Heroes with a cold snout in Zauchensee

The Zauchensee Lift Company has been supporting the Salzburg Mountain Rescue 'Paw Patrol' for 40 years. The annual winter course for mountain rescue dogs also took place in Zauchensee in January 2024. High time to introduce you to the heroes on four paws!

The most important thing first: the dogs have 100 per cent trust in their handlers, with whom they not only work, but also live together. Only physically fit and mentally/characteristically suitable dogs are accepted for training and deployment with Salzburg Mountain Rescue. Education and training are designed to be playful and promote the intelligence, play instinct and character of the dogs. Actual missions are well-practised routines for each animal. Animal welfare always takes priority in education, training and deployment.

Salzburg Mountain Rescue has had an avalanche dog team for 75 years, which is used to search for buried victims in an emergency. For 40 years, the 'task force with the cold snout' and its dog handlers have been trained for deployment at the annual winter training programme in Zauchensee.

What the Salzburg Mountain Rescue avalanche dogs learn

When a person is buried by an avalanche, things have to move quickly: the time window for buried victims who are unable to free themselves is 15 to 20 minutes. Reason enough to deploy the best possible sniffer dogs: Salzburg Mountain Rescue's avalanche dogs.

The dogs learn to use their fine sense of smell in a targeted manner. They are trained to sniff out minimal human scent marks, which is no big deal for a dog thanks to its natural disposition.

Only positive reinforcement is used in education and training: Whenever the dog sniffs out and indicates a target or performs a desired activity, it is rewarded. With maximum praise, games, special treats and always lots of love.

The positive side effect of the training situations: The volunteer 'buried victims' know that they are about to be rescued by an animal hero. They are therefore prepared for the circumstances, are not afraid and are happy when the dog finds them in the pile of snow. This is an additional encouragement for dogs in training.

How the Zauchensee Lift Company supports the mountain rescue dogs

Our piste crew prepares the training environment for the mountain rescue dog team: We set up 'avalanche cones', provide cordoned-off training zones, enable lift rides for humans and animals and provide equipment from piste bully to skidoo so that the dogs can be trained on them.

The aim of the training is to familiarise the dogs with all operational situations and technological aids. The action, the hustle and bustle and the excitement surrounding an operation can also be optimally simulated in such training situations.

During training, animals are prepared for their job as mountain rescue dogs from puppy age (approx. 8 to 10 weeks). It is essential that the dogs get to know their future environment during their socialisation phase, which lasts from around eight to 16 weeks of age - with everything that goes with it until the helicopter mission.

The highlights of the 2024 training week for mountain rescue dogs

Dogs of all levels were trained in avalanche searches and practised at the specially equipped training area in Zauchensee. This year, the Salzburg Mountain Rescue training team once again focussed on playful learning, where the dogs have pure fun working with their handlers.

This approach was particularly important for the youngsters of the 2024 training year: the young dogs Marley (the white shepherd) and Simba (the Australian shepherd) as well as the A-dogs Finn (flat-coated retriever/guest from Upper Austria), Bella (a beautiful old German shepherd) and Murphy (Drentse Pratrijshond). All four-legged model students were so successful that they will be allowed to take part in the working dog test next year!

Special mission for the Salzburg rescue dog team

The Salzburg Mountain Rescue Service has had its own avalanche dog team for 75 years, and the four-legged friends and their leaders have been trained in Zauchensee for 40 years. To celebrate this double anniversary, a spectacular exercise involving a helicopter was carried out at the training camp in January. (Thanks to Martin Air Rescue)

The dogs not only proved their absolute coolness when the rescue helicopter took off and landed, but also their boundless trust in their two-legged partners.

We would like to thank Salzburg Mountain Rescue for their incredible commitment and are incredibly proud to have been your partner for the rescue dog team for 40 years!

Woof, see you in 2025!


Tip: So that you can enjoy a safe and enjoyable day of skiing - without the avalanche dog squad - we have compiled a summary of the the most important information on
- piste safety
- Avalanche situation report
- piste closures &
- nature conservation

Here you’ll find everything you need to know about piste rules and safety.

photo credits: Bergbahnen Zauchensee