Should I take my dog into the backcountry?

Ask Dr. Flake

Listen, pal, that question rips Earn-Your-Turns Nation in half. When the folks at Seattle's Mountaineers Club recommended a backcountry-ethics policy against dogs, they were accused of being "specist." The anti-dog lobby howls about trailside excrement, dimpled skin tracks, wildlife hassles, and paw/ski interference. Dog lovers counter that skin tracks get way more buggered by hiking snowboarders than border collies, and that poop and misbehavior can be corrected with plastic bag and leash.

And just look how cute my fuzzy, wuzzy, luvvy pup is with powder on his snout!

Skiers, if anyone, should appreciate dogs' love for a romp in the snow with their best friends. You just need to be discerning about where you take them. In avalanche terrain, canines can set off slides and cause scent conflicts for rescue dogs. Three years ago, in Utah's Uinta Mountains, an avalanche transceiver-that had been on a dog-was dug out before said pooch's dead owner, which is bad, if you believe human life matters more than canine life-like most skiers do.

November 2005