DURANGO, Colo. — Purgatory Resort’s avalanche search and rescue team has a new member. Meet Ember!

Ember is an eight-week-old black Labrador Retriever owned by Bristlecone Avalanche Rescue K9s (B.A.R.K.), a 501c3 nonprofit. The foundation is based out of Purgatory Resort and was formed in 2016 to train and support working or retired avalanche rescue dogs.

Ember will join fellow rescue dogs Lida and Carson once she is fully trained. She and her handler Blayne Woods (Purgatory patrol director and EMT) will begin training following the Colorado Rapid Avalanche Deployment (C-RAD) validation protocol for certifying rescue dog teams.

Full avalanche rescue certification typically takes 2-3 years from puppyhood and includes both the dog and the handler. A validated team – one that can be used and trusted in rescues – must be able to find two buried human victims and two buried articles of clothing or gear in 40 minutes.

“We are stoked to welcome Ember to our dedicated team of ski patrol professionals,” said Jim Brantley, Director of Mountain Ops. “Helping people enjoy our mountain SAFELY is our primary objective. People love dogs, and Avi dogs help raise awareness of the numerous hazards involved with traveling in avalanche terrain. We are proud to partner with B.A.R.K. and we are grateful to them for providing rescue dogs to help our patrollers work more effectively.”

Visitors can see Ember at Purgatory as she begins her basic obedience training, including practice drills from playing hide and seek, to finding “victims” buried in snow caves and article searches. Purgatory’s closing day is April 17th and the mountain is open Saturday and Sunday, April 9-10 and 16-17.