We assure you that traveling with a dog is not an impossible mission. If the stars don’t align and your family or neighbors can’t take care of your pet during the holidays, you have two options: leave your dear friend at an animal nursery or take your faithful four-legged friend on a trip.
The Saint Bernard, Siberian Husky, German Shepherd or Pyrenean Shepherd are some dog breeds examples that withstand the cold of the mountains and inclement weather well. But when it comes to going on holidays in the snow, dogs are prohibited not only on the slopes, but sometimes also in accommodation, rentals, restaurants and other services. We give you some tips so you can go skiing with your dog and enjoy the snow to the fullest together.
Going on ski travel with your dog is not impossible!
First of all: transportation; then, finding an accommodation which allow pets, precautions to take into account for their safety and comfort… What should I do with my dog during the day? Can I go out to the slopes with me? In North America, one can easily find ski resorts and hotels that accept pets, but in Europe we will have to search a little bit.
Traveling with a dog to the snow brings us endless questions to which we will try to provide solutions.
Can you take your dog in the snow? How do you protect him/her?
The natural coat of the dog can be sufficient in the snow, dense fur keeps them warm even if it gets very cold, and their long paws help them walk and jump in the snow. However, depending on the breed and age, some dogs do not resist well to the cold and you have to take special measures throughout your vacation.
Nordic breeds make excellent companions and are naturally well-equipped for the snow (Alaskan Malmut, Greenland Dog, Siberian husky) as well as mountain dogs (Saint Bernard, Bernese mountain dog, Great Pyrenees…). Their long hair keeps them warm in winter and they feel at ease in the snow. However with short-haired dogs, shaved dogs, puppies, older dogs or dogs slightly lean, a coat is necessary when the temperature drops. Back at the hotel, you’ll need to wipe ice off your dog’s feet and belly and let it rest in a warm place.
Additionally, you have to be very careful with the paws of your dog, specifically its toe pads. You should use pad moisturizer before going to avoid any crack in the pads or you should give him a massage after a walk in the snow. Remember that the salt, de-icers and products to melt the ice can be toxic to dogs which can result in damaged paws. Make note to rinse the paws well when going home to avoid any risk, and put Vaseline on the pads before going outside. Booties for dogs can be a solution. They are efficient and dogs get used to them quite quickly.
Lastly, dogs tend to eat the snow which causes digestive problems and even worse, could even poison them when the snow is mixed with ice-melting products. Take water with you for your companion when leaving the hotel and monitor whether your dog is eating snow or not.
Consider giving him additional food after a good day exercising in the snow, but check the portion he needs with the vet before going on ski-holidays.
Finding pet-friendly hotels and restaurants.
Finding pet friendly hotels and facilities is not a big challenge in North America, however in Europe you have to check at the Tourist Office before booking your trip. Not all hotels accept pets. For après-ski activities, you have to find the proper restaurant and pub. You have to be mindful about not leaving him alone out in the cold when the temperature drops as the sun goes down.
In Europe, if pets are allowed, they have to be well trained and must not disturb the other customers nor bark. In most facilities you have to purchase an additional ticket for your dog. For instance, in Switzerland, the owner has to pay a half-price additional ticket for a dog in trains and buses.
In the United States or Canada, dogs are allowed in most of the facilities but also on some of the slopes! When traveling abroad, take your animal’s health record and check the entering and returning conditions for pets, especially in UK.
What to do with your dog during the day?
Have you ever heard of ski joering? The sport combines cross-country skiing and sled dogs. On Nordic trails, your dog pulls you when the slope is flat. Some French resorts (Les Rousses, Dévoluy, Métabief, la Vallée d’Abondance) even feature slopes where dogs are allowed. Dogs can be the attraction themselves when speaking about sled dogs, an activity for the whole family and the children reminding you of Jack London’s novels. In France you can go on these very special sleds in La Plagne or Les 7 Laux, but also in Baqueira, Spain or Sun Peaks Resort, Canada.
In the United States, going skiing with your dog is more common. Some American resorts open parts of the domains opened specifically for dogs in winter: Westin Monache Resort, Calafornia and Whitesfish, Montana are a couple of places that dogs can run in the snow without leash on more than 30 miles of doomed slopes. But the best resort to go skiing with your dog is Aspen Snowmass, a resort well known for its devotion for dogs allowed on the whole ski area and even in some 5-stars hotels!
In Europe dogs are sometime allowed in gondolas in winter where you will enjoy the spectacular views with your dog. For instance in the iconic valley of Chamonix, if dogs are prohibited on slopes, you can board on the gondolas and cable cars to admire the panoramas or have a drink at the restaurant with your pet in la Flégère, le Brévent or Balme. For security and maintenance issues, dogs are prohibited on alpine trails. They are not allowed on Nordic slopes since often they fall under protected areas.
If you want to ski on alpine trails and you need someone to take care of you dog, ask the Tourist Office for a list of dog sitters and kennels. For alpine skiing, the best alternative for you is to find a good sitter. You can find the pet-sitters of the resort directly on the web, a very helpful service for your holiday planning. Prices start from 5 euros per hour. Choose carefully so that you find someone you can rely on when picking your dog-sitter.
A few tips before going skiing with your dog: training and security
When you ski down a slope with your dog, you have to train him and be very careful not to hurt your dog with your skis or shoes. We are speaking of alpine skiing here and not skijoring, the dog follows its master and does not pull him.
Our first tip so that your dog doesn’t get hurt, is to train him so he waits for your signal to begin to ski. Once you are down the slope, you then signal him to come. A pre-requisite: you must first teach your dog to wait and to heel behind before starting to ski with him. He has to come directly without sniffing around or running after an animal, otherwise you will have to go up the slope with your skis to get him, something that could be quite exhausting.
If you go on the slopes with your dog, let him rest regularly. It is a real challenge for him! In fact, as you slide on the snow, he has to walk in the snow under extreme conditions. Go out with him on half days and avoid full days and let him rest after exercising.
Before booking your ski trip, check for pet-friendly restaurants and hotels. You will share a great experience with your family as you see your dog enjoying the snow with the children during your holidays. It’s guaranteed to be something quite unforgettable!