Upcoming; Articles, Details and Documents About the Lawsuit Dodov vs Alaska Heliskiing

Canon 095

  • During the course of the lawsuit Dodov vs. Alaska Heliskiing we didn’t take the insulting settlement.  We closed the lawsuit against Alaska Heliskikiing in the Federal Court as a self presented without prejudice. The lawsuit again Alaska Heliskiing in Alaska State Court was administratively closed and it can be reopen at any time with no statue of limitation. Statue of Limitation for Fraught is ten years.

 

  • Alaska Heliskiing is operating with low coverage Insufficient insurance advised by WOGA (Worldwide Outfitter & Guides Association). US Heli Association stated in 2012 on it’s own website that is part of WOGA insurance.

 

  • The non profit organization Alaska Avalanche Information Center is operating with Kevin Quinn (The President of U.S. Heli Association) as  Manager, and Eric Stevens(The Haines Avalanche Forecaster) as Secretary.

 

  • The lesson to be learn from the deadly avalanche in Haines

ALASKA LABOR STANDARDS AND SAFETY DIVISION NOTICE; Request for Stakeholder Input – Heli-skiing Industry

 

LABOR STANDARDS AND SAFETY DIVISION

Occupational Safety and Health

3301 Eagle Street, Suite 305

Anchorage, Alaska 99503-4149

Main: 907.269.4940

Toll free: 800.770.4940

Fax: 907.269.4950/269.3723

NOTICE

Request for Stakeholder Input – Heli-skiing Industry

The Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development’s Occupational Safety and Health Section (AKOSH) has scheduled an informal stakeholder meeting to solicit comments on how to prevent accidents, injuries and illnesses during heli-skiing operations.

The meeting will focus on existing AKOSH regulations applicable to heli-skiing operations, industry recognized standards and best practices, and a discussion about whether additional safety regulations related to the permitting process would reduce injuries.

AKOSH plans to use the information gathered at this meeting to explore development of new or revised policies, procedures, or guidelines for heli-skiing operations.

The meeting will be Wednesday, May 21, 2014 from 1-3 p.m. at:

Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development

3301 Eagle Street, Conference Room 104

To comment by phone, call 907-269-4955 no later than May 20 to add your name to the roster for planning purposes.

On May 21, commenters should call 800-315-6338 and enter the code 6002#. The phone line will be active from 1-3 p.m.

Speaker order will alternate between those in person and calling in. Depending on how many wish to provide input, verbal comments may be limited; written comments are highly encouraged.

To comment in writing:

Email

anchorage.lss-osh@alaska.gov (Use subject line: Heli-skiing Krystyna Markiewicz)

Mail

Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development

Occupational Safety and Health Section

Attn: Krystyna Markiewicz

3301 Eagle Street, Suite 305

Anchorage, AK 99503

Fax

907-269-4950 – Attn: Krystyna Markiewicz

For More Information

Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development

Division of Labor Standards and Safety/Alaska Occupational Safety and Health Section

907-465-4855 (Juneau)

907-269-4955 (Anchorage)

click on the link to see the actual AKOSH notice

Heli-skiing Industry meeting

 

Nickolay Dodov Snow Sports Safety Foundation Proposal to Improve Safety for the Heli-Skiing Industry in the US

 

All heliski permits should be issued and administered by an independent 3rd party. This party should be unified with the top experts in the field and a government body to set the industry mandatory standards & policies.

The most respected and experienced guides input should be included for this government standardization process.

Safety plans, Search and Rescue protocols must be standardized for all of the Commercial Heliskiing Operators in US and must be monitored and enforced by a Federal Authority.

Safety plans, search and rescue protocols must be submitted to the US Department of Labor and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

Liability release forms must have a clear understanding to hold the heliskiing operator responsible in case of gross negligence and criminal negligence, as well as clients must have a clear understanding of the inherent risks.

All the Commercial heliskiing operations in the US must introduce their Heli-Ski clients to the existing weather pattern, snow pack and how it relates to the surrounding mountains. Clients must be advised regarding the possible dangers.

All Commercial heliskiing operators in the US must collect, observe and discuss weather, snow reports and avalanche conditions from all sources available each day. All Heli-Ski clients must be involved in the discussions of: weather, snow reports and avalanche conditions. Heli-Ski Clients will be part of the discussions and in the decision making of each day before they sign the daily release forms.

Every Heli-Ski client should be required to have at minimum a Level I Avalanche course completed and Wilderness First Aid Class

All the guides and the Heli-Ski clients must wear & use the latest safety equipment; Air backpack and breathing device AvaLung.

All guides must check the readiness of each Heli-Ski client’s safety devices before leaving the operations base and before each run.

Snow observation i.e. a test pit and ski cutting must be required on every exposure. The Heli-Ski clients must be informed of the result before they are allowed to ski the run.

Two guides must be required for each group of Heli-Ski clients for all Commercial heliskiing operations in the US. One of the guides must ski the chosen terrain before all of the clients.  One guide must wait at the top and ski down after the last Heli-Ski client completes his or her’s run.

When an avalanche occurs every guide and Heli-Ski client available must participate in the search and rescue mission.

Search and Rescue Centers must be establish in a central location where heliskiing operations are present. Each Heli-Ski Operation must contribute to it and participate in case of emergency.

All Commercial Heliskiing operations in the US must have adequate numbers of helicopters to respond in a timely manner when an emergency or a search and rescue occurs.

Every injured Heli-Ski Client or a Guide must be transported to the nearest hospital.

All Commercial Heliskiing Guides must participate in on-going training. All Commercial Heliskiing Guides must practice Avalanche Safety, Search and Rescue procedures and protocol & First Aid drills throughout the Heli-Ski season.

Every new Heli-Ski Guide must apprentice and train for a minimum of two years before he or she is allowed to guide & lead clients.

All Commercial Heliskiing Guides must carry a memo log, and complete all snow observation results each day. Radio communication must be available to all clients, guides and the base of the Heliskiing Operation.

Radio communication must be recorded and GPS data available in case of accident.

ZERO tolerance of drugs and alcohol.

All Commercial Heliskiing Operators in the US must have a drug screening policy for their employees.

A standardized code of conduct should be adopted by Heli-Ski Operators in regards to the Heli-Ski Client, i.e. consumption of drugs or alcohol while clients of a Heli-Ski Operator.

All Commercial Heli-Ski operators must be responsible for the information on their websites and printed materials.  All information must be true, accurate and up to date.

We wish to all the clients and guides heli-skiing in the US many happy and safe spectacular days.

“Heli-skiing in the United States – Guidelines vs. Standards”

CHILKAT VALLEY NEWS

April 10, 2014 | Volume 44, Number 14

Heli-skiing in the United States – Guidelines vs. Standards 

by Natalia and Alex Dodov

 

The recent March 15th Haines avalanche death is the fourth fatality in conditions rated “Considerable Danger.” It shows an obvious pattern of profits over safety: In 2012, Nickolay Dodov and guide Rob Liberman were killed in a massive avalanche after five feet of new snow, growing  surface hoar, an overnight strong wind storm that overloaded the mountain bowls and the gullies with wind deposit snow. In 2013, guide Christian Cabanilla was killed after an overloaded cornice collapsed that set off an avalanche. In 2014, guide Aaron Karitis was killed in an avalanche after three weeks of unusually dangerous conditions.

Unregulated heli-skiing industry in the United States, ruled by its own insurance, left the door open for negligence. US Heli-Ski Association, instead of setting mandatory safety standards and protocols, has recommended safety guidelines based on self imposed safety standards and self certified heli guides. US Heli-Ski Association mission is; “To ensure and protect the future of helicopter skiing in the US”

Canada is the worldwide leader in heliskiing industry. They have been highly regulated by the government since the early 1970’s.

If the multimillion dollar heliskiing industry in the US was serious about regulating their safety standards, they would have adopted the US Army’s Tenth Mountain Division strict safety standards years ago.

Two years ago, after our son was killed in an avalanche in Haines, we requested from the US Heliskiing Association to see their strict safety standards, as this was stated on their website. Their response was a letter to the senators stating that they did not want to be regulated, and refused farther discussion of the matter.

“Fatal accidents like the one last spring (2012) 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.”

This is the extend that the heliskiing industry in the US is willing to go to; casual self regulation instead of mandatory safety standards.

Policies

Policies consist of high level mandatory statements

Standards

Standards consist of specific low level specific mandatory controls

Guidelines

Guidelines consist of recommended, non-mandatory controls

Every heli skiing operator in the US, member or non- member of the US Heli-Ski Association, have stated on their websites and operating plans that they have been operating under strict safety standards. This information should be considered fraudulent. Heliskiing in the United States has never been regulated. Therefore no state or federal authority has set safety standards for this industry.

It appears that the Heliskiing industry insurance company supported by law enforcement, labor safety, land managements, local authorities, avalanche forecasters, main stream media were able to suppress and cover up information and details of the events related to the deadly incidents.

We are concerned that desperately needed changes will not happen in the foreseeable future. This leaves us with a dangerous environment for the clients and the guides in the US heliskiing industry.

We have started Nickolay Dodov Foundation for snow sports safety. The foundation’s mission is; To promote snow sports safety and awareness through educational programs and events. To encourage children and enthusiasts of all ages to safely explore the beauty of the mountains and to inspire a healthy and positive lifestyle in the light of Nickolay Dodov.

Foe events and updates you can visit Nickolay Dodov Foundation website. www.nickolaydodovfoundation.com

For more details and information you can visit our blog alexnatalianickolaydodov at WordPress

alexnatalianickdodovdotcom.wordpress.com

To see the full article in Chilkat Valley News click on the link below

 Heli-skiing in United States Guidelines vs. Standards

Chilkat Valley News – Editorial by Tom Morphet; Four heli-skiing deaths in Haines since 2012 are an unacceptable toll.

CHILKAT VALLEY NEWS

Volume XLIV Number 11 Thursday, March 20, 2014

Editorial

by Tom Morphet

Four heli-skiing deaths in Haines since 2012 are an unacceptable toll.

They’re also a black eye for our town, an unnecessary public expense

and a hindrance to the efforts of well-meaning people to make a home

for the industry here.

To protect the lives of guides and clients, government must step in

and establish reasonable safety regulations, just as it does in other

hazardous industries such as construction, mining, logging and

commercial fishing.

Here’s a proposed regulation: On commercial trips, require guides

or others leading groups to wear deployable air bags. Used properly,

the bags have proved to be highly effective at keeping skiers atop snow

during avalanches.

You can’t go near the Port Chilkoot Dock these days if you’re not

wearing a hardhat. Down at the harbor, commercial gillnetters are

required to carry a survival suit for every deckhand. But basic, lifesaving

safety gear is not required in the heli-ski industry, where workers

and clients routinely encounter risk of injury or death from avalanches.

Three of the four heli-skiers who died in Haines were guides.

The State of Alaska takes steps to protect other workers in avalanche

zones. Ten years ago, state prosecutors convicted Whitewater

Engineering of Bellingham, Wash. of criminally negligent homicide

after one of the company’s workers operating a backhoe was killed in

a 1999 avalanche near Cordova.

In that case, the state’s occupational safety office alleged that basic,

required safety procedures were not followed and the company exhibited

gross negligence after being warned of high avalanche danger. A

judge agreed and Whitewater was fined $150,000, and ordered to pay

restitution to the dead man’s family.

Is the state concerned about avalanche risk for some workers, but

not others?

Local heli-ski companies have previously made statements about

self-imposed safety improvements, but Saturday’s death testifies that

changes aren’t coming fast enough. For weeks, operators have been

aware of an elevated avalanche hazard created by this year’s uncommon

snow conditions.

In addition to deaths since 2012, there also have been heli-ski

injuries and close calls involving survival after live burials. Harrowing

footage of one such burial here was circulating on the Internet this

Self-policing by this industry does not appear to be a credible or

timely route to minimizing risk. The government has the authority to

improve safety now and the power to make those improvements stick.

If state or federal land managers aren’t interested in saving lives,

the Haines Borough could require use of air bags as part of its heli-ski

tour permit process.

For commercial guides going ahead of clients down mountains,

donning an air bag should be as automatic as strapping on a seat belt

before driving a car.

— Tom Morphet

The heli guide who was buried in avalanche in Haines has died. This the forth victim being killed in avalanche in Haines; 2012 a guide and a client were killed, 2013 a guide was killed

 
Eric Holle banjorebop@yahho.com submitted on 2014/03/16 at 10:29 pm to alexnatalianickdodov blog

A SEABA guide died yesterday in an avalanche. Stories in Anchorage Daily News, and KTOO on line news. The sooner they are out of business, the better!

Xavier De Le Rue

Back to Zermatt. Yesterday has been one of these bad days. We got there and Simon Anthamatten was on a rescue We found out as he came down that a guide friend of his and his client died in the collapse of a cornice. Later on we heard about …Aaron Karitis that died after an avalanche in Haines. We ll definite remember them today and hopefully honor them through a couple of nice lines. My condolences to their families and friends.
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Dodov condolences to Aaron Karitis family and friends and to the Alps guide and the client’s family and friends.
 

 

“Haines heli-ski guide in critical condition after being buried in avalanche” Anchorage Daily News

Anchorage Daily News

Haines heli-ski guide in critical condition after being buried in avalanche

By DEVIN KELLY

dkelly@adn.com March 15, 2014

A guide with a Haines helicopter ski operation was in critical condition after being buried in an avalanche Saturday morning, troopers said.

Aaron Karitis, 31, was buried under seven feet of snow after traveling nearly 800 feet with a snowslide in the Kicking Horse Valley area outside of Haines, said Beth Ipsen, troopers spokeswoman. He was unconscious when he was pulled out about 30 minutes later, Ipsen said.

The incident occurred around 11 a.m., as Karitis, a guide with Southeast Alaska Backcountry Skiing Adventures, or SEABA, was finishing a conditions check downslope from his four clients, Ipsen said. A helicopter had flown the group to the 4,000 foot-elevation spot on the mountain to ski. The mountain, called Tele 5 by hele-skiers, drains into the Kicking Horse River, Ipsen said.

Karitis had decided he didn’t like the conditions on the slope, and wanted to move the group elsewhere, Ipsen said. At that point, the avalanche triggered.

“He was the only one caught up in the avalanche and buried,” Ipsen said.

Karitis was wearing a locator beacon, which is how other guides called to the scene were able to find him, Ipsen said. He was initially unresponsive when he was pulled out, and a helicopter flew him to a clinic in Haines, where he was listed in critical but stable condition, Ipsen said.

Paramedics were preparing to fly him to Providence Alaska Medical Center in Anchorage on Saturday night, Ipsen said. Karitis’ injuries were considered life-threatening.

SEABA, in a statement, pledged support to Karitis’ family and cautioned that big mountain heli-skiing had inherent risks. The company also planned to review the incident internally, the statement said.

According to his biography on the SEABA website, Karitis grew up in Bend, Ore., graduated from the University of Utah and has worked in the heli-skiing industry for 10 years.

He has been a SEABA guide since 2013 and logged nearly 300 days of heli-ski guiding in Alaska, according to the website. The site also notes international guide and avalanche certifications and an “excellent safety record.”

In March 2013, a 34-year-old SEABA guide died in a skiing accident on a mountain near Haines. That incident sparked a federal investigation into the unauthorized use of federal land by the company and led to a plea agreement in late December.

Reach Devin Kelly at dkelly@adn.com or 257-4314.

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HAINES AVALANCHE INFORMATION CENTER

Current Conditions

Last Updated: Friday, March 14th, 2014 by Erik Stevens (Disclaimer | About This Page) Expires 11pm on March 16th, 2014 Click Here for an encyclopedia of common snow science terms from the FSNAC

H.L. Maritime Transitional Pass Biggest Threats – Solar heating on south aspects – Cornices – Wind slab in other areas

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This Season: November

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December
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January
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February
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March
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January
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Recent Weather Summary (Chart):

An unusually warm airmass moved in from Jan. 25th – 28th, with alpine temperatures hovering around 45 F, even at mountaintop levels. It was not raining during this time, but a massive wet slide cycle ensued. Very cold and dry weather returned through Feb. 14th, creating a solid ice crust.

Feb. 13th-15th brought 18-30″ of new snow to the mountains in three distinct storm layers (some upside-down). Winds blew from the south at times, and north at other times.

Cold and clear weather with north winds returned for the rest of February and into March.

March 8th-9th brought 3 feet of new low-density snow, turning warm and heavy at the end.  Winds started out northerly, and then turned southerly.

South winds on March 9th-13th raised snow levels to around 1500ft. Around a foot of wet snow likely fell above that level, with rain below.

One more weak weather front on Friday will bring a few more inches snow above 1000ft, with steady temperatures.

This weekend is looking to be rather nice, as the next storm just misses us to the south. Clouds will begin to clear Saturday, and Sunday should be mostly sunny. North winds will pick up some, but temperatures will remain near freezing. Another weather front will move in Sunday night-Monday.

High-Latitude Maritime Zones: Slopes near Haines

Danger: CONSIDERABLE See ScaleThere are two main concerns Friday-Sunday.

The first will be the potential for strong sunshine if/when the clouds clear up. Temperatures are expected to be a little below freezing, but the sun is getting intense on south aspects. Be on the lookout for strong solar warming, which quickly weakens wind slabs and cornices. If the sun comes out, the danger will rise to CONSIDERABLE with pockets of HIGH on south aspects: natural and human-triggered avalanches likely. Elsewhere the danger will be MODERATE: heightened avalanche conditions, especially on steep and windloaded terrain features.

Also, stay far back from cornices. This is a prime time of year for them to fall.

Besides the sunshine, the second main concern will be lingering storm snow weaknesses beneath the wind slabs that built up this week. The big storm last weekend dropped around a meter of low-density snow with a very weak storm interface in the middle, then it warmed up and we had four days of light precipitation with snow levels around 1000ft. This created a wet and heavy storm layer over the light and weak previous storm layer. South winds blew the new snow around above treeline, creating fresh wind slabs on north aspects below ridgelines, and on crossloaded east and west aspects. On steep slopes these lingering slabs may still respond to human triggering.

There is concern that avalanches may step down to a lingering weakness a meter or more deep — a buried surface hoar layer from 1-2 weeks ago. Keep this in mind, as the consequences of a slide this deep are extreme.

Be cautious out there this weekend. The new snow is not fully bonded yet, and the potential for deep slides exists. It will be very important to minimize your risk exposure this weekend. Cross/ski slopes one at a time from/to islands of safety. Remember that some treed areas that feel safe may not in fact be safe if a large avalanche occurs. Think about the potential for slabs to propagate wider than expected, and have a plan for what to do if you enter avalanche terrain. Always wear a beacon, shovel, and probe, and know how to use them.

Transitional Zones: Mountain areas seaward of interior passes

Danger: CONSIDERABLE See Scale

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TRANSWORLD SNOWBOARDING

BC’s avalanche conditions are some of the worst in years. Here’s why

March 07, 2014By:

Photos and words: Erin Hogue

The coastal mountain region of British Columbia is experiencing a high-consequence snowpack this winter, resulting in larger more destructive avalanches with fewer warning signs. Avalanches are being triggered from up to 500 meters away, terrain that doesn’t usually experience activity is sliding, highway closures are constant and there are more burials than there have been in years. A deep weak layer coined “The Drought Layer’ has been blamed for the escalated activity.

The Drought Layer was caused by the serious lack of precipitation at the beginning of season resulting in the formation of weak layers near the ground. Over a month with only traces of snow, temperatures ranging from minus 25 Celsius to T-shirt spring conditions, wind-crusts, sun-crusts, surface hoar and faceting created a layer of weak, sugary snow. In a relatively short amount of time this weak layer was covered by up to two meters of fresh snow, at such a rate that the layers did not have the chance to properly bond together resulting in what Canadian Avalanche Centre forecasters are referring to as the “crappiest layers we’ve seen in years”.

I caught up with local Whistler pro Chris Rasman to get his perspective on the situation.

You’ve been sledding for seven years and have a lot of experience in the backcountry, reading the terrain and judging the conditions. How do the avalanche conditions this season compare to previous ones?

Well, to put it into perspective, we’ve had to be far more careful this year than any other year in the past. We’ve stayed clear of big faces, landings that are too long, and any sort of terrain traps. Not to say these are things we don’t usually avoid anyways, but we are far more timid and the guard is up big time. It seems that the bad layers that are spooking everyone this year are here to stay, and it stretches all over the Coastal mountains and the Rockies.

What signs have you seen that the snow pack this year is sketchier than in previous years?

I’m noticing a lot more natural slides and slides on faces that I have never seen go before. In January, myself and my crew were exploring some new zones near Revelstoke. We had posted up in one area and were sledding there every day for about a week straight. It warmed up a bit and created this weird hoarfrost layer on top of all the pow, and then continued to snow on top of that. It was a layer we were keeping a close eye on and was getting accumulation on top of it quickly. On the first day we decided not to go up a massive slide wiped out our single track into the zone. It was about a kilometer wide and had come all the way down to the valley, crossed a creek, and made its way up the next mountain a little, wiping out big trees as well. We saw these debris on the next day heading into the zone, and it spooked us enough to call the trip and go home. A few weeks later in Montana, we were watching everything slide with human weight on it. Short jump landings, small pillow fields, tiny little faces, even mellow pow runs in the trees were moving. We did not ride any lines or longer faces that trip.

Have you had any close calls this season?

In Montana myself and the iNi Team were hiking above a pillow line, ready to take turns riding it and all of a sudden the entire face ripped. It was a close on for sure. Other than that, so far, so good. It’s hurt a little bit to say no to some of the things, but I think we have been making the right calls.

What precautions do you take to accommodate for high avalanche danger?

To name a few, I read the reports every evening and ever morning before going out, stay away from terrain traps and any avalanche terrain when the warnings are high, take turns and watch each other closely when crossing avy terrain on our snowmobiles, and simply just be smart about decisions we make considering how we have seen this season go so far.

As a result of these conditions the CAC forecasters are advising people to wait longer than usual before moving onto larger, more aggressive terrain. Some runs might have to wait for a couple of weeks or more. Some might be out for the rest of the season. This is especially important for people in the coastal ranges who are used to waiting a few days to let things settle down, then going for it. The snowpack out there, especially the south coast, is like nothing many people have dealt with before. Don’t use your coastie tactics and expect them to work this season. Think more like the Interior or even the Rockies guys right now.