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Elisa Deutschmann | Ski mountaineering with dogs

Elisa Deutschmann | Ski mountaineering with dogs

JEANETTE: Ski mountaineering with a dog is getting more and more popular, and one of the influencers you can see doing this is Elisa Deutschmann from Germany and her husky, Finn. Welcome.


ELISA: Thank you. Nice to be here.


JEANETTE: You get a lot of questions about ski mountaineering with dogs. First of all, what equipment do you need for yourself and your dog?


ELISA: Finn and me are always out in the mountains, and it’s quite important that the dog use the right equipment to go out there. For that, I use the Freemotion Harness. I’ve used it now since 6 years, when I started to ski with my dog. I also use the running line because I think it’s super nice, and it has a flexible part in it. I always attach the line to my backpack so he’s not pulling that hard, the flexible part, and it’s nice for my back. These two are I think the most important things I use for Finn, and he feels really good in it.


JEANETTE: A question I guess you get a lot is, what kind of skis do you use when ski mountaineering with a dog? Because you see these horrible pictures of steel edges causing some bad injuries.


ELISA: Yeah, it’s true. I still use normal ski mountaineering skis, but I trained with Finn from the very beginning when we were going down that he’s always 5 meters away from my skis. It’s really important that you don’t crash into it. I think that’s a point which you have to train really in the beginning, and I did it. I ski up with my dog, and Finn is normally always on the leash in front. Sometimes if it’s a nice area, he’s loose.


When we are up on the top, then he gets unleashed, and then I say the training word. It’s called “hinter”. Then he knows he has to go behind me. Then we start to ski. If you want to train with your dog so that he’s not going into your skis, I always use my ski poles. I put them in the back and I always make sure he’s far away. Of course, I look that I don’t touch him and that everything is fine. I think that’s a nice way that he gets used to it.


JEANETTE: So you put some effort into this in the beginning so that he learns from the start that this is how it works.


ELISA: Yeah. That’s super important that he knows the basics. When you ski up, it’s important that he not push one time like crazy and then he’s loose, so it’s nice that he always goes the same speed. If you go ski touring, you also have “spitzkehren”, It’s the crossing points when the hill is getting really steep. He also has to get used to that. I trained it with him before. On the normal ground, I make stops and then I say what he has to do. Train with your dog, because otherwise you can get in trouble on the mountain.


JEANETTE: What dangers are there when you’re bringing a dog to the mountain?


ELISA: I think there are so many points. Of course, first, it’s amazing to bring your best partner to the mountain and to share this experience. But I think you have to be really good and think about avalanches. That’s a really good point, that you go up first. Before I brought Finn to all my ski mountaineering stuff, I trained a lot on avalanche risks. I’m really used to all the mountains, all the snow conditions. After that I brought Finn. Because he has no avalanche thing with him, so it’s really important that he’s safe. I think I’m a good skier, and I always look around and he’s safe. That’s important. So a lot of things.


And of course, weather conditions. And then it depends on which dog you have. I have a Siberian husky and he is really used to rough conditions. It doesn’t matter if a snowstorm is coming or not. He doesn’t need any booties for his paws, so he does really well. But if you have a different breed like a chihuahua or anything, any dog can go on a mountain, but it’s important that you know your dog really well and that you also bring the right equipment for him.


JEANETTE: But Finn doesn’t need a jacket, I guess.


ELISA: No, he’s super warm and he doesn’t care about anything. [laughs] When I wear three jackets, he’s still happy and enjoys the snow and the cold weather conditions.


JEANETTE: Is the heavy snow ever any trouble to you?


ELISA: I only had once that he stopped walking in the mountains because we had like one and a half meters of powder, and he was over his nose in the snow, so it was crazy. But I think all the other times, he was always fine and doing well. But I think that’s the thing I already said: you have to know your dog really good, and I think then it works with every dog.


JEANETTE: How do you know that he’s doing okay or if you should break a bit more?


ELISA: As I said, I know Finn really good. When I ski down, for example, I always make breaks. Of course I would love to ski the whole way, or if it’s nice powder, to ski the whole way down, but you always have to think about your dog. It’s like if you would run the whole way down the whole mountain, so it’s crazy. So I made every 200 meters a stop, and he has to wait and has to breathe, and then we go for the next. It’s important, but for that you also have to know your dog.


JEANETTE: When you’re going down, do you have your dog on the leash, or is he running free?


ELISA: He’s running free. I think for me, it’s a safe way to go because I don’t like to go with the leash down. But as I said, he always runs behind me and 5-10 meters away from me so that nothing happens. If I know the area, I also let him run in front of me, but it depends where I am and how everything is.


JEANETTE: Why don’t you want him to run in front of you?


ELISA: He’s a Siberian husky, so sometimes it happens that he sees something and then he runs away. [laughs] It’s quite important for me that I always know where he is. Normally he’s not running away, but you never know, and I don’t want to search for him for hours, so that’s why. [laughs]


JEANETTE: Do you see many others with dogs in the mountains?


ELISA: I think in Germany, it became more and more, but I think a lot of people don’t know how to handle it and how to do it and which equipment to use. So I think it gets more and more. I would love to see more dogs up in the mountains because I think it’s so nice to share this experience with your dog.


JEANETTE: As far as I know, you’re going to have some seminars about this topic.


ELISA: Yeah, that’s true. As I said, I get a lot of questions about how to do this, and to explain it is fine, but I think it’s better to show people how to do it. I think it’s nice to meet so many people who are also loving their dog and want to go out ski mountaineering. That’s why I did these ski mountaineering camps, and I think it’s really cool and the people get to know it. There are so many people who have a dog and also would like to go out in nature, but don’t know how to handle it. That’s nice, and I think it’s nice that there are so many people out there that want to do some activities with their dog.


JEANETTE: What’s your best memory from doing this with Finn?


ELISA: The best memory is – I’ve had Finn now for 6 years, and we’ve made a million nice memories. But right now, last week I had been to Dachstein, the glacier in Austria. It was a tough expedition. We made like 64 kilometers and 14,600 meters high, and I was not sure if I could make it and also if Finn could make it because I had last year an accident with my leg and it’s still not good.


We had really rough conditions. The first day was a crazy storm, ice, and I could not see anything, and Finn I think also. We still kept on walking. The second day was really good, but the last part of Dachstein is you have to climb up, and I could not bring Finn up there. So I had to leash him down on the rock and he had to wait there. It was a crazy, horrible feeling for me because I heard Finn when I was on the top. He was crying because of where I am.


But skiing down on the second day, there was a really rough, crazy storm up in the mountains with snow. But both Finn and me were working so good together, so it was really nice. I think right now this is one of the nicest experiences I did.


JEANETTE: For next year, you have a lot of other plans as well, and you’ll include Finn in this?


ELISA: Yeah. Not only next year, I think also in the spring I want to do paragliding with Finn together. I dream that we’ll ski up with the skis and then I’ll bring a paraglider and fly together with him down. That’s something I really want to do. But to do paragliding is also not that easy, and also with a dog, so we have to train a lot. But I think there’s a lot of fun expeditions and other stuff awaiting me and Finn and it’s very nice.


JEANETTE: You’re really pushing the limits of both of you.


ELISA: Yeah. I don’t want to do anything without Finn because it’s horrible for me when he has to stay at home and I’m in the mountains. Before, we did everything together, like skiing, climbing. Also, he’s climbing a little bit, so it’s super nice. But the point of flying, dogs are not able to do it normally, so that’s a thing I really want to do with him. But we’ll have to train a lot for him before I really take him out in the air. I already bought a harness for him which fits for flying, and we will see how we will do it.


JEANETTE: So people are actually flying with their dogs, even the big ones, already?


ELISA: Yeah, there are some people out there who are flying. But a husky is not really small, so we really have to see how it will work. Finn is always, when he’s with me, he’s super chill and doing well, so I think he will also do it. But we will only do it if he really enjoys it. I will not push him.


JEANETTE: What does it mean for you to bring your dog to all these activities?


ELISA: For me, Finn is not only a dog; he’s my partner in crime, you can say. He’s always with me, and we’re a really good team. It’s really nice for me to bring him, and it’s also really good for me that he’s doing everything so well still, because he turned 6, so he’s not that young. He’s in a really good age and he’s still so eager to run and so happy, so it’s so nice to bring him everywhere.


JEANETTE: There is one question we ask everybody on this podcast, and that is: if you had to do another sport or activity with your dog, what would it be? You and Finn are doing almost everything, but is there something else you would like to try?


ELISA: I think we already did everything together. He’s been paddleboarding with me, he’s running, driving in the car for hours with me. [laughs] There’s nothing he doesn’t like. I think the flying thing is something I would love to do with him.


JEANETTE: You will also be back for another episode in the summer about trail running with a dog, and I guess when you start flying, you’ll have to come back and talk about that as well.


ELISA: Yeah, of course, and I can share all the experience I have with you about flying with a dog. [laughs]


JEANETTE: Super. Thank you so much for joining us on this podcast.


ELISA: Thank you. It was super cool.

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