How to ski with your dog in the backcountry

Posted by Jascha Herlihy on

How many of you are able to tour with your pup? We sat down with athlete and dog-mom Keli Spencer (@kelli_out_exploring) to talk about tips and tricks for taking your furry friend on the trail with you.


Things to bring for you/your dog:⁠

1. Dog Puffy jacket, Dog Booties, Dog Harness⁠⠀
2. TREATS (bring plenty!)⁠⠀
3. Extra water⁠
4. Extra puffy for me or the dog in if it's extra cold.⁠⠀
5. First Aid and a splint made for dog legs.⁠⠀

kelli and dog1. Teach your dog heal. She is always at least about 6 ft. behind me. That’s essential. ⁠⠀⁠⠀

2. Make sure your dog has a healthy ‘fear’ of the actual skis, but not of skiing. I trained Kenai early to not get too close to the skis. 

3. Utilize that ‘heel’ during skiing. When I start off downhill, she’s always in heel…meaning she’s running 3 feet behind me on my right. Once I get ahead of her, I’ll release her and she can run her little heart out to the bottom. I always make sure she’s behind me and clear of the edges.⁠

4. Harness, Winter Jacket, and Booties are ESSENTIAL. Here in AK, we are out skiing in -10 or -25 weather. Kenai has a puffy jacket and booties to always protect her from the cold/snow. Her harness is amazing for steeper chutes or any ridge lines. She’s pretty smart about it, but I always take the extra precaution of having her harnessed and roped on to me if we are up on something gnarly. If it’s a steep chute or a ridge, she will ride on my shoulders through the sketchy part, and then she can get off and run. All her gear is @Ruffwear. Their gear holds up, and is made super well (like Renoun Skis).⁠⠀

5. Confidence boosting. TREATS TREATS TREATS! I legit have a pocket full of treats. She gets treats on the skin line up when she’s good, comes to her command I always give her a bacon strip on the summit. She KNOWS she’s getting treats. Then on the way down I honestly just hoot and holler at her and she loves it. And more treats at the bottom so she knows she did a good job.⁠

6. It’s okay to turn around, and watch their body language closely.