We asked US Heliskiing Association if there are any safety standards set for all heliskiing companies in US.
OUR EMAILS WITH PAUL BUTLER, THE FORMER PRESIDENT OF US HELISKIING ASSOSIATION AND KEVIN QUINN, THE CURRENT PRESIDENT OF US HELISKIING ASSOSIATION
On Nov 10, 2012, at 7:17 PM, email@example.com wrote:
Natalia and Alex Dodov via heli-ski.com
Name: Natalia and Alex Dodov Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Phone: 209 753 2828 Message:
Hi Paul and Kevin,
My name is Natalia Dodova, I am mother of Nickolay Dodov, who was killed in the avalanche on Thankin Ridge, Haines, AK. With my husband, Alex Dodov, we are experienced ski mountaineers; our son was an experienced backcountry snowboarder. We have been investigating and we have a lot of information regarding the accident. Would you be interested to look at it and help us with your professional opinion? We would like to ask you if there are any safety and search and rescue standards that the heli companies in the US should operate under? Have you been working with the Alaska Heli Company, Haines? Is Alaska Heli Company member of the HSUS? Do you know who authorized Alaksa Heli Company to have a heli guiding school? Did you know that the autopsy finds THC higher than the background levels in the guide Rob Liberman’s blood? Where HSUS does stands in this matter regarding drugs?
Thank you very much Natalia and Alex Dodov
November 14, 2012
From Kevin Quinn
My deepest condolences to you and your family, truly!
I cannot comment on the operation in Haines as I have no real knowledge on them aside from the fact they are not part of HSUS.
Please look at the HSUS web site as we have our mission listed there. www.usheliskiing.com
I do know that Rob Liberman was a very good ski guide. The THC levels is not something I can comment on. All of this is very unfortunate.
Again, my deepest condolences to you and your family. I believe our President of Heli US will be in contact with you shortly.
North Cascade Heli (email@example.com)
From Paul Butler
Hi, Natalie and Alex: I am sorry about the loss of your son and extend you my deepest sympathy and condolences. I have a son myself, age 12, and I cannot begin to imagine how you both must feel. I would rather discuss this over the phone if you were okay with that. I am somewhat familiar with the incident. Would sometime tomorrow work for you? Please let me know. If we cannot talk over the phone then I will respond in more detail by email. As a member and current president of Heli Ski US, I am obliged to differentiate my personal opinion from that of representing the association. I hope this is understandable.
Again, I am truly saddened about your loss.
Hello, Natalia and Alex: I have been in contact with the members of Heli Ski US, and from our discussion we have crafted our association’s reply as seen below. I would still like to speak with either of you over the phone if you are still interested in doing so.
Paul Butler North Cascade Heli Mazama, WA http://www.heli-ski.com
Dear Mr. and Mrs. Dodov,
On behalf of Heli-SkiUS, allow me to begin by telling you how sorry we are for the loss of your son, Nickolay. As members of the larger mountain community, I know that we all feel a sense of loss when one of our own is injured or killed in pursuit of the mountain lifestyles that are so central to our identities. I don’t know what words I can offer that might take away the pain of your loss. Having experienced the death of close friends in mountaineering, I have watched as survivors have chosen to return to the mountains again. I can only say that there is something compelling and healing in those places and I hope that you can find the opportunity take solace among mountains again.
In response to your questions, Alaska Heliskiing is not, and has never been, a member or our organization and I do not know of an organization that would have sanctioned its guide school program. Heli-Ski U.S. Association, Inc. represents approximately one-half of all helicopter skiing operators in the United States. While promoting safe operating practices is part of our program, membership in our organization is voluntary – those standards would not have been applicable to Alaska Heliskiing. Importantly, no set of standards, no matter how carefully conceived or implemented can eliminate all of the risks that are inherent in backcountry skiing and snowboarding.
Without in any way diminishing the gravity of your loss or own concern for safety in helicopter skiing, we do not believe that Heli-Ski U.S. would be serving the needs of our member companies or the industry by becoming involved in an investigation of your son’s accident. We must therefore, respectfully but firmly decline your request to become involved in this matter.
I wish you peace though what is undoubtedly a very difficult time.
From Paul Butler’s letter to Alex and Natalia Dodov and U.S. Senators
HELISKIING US ASSOSIATION
January 27, 2012
Alex & Natalia Dodov,
Bear Valley, CA
Re: Your letter to Congressman Young, Senators Murkowski & Begich, et. al.
Dear Mr. & Mrs. Dodov:
I write in response to your recent letter to Congressman Young, Senators Murkowski and Begich and to others. On behalf of Heli-Ski U.S. Association, Inc. (HSUS) and its member firms, I again offer my deepest condolences for the loss of your son, Nickolay. I am certain that your sense of loss is profound and your desire for answers is acute. While those feelings are understandable, I respectfully request that you be more circumspect in your communications, which unfairly paint our entire industry as lacking in competence, professionalism and integrity. I assure you, that is not the case.
I can not agree with your call for regulation of the helicopter skiing industry. First, I note that many recreational activities involve risk and are not regulated by government agencies, despite accidents that sometimes result in loss of life. For example, horseback riding, mountain biking, whitewater kayaking, scuba diving and parasailing all include significant risks, but none is regulated by government.
At the close of your letter, you note that you were unable to obtain a copy of our operating protocols and that you could not locate them on our website, suggesting that they do not exist. Given AH’s references to the apparently non-existent Alaska Helicopter Skiing Association, your cynicism is understandable, but incorrect. Our Heli-Skiing Safety & Operating Procedures (HSOP) guidelines are extensive and substantive. More important, the operations of our member firms are periodically audited for compliance and applicant firms must pass a thorough audit before they can become members. We do not publish or otherwise release the HSOP guidelines because, in our view, the impact of doing so would be precisely the opposite of our goal in creating them. Because of its level of detail, the HSOP could be used by persons wishing to enter the field to create a credible operating and safety plan, notwithstanding a lack of experience and technical resources. We would, in essence, be facilitating the creation of unqualified operations. We make the HSOP available to firms that have been in the field for at least two full years, provided they sign an agreement to be audited and pay a modest fee and the audit expenses. We believe that this is the best way for our organization to promote safety in the industry.
Your focus should be on the events of March 13, 2012 and those involved, not the rest of the industry. I want to be clear that no set operating guidelines, no matter how well drafted or rigorously implemented can remove all of the risks of helicopter skiing and snowboarding. These are inherently dangerous endeavors and the release and waiver forms that clients sign make this known to participants. Our organization will continue to work inside the industry to promote safety and professionalism and our goal will always be a zero accident rate. I am truly sorry that your son was lost in pursuit of the joy that riding and skiing in the backcountry can bring. I hope that you can find peace in this very difficult time
Very Truly Yours,
Paul Butler, President Heli Ski US
CHILKAT VALLEY NEWS
National Heli-Ski Group Focuses on Standards
by Karen Garcia
Dean Cummings, owner of Valdez-based H2O Guides for ; Dean belonged to HSUS for 12 years. Cummings helped craft the association’s safety document, but bowed out because of what he perceived as a “lack of direction” and the association’s failure to rotate leadership.
“I think they are doing okay. They’re more of an exclusive association where they handpick their members,” Cummings said.
Cummings also said that the association, while nationwide, “distances itself from Alaska.” The industry, he said, would benefit immensely from a similar statewide association that focuses solely on Alaskan heli-skiing, which he said is different than heli-skiing in the Lower 48.
“Fatal accidents like the one last spring only increase the volume of that clamor. But people need to remember”, Points North owner Kevin Quinn said, “heli-skiing is an inherently risky activity. And not even a litany of rules and regulations can guarantee that nothing will go wrong. Being a part of heliski US wouldn’t have saved those people,” Quinn said. “Not even kind of.”
HSUS’s critics point to the cost of membership, which can be prohibitive, and the association’s club-like exclusivity. According to Quinn, members pay a one-time $5,000 fee, plus $1,500-$2,500 in annual dues.
Here is a link to the full article
We have learned that the multimillion dollar heliski industry in United States is an unregulated commercial business without strict safety standards for every operator.
We have asked Karen Garsia and Devon O’Neil if they have seen the US Heliskiing Association Heliski Safety Operating Giddiness, both answers were “No”.
We haven’t seen the US Heliskiing Association Heliski Safety Operating Giddiness yet either. You can not find them on any website.