One Man and His Ski Touring Dog


Our small, feisty 10 year old Jack Russell proves there is plenty of life still in the old dog as she aces a 10km and 850m vert ski tour up the Gardiole...

We've been ski touring with our two Jack Russells for over 10 years and have never yet come across any other dog as small nor as tenacious ski touring in the backcountry.

But Mamma Kiki is now 13 years old and, although pretty darned spritely, is more of a sofa-cruiser than a mountain slayer. Beanie, her daughter, though, is 10 and as hardy as a mountain goat. But it had been over a year since we'd taken her ski touring as we doubted her stamina. In Tarifa, last May, when we took her for a short run, she'd found it hard, panting heavily, mainly because of the heat - she has quite a thick coat.

It's because of her curly white fur that we have tended not to take her on powder ski tours as the snow balls up under her armpits and in her paws so when she's found the going hard work she has often ended up in Gav's backpack.

ski touring with dogs

But everytime we get ready to go ski touring, she sits and watches what we put on, getting excited when she hears the crackle of Gore-Tex ski pants. You never know, though, with older dogs, how much enthusiasm is created by the memory of going on ski tours rather than the ability to still partake?

On Thursday morning, we decided to ski tour up the Gardiole as the Granon road had recently opened, clear of snow for the first 5km, thus taking quite a chunk off the total mileage making it 5km to the summit rather than 10km - and promising good spring snow after a few days of classic freeze/thaw. Gav spoke my thoughts when he said, "Shall we take Beanie?".

Beanie did a skip for joy in the kitchen and was out of the door and in the van before you could say, "Marmots". So she was coming - and, we agreed, there was always Gav's backpack if she was struggling.

We were climbing by 9.30am so the snow was still hard and easy for Beanie to walk up with us.

ski touring with dogs

It was much more effort for me than for her to reach the summit at 2,753m. And if the marmots had actually been awake after their winter's hibernation, Beanie would have gone a whole lot further, chasing after their taunting whistles.

At the stone circle at the top of Gardiole, she waited patiently while we transitioned.

ski touring with dogs

But as soon as she sees us click into the bindings, she's ready to go, right behind Gav's skis as he turns down the mountain, swishing the sugary spring snow into perfect arcs. When it gets a bit flatter on a couple of short tranverses, Gav gives her a lift, the snow getting softer and slowing her down, as we descend.

Of course, Beanie isn't as fast as a Border Collie on the descent. So I often pass her and then we wait for her to catch up. What I love about this is the fact that while we stop to wait, it gives time to enjoy the peace and appreciate the descent. Without Beanie, we'd ski the 5km down without stopping.

Being smaller, the Jacks have always kept in our tracks, especially when it's powder. This has avoided any collisions with our skis. Our third dog, is Ullr, a young Husky/Border Collie who had started to ski tour with us last winter and up to mid-December early this season.

ski touring with dogs

Sadly, a friend caught him with his skis on a backcountry powder day, severing his Achilles tendons.

We thought his ski touring days were over, let alone the use of four legs, but following a major operation to create a prosthetic tendon in January, he is on the road to recovery. He might even join us for a gentle ski tour before the end of this season.

PS. If you know of any other ski touring Jack Russell contact us: