Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Snow Ryder Unleashed

Contributed by a CP Volunteer

Bend resident and his terrier enjoy riding Mt. Bachelor's slopes together
By Penny Nakamura / For The Bend Bulletin

Bob Wenger, of Bend, and his dog Ryder take a break on the slopes from skiing and snowboarding at Mt. Bachelor on Sunday.
Andy Tullis / The Bulletin

Paris Hilton may have Tinkerbell, the chic chihuahua, but Bend resident Bob Wenger has his black skiing terrier Ryder.

And though Ryder may not have the haute couture of Tinkerbell, what he lacks in fashion moxie, he more than makes up in the coolness factor.

Ryder, as his name implies, can ride.

That’s right, this 5-year-old terrier can snowboard and ski the slopes of Mt. Bachelor with ease. Though Ryder can’t say so, Wenger believes the dog likes the speed and the wind blowing through his shaggy fur.

“He does seem to prefer his snowboard a little bit better, and, being a skier, that’s a little disappointing to me,” said Wenger. “Ryder never complains or whines. I think he really enjoys being at the mountain.”

Like Hilton, Wenger can’t go anywhere with Ryder without the paparazzi snapping photos of his skiing dog.

Last Sunday, waiting in the Sunshine Accelerator ski lift line at Mt. Bachelor, people were taking out their cameras and cell phones to capture the pooch on skis. Ryder seemed to enjoy the attention of being celebrity dog at the mountain.

“Oh my God, your dog is my hero, he’s so cool. He snowboards,” said Crosby Jones, 12, who was waiting in the lift line with Ryder. “Can I pet him?”

Doggie ski lessons

Kids, don’t try this on your own dog at home, because Ryder has been skiing since he was 3 months old. He’s no novice.

With five years of skiing under his paws, and just under three years of boarding experience, Ryder can shred it.

“I started taking him to Hollinshead Park when he was just a puppy, and I began putting him on skis and pushing him on it so he could get a feel for the snow and riding,” said Wenger, 56, a lifelong skier himself. “After he started there, we later went to Skyliner run (at Mt. Bachelor), and I would hike him up a ways, and we’d ski down together.”

After Ryder got the knack of the run, Wenger had a friend videotape the two of them skiing together. His hope was to send the video to the Mt. Bachelor ski patrol and get the green light for Ryder to ski the mountain.

“They looked at the video and saw we could ski together safely, so they gave us the OK to ski here, because usually, in the winter, there’s a leash law for the mountain,” said Wenger, who wanted to be able to ski with Ryder legally. “We usually don’t ski on really crowded days, or in really bad weather, either. I guess you could say Ryder’s a fair-weather skier.”

Custom-made gear

In addition to Ryder’s ski and board booties, made by Bend company Ruff Wear, and his Ruff Wear skiing vest, Wenger has custom-made the bindings, cut down an old pair of children’s skis, and found a small snowboard to equip his dog.

Wenger sits down on a snowbank and puts Ryder’s paws in his booties. “This is probably the hardest part,” he says. Ryder calmly sits on Wenger’s lap as his paws are outfitted with the booties, which have been fashioned with Velcro bottoms, which will attach to the Velcro bindings and straps.

Ryder has never had an injury or fall. Wenger says they occasionally may have a wardrobe malfunction, where a bootie slips off a paw, but he swears by the Velcro: “This Velcro is amazing stuff.”

The most complicated part of Ryder’s skiing equipment is the device Wenger uses to help steer his dog down the slopes. Wenger took a pair of old metal crutches with arm braces and welded on some old ski poles at the end. He can place the poles on either side of Ryder’s ski vest to help his dog turn.

And in case you’re worried that Ryder might get too cold, Wenger has thought of almost everything: Lined inside of Ryder’s red vest are hand warmers, the chemically heated kind typically used by skiers inside their mittens and gloves.

Slalom or powder?

On this run, Ryder took a confident stance on his snowboard. Hoots and howls came from adoring fans on the ski lift chairs above him. Though he can’t exactly do heel and toe turns on his board, Wenger took him through a slalom course of red and blue poles.

Amidst a slope of beginner skiers and boarders, Ryder was schooling them.

“Oh, that is so sweet. That is the coolest thing on the mountain,” said Sisters snowboarder Jim Yates, 37, who was seeing Ryder for the first time. “It certainly got my attention. I’ve seen the water-skiing dog on TV, and I wanted to get a picture of that dog skiing, but he skied by too quickly.”

On his next run, Ryder changed out his board for his skis.

“I’m looking for a little longer pair of skis for Ryder. These may be too short now,” Wenger said as he strapped on Ryder’s skis. “He’s had these skis since he was a puppy.”

Loading up on the lift is no problem for Ryder. With a convenient soft handle on the dog’s skiing vest, Wenger simply lifts Ryder onto the chairlift. Ryder, an expert by now, looked around nonchalantly, taking in the views.

Looking past the groomed runs, Ryder decided on some fresh powder. However, it was a little too deep and heavy, and with Ryder on his short skis, the 18-pound dog sank a bit too much before he could cut fresh tracks.

Back on the groomed run, Ryder was getting more claps and cheers from adoring fans.

“He’s way cooler than Paris’ dog,” said Mt. Bachelor ski school sales manager Kelsey Daubenschmidt. “He should be our ski school mascot.”

Doggie lift ticket

During the past five seasons, Ryder has become alpha dog of the mountain. Sure, there are the search and rescue dogs who can ride the lifts, but they can’t ski or snowboard.

Ryder has proven he’s got the right stuff to be on the mountain.

“So the number one question I get with Ryder, is if the mountain charges Ryder for a ski lift ticket,” said Wenger, laughing. “The answer is no, because he still qualifies to ski for free, because he’s still five. Next year? I think he can still go under the turnstiles.”

No bones about it, Ryder is celebrity ski dog here.

Penny Nakamura can be reached at halpen1@aol.com.

1 comment:

Jay said...

Ryder is well named. Mt. Bachelor is a fantastic ski location and Ryder knows how to make the most of it. Thanks for keeping him warm. I was concerned about that too.

Ryder is a Black Diamond Dog. Go Ryder.