As Claire Barnett says, “It has been a little but strictly enforced guideline in the ski industry.” The ban of service dogs at ski resorts across the United States is a common but understated rule.
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For people like Barnett, who has autism and ADHD with a miniature Aussiedoodle who has been trained to provide reminders for her on when to take medication, this rule restricts her from skiing. But weighing less than 20lbs, Barnett’s dog Maeve is perfectly suitable for fitting in a specially designed backpack, the size many skiers already wear.
This begs the question, why aren’t you allowed to ski with a service animal?
In an article written by Barnett in Huffpost, Barnett explains that the ban’s reasoning is understandable, but regardless, times have changed, and so should the rules.
“Once upon a time, service animals were used primarily by the blind and deaf, and were almost always large dogs… These days, though, a much broader group of disabled people enjoy the help of a service animal… Mirroring this wider variety of service tasks is the variety of dog breeds trained to perform them. Today, you are much more likely than 30 years ago to encounter a legitimate working dog under 50 pounds.”
For large dogs, it still does not make sense to allow them on the slopes due to safety risks, but for small dogs that can be safely secured in a backpack, they can remain perfectly safe.
When Barnett first went to Deer Valley to ski, she was initially pulled over by ski patrol, citing that dogs are not allowed on the slopes. Barnett then described the lengthy process and perseverance it took to speak to the Director of Mountain Operations at Deer Valley. After having a meeting with the Director of Mountain Operations, she was allowed to ski with Maeve, making her the first person at Deer Valley to receive permission to ski with a service animal.
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What Can We Learn from Barnett?
Although it may be an uncommon situation, Barnett says it may be that way because no one has thought to try and challenge the rule before. By becoming aware of the issue, Deer Valley was able to provide more information related to it on their website and will now give special approval for people looking to bring small service dogs on the slopes.
In Barnett’s eyes, she says that this now allows skiing, a sport that would have been viewed as inaccessible for someone like her before, to be considered an activity people like her can participate in without having to be worried about being away from their service animal.
Deer Valley is just one of only a handful of resorts that now allow service dogs on the slopes. Hopefully, if news and awareness spread about this issue, more resorts will begin to realize they can adopt safe and helpful rules to allow service dogs on the slopes.