Given the conditions are moderate and the day’s agenda will allow for it, my dog tags along. Actually, I should probably phrase that differently, because he does much more than tag along. He typically runs around reeking havoc on all the little woodland creatures and in the long-run ends up with about five times the workout I get. As I skin uphill, if he’s not at my heels he’s usually not around. He may roam several hundred yards away, on the scent of a week-old fox track, but I’m always aware of his proximity, because his voice echoes all around me. However, before I get carried away talking about how cool he is, let me explain its relevance to backcountry skiing/snowboarding.
First of all, he’s never hung-over. No matter what, he will NEVER bail on me. In fact, he’s always ready before I am and he nags at me to hurry all the way to the trailhead. In fact, he’d be out the door before sunrise everyday if he could. It’s great motivation, as long as I can look at it optimistically and hold in my frustrations while he’s whining and buzzing in my ear. I swear, he’s telepathic. He can sense a trailhead from over a mile away, and proceeds to squeal in excitement until I park and finally release him from car-captivity.
My dog never sports a confidence-halo. He knows his limits, and won’t jump without proper foresight. On the other hand, his foresight differs a bit from mine. He’ll wander out onto a cornice that to him seems fine, but he wouldn’t have the first clue how to diagnose the snowpack’s stability. This is why the conditions have to be ideal and the line I intend to shred has to be dog friendly. And when a partner bails or I go solo for one reason or another, the line I ride had better be dog friendly! I shouldn’t be doing anything gnarly without a partner, and they’d better be strapped w/ beacon, shovel, probe, and the willpower to dig til’ they can’t dig no more!
When we’re out there, we’re pretty far out there. I usually don’t mind my dog running around barking like a banshee in heat. I guess it ensures my solitude, because no wildlife would dream of coming near. We’ll see birds overhead, but unless he’s heeling and quiet we rarely see many critters. This is really beneficial over the summers, as I don’t worry too much about bears or sleeping near my food if I have a dog camping with me. But that’s another story. Back to my theory that my dog is the ultimate backcountry partner.
My dog is stoked no matter what line he ends up with. Usually that line is straight down the hill in my direction, and I’ve got to envy his courage in that regard. Courage as well as stamina, because he’s got to leap with every step through deep snow, and that just adds to the exercise he already got on the way up. He’s got to exert over ten times the energy I do, and I try to find inspiration in that. I can also say anything to him without judgment. I like to sing, and I ramble and have short conversations with him. He’s a great listener and tends to agree with most that I have to say. It’s quite pleasant, actually.