Woman Fights to Carry Service Dog on Ski Slopes

Liam Abbott | | Industry NewsIndustry News
Image courtesy of @clairetbear on Instagram.

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.

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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A post shared by Claire Thomas Barnett (@clairetbear)

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.

Usually, the only dogs you will see on the mountain are avalanche rescue dogs, but Barnett hopes to see this change in the near future. Image courtesy of Vail’s Facebook.

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10 thoughts on “Woman Fights to Carry Service Dog on Ski Slopes

  1. The problem is if they make an exception for her, it opens the door for others, and they will want to bring their medium and large dogs. While I dig the idea of skiing with my dog, I wouldn’t want to try skiing a busy run with other people and dogs on it. It’s a bit like walking your dog without a leash beside a busy road. It might be okay, but if the dog makes one wrong move the results could be deadly for it.

  2. We live in a world where I’m right and your wrong and if I don’t get my way I’m going to complain and make a really big deal about it and tweet how unfair it is that I have to follow the rules that are in place to protect everyone . This is what the internet and Twitter created . Donald Trump made it acceptable to make it up as you go and sue everyone when he doesn’t get his way. Civilized society exists because of the consequences of not following the rules . When your actions no longer have consequences we are going to be in some seriously deep shit that we might not recover from. Rules exist to protect everyone.

      1. Yes. A small fragile animal crushed in an unexpected high energy torquing fall. Would be hideous. Imagine the nightmare results and noise. Would be very difficult for Ski Patrol to deal with.

  3. So she carries a dog instead of using a watch with an alarm to remind her to take her meds? Seems like a stretch. We’ve all seen way too many people sneak their dog using the excuse “oh – it’s a service dog.”

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