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Ambassador Field Notes

Field Notes: Snowboarding With Baku

Omar is a medal-winning Olympic snowboarder from Italy who’s played on and around snow since he was 3 years old. When he’s not training, he loves to explore and adventure with pup, Baku, who also (luckily!) digs the snow. This story has been translated from Italian to English.

I find the true joy of snowboarding extends beyond my two Olympic and two World Championship medals. It’s sharing this passion with my four-legged partner in crime, Baku, a spirited Border Collie/Australian Shepherd mix who’s been by my side since 2021.

Omar and dog, Baku, stand at the end of a snowboarding run.

Twenty-eight years ago, my love affair with snowboarding began when I witnessed someone gracefully carving through the slopes on a snowboard. From that moment, my dream was to become a professional snowboarder and stand on the grand stages of the Olympic Games. But, for me, snowboarding isn’t just a sport. It’s a way of life. A passion that extends far beyond medals hanging on my wall.

Midst the thrill of snowboarding, I discovered another passion: spending my days immersed in nature. Whether it’s hiking, climbing, paragliding, snowboarding, skiing, or skateboarding, I find solace in the great outdoors. Despite all these adventures, there was one missing piece: a companion to share these passions. Enter Baku, a decision driven by my commitment to having a dog fully integrated into my active lifestyle, not one waiting patiently at home. It was only natural for him to become my “snowboard dog”.

Turning Baku into a slope companion wasn’t without its challenges. Being a Border Collie, his herding instincts initially manifested as circling around my board or skis, playfully nipping at the tips, especially during descents. Yet, with patience and persistence, we overcame this hurdle, and I vividly recall the first descent where we joyfully carved down the slopes side by side. In that moment, the snow-covered mountains were just our playground, and our bond was strengthened by how easily we moved together.

Omar and Baku snowboarding with the Omnijore.

Omar and Baku use the Omnijore™ Joring System to adventure in the snow.

Our favorite spot to explore is Meran2000, a ski resort near my home town. It’s not just a destination, it’s where Baku took his first steps on snow. It’s also where we both find pure joy, whether in a quick snowboard session, a hike through the woods, or conquering the summit.

For those contemplating bringing their dogs onto the slopes, I emphasize the importance of patience and taking it step-by-step. The key is to have fun together and let your dog revel in the joy of the experience. While it demands effort, the rewards in strengthening the bond with your dog are immeasurable.

Safety is paramount when venturing into the snow with your dog. Not all slopes welcome our furry friends, necessitating leash training for Baku. While he typically roams off-leash during walks, the leash becomes a safety measure when other skiers share the terrain. Another critical skill we honed was Baku’s comfort with being carried, essential in situations where other skiers might feel uneasy or when injury is a concern.

Omar and Baku snowshoe together.

Ensuring Baku’s comfort and security on the slopes is extremely important. Besides the obvious things (like water), Baku always wears the right harness for every situation. I always bring the Highlands™ Sleeping Pad with me so he can lie on it and rest when we are on snow or in a hut with a cold floor. I also make sure to bring the Polar Trex™ Boots. Baku usually starts without the boots but as soon as I see that ice starts to form under his paws, we put them on and he’s glad to wear them. Baku now knows when I bring out the snowboard that there’s going to be a fun day ahead. He gets so excited!

The time I spend with Baku is the time I value the most. Spending time with him helps me to recharge my batteries and get my stress level lowered, especially during intensive training or race periods. Of course, I cannot spend every training session with him. There are days I have to focus on myself or where it is just impossible to have him with me. As an athlete I don’t have a steady routine like many other dog owners do, but Baku knows this and he is used to it.

The most important thing is to have fun with your dog and let the dog have fun with you!

Omar and Baku skijoring