior cruciate ligaments (ACLs) during a training exercise at Snowbird in February, 2009.
The five-year-old Australian Sheppard was bred and trained specifically for rescue. Avalanche rescue dogs can mean the difference between life and death for those caught in an avalanche. Their role on the Ski Patrol team is simple: to find people. Avalanche rescue dogs do this by finding where the human scent is rising out of the snow and indicating that location to the other (human) members of the Ski Patrol team.
Following the surgery, which was performed by Dr. Dennis Law at the Cottonwood Animal Hospital, recovery time was estimated at six months. However, Subi returned to full health with 100% flexibility and mobility in just three months. “She’s getting there,” said owner and Solitude Ski Patrolman Scott Rogers. “Right now we’re still doing physical therapy, but we’re really pleased with how well she has recovered.”
Though Ski Patrol is still being careful with Subi, she is back in the rotation, playing a vital role in safety efforts at Solitude Mountain Resort. Although Subi gets a lot of attention when she’s on the mountain riding chairlifts, in a lot of ways she’s just another member of the team. Says Rogers, “When she’s on the mountain she’s not considered a pet, she’s considered part of the Ski Patrol team.”