“Nickolay Dodov Foundation raises avalanche education for youth in Bear Valley” Calaveras Enterprise

By Noah Berner

While snow-covered slopes offer endless hours of fun for skiers and snowboarders, they can also pose a significant danger, especially to those untrained in avalanche safety.
But one local foundation is working to make sure that young winter sports enthusiasts have the skills necessary to stay safe.
On Feb. 8, the Nickolay Dodov Foundation (NDF) held its 7th annual free avalanche awareness presentation at Bear Valley Mountain Resort for members of the mountain’s youth ski and snowboard teams. The event was open to the public, and all ages attended.

The nonprofit NDF was formed by Bear Valley residents Alex and Natalia Dodov following the tragic loss of their son, Nickolay Dodov, to an avalanche in 2012. Since then, the NDF has been busy educating youth on how to stay safe in the mountains.
“In the last seven years, the NDF has reached out with free avalanche education, presenting the avalanche awareness program ‘Know Before You Go,’ and teaching avalanche workshops to more than 8,000 ski and snowboard athletes, middle, high school and university students, coaches, teachers, parents and all-age mountain enthusiasts,” the NDF website says.
The NDF has already held 10 educational events this winter, covering the state from Mammoth to Santa Cruz to Tahoe. In previous years, events have also been held in Nevada, Montana and Bulgaria.
The presentation was based on “Know Before You Go” (KBYG), a free avalanche awareness program developed by the Utah Avalanche Center, and available through its website at kbyg.org.
At 3 p.m., the Sun Room at the resort filled with children and adults, most still wearing snow gear after having spent the day on the slopes.
The presentation began with a short film that featured skiers, snowboarders and snowmobilers riding through backcountry powder. Shots of riders and avalanches were interspersed with avalanche stories and information on avalanche safety.
Following the film, Bear Valley Ski Patroller Scott Madden gave tips for staying safe at the resort.
“I’m in here … to help you all be aware of the various avalanche dangers within our boundaries,” he said. “There has been, to my knowledge at least, three inbounds avalanches that have killed people (in the U.S. this year).”
Madden encouraged skiers and snowboarders to respect the boundaries of the resort because areas outside of the ropes are an uncontrolled environment unmonitored by ski patrol.
“There are areas outside of our boundaries, especially (on the lower mountain), that are very dangerous,” he said. “Personally, I’ve been caught twice in small avalanches, and it’s amazing how little snow it takes to get you moving along.”
While most avalanche fatalities occur in the backcountry, Madden recommended carrying safety gear even on powder days at the resort.
“Beacon, shovel, probe – get them; wear them; don’t ski alone,” he said.
A beacon is a radio transceiver that can be worn by skiers and snowboarders. In the event of an avalanche, it can be used to locate buried riders. A probe is a collapsible pole that can be easily carried in a backpack and used to precisely locate an avalanche victim. A lightweight shovel can then be used free the rider from the snow by digging horizontally from downslope.
Other avalanche safety gear includes inflatable packs that help riders stay on the surface during an avalanche; AvaLungs that pull air from the snowpack and deposit carbon dioxide away from the body; and Recco reflectors that send out directional signals to help rescue teams locate avalanche victims.
Madden said that he and other ski patrollers would be happy to help train riders on the use of the equipment, and that he planned on organizing a practice area for the purpose at the top of the mountain. For more information on avalanche safety, he advised visiting the website of NDF-sponsor Backcountry Access at backcountryaccess.com.
Avalanche Educator Paul Henrickson said that the best way to stay safe was to avoid dangerous terrain.

“With a little bit of education, a little knowledge, some common sense and some good decision-making, you can enjoy the backcountry for a lifetime safely, and that’s exactly what we are here to help you do,” he said.
Henrickson said that the most dangerous slopes were between 30- and 45-degrees, because avalanches tend to occur naturally on steeper slopes and more gradual angles don’t allow slabs of snow to cut loose and start sliding.
“Avalanche hazard in California is relatively easy; we have avalanche hazard mostly during storm events and shortly after storm events,” he said. “It’s a maritime snowpack. It’s wet; it’s heavy, and within 24 to 48 hours after a storm cycle the snowpack generally stabilizes.”
Henrickson recommended always checking current local conditions at sierraavalanchecenter.org before going into the backcountry.
“The forecast is the easiest way to find out what’s going on with the snow,” he said.
Because riders tend to avoid avalanche terrain when the forecast shows a high degree of danger, most avalanche fatalities occur when the forecast shows moderate or considerable danger, Henrickson said.
“It’s the moderate and considerable days that actually catch the most people,” he said. “Those are the days that are the hardest to figure out.”
It’s important to maintain awareness of your surroundings in the backcountry, Henrickson said.
“If you’re out in the backcountry and there is a hazard, you always want to look at where would you go if the snow cuts loose,” he said. “So, you want to avoid being above trees and cliffs, and you want to avoid being right in the middle of a potential slide path. The safe places to be are on ridges; the dangerous places to be are down in gullies or at the bottom of bowls.”
Henrickson said that even with all of the proper gear and training, those fully buried in an avalanche still have only a 50% chance of surviving.
“That’s terrible odds, so avoid getting caught in an avalanche, educate yourself, make good decisions and don’t get caught,” he said. “The gear only works if you get training and you practice, practice, practice.”
Those interested in riding in the backcountry and on powder days at the resort should take an avalanche safety class, Henrickson said.
“If you feel like you are going to be going into the backcountry or the sidecountry, or you just like skiing Griz on a powder day, take a class,” he said. “Learn how to assess snow; learn how weather is a contributing factor; learn how to travel safely; learn how to deal with group dynamics; and learn how proper rescue scenarios go down.”
There is a huge need for avalanche education for youth in California, Natalia Dodov said.
“We just go whenever no one else can go, and it’s a really great feeling,” she said. “Kids are very smart; they are like sponges; they really think. We really believe it will touch some of them.”
Natalia Dodov said that one of NDF’s avalanche educators, Michael McCarthy, had recently developed a five-hour avalanche workshop for youth to bridge the gap between the KBYG program and a Level 1 avalanche class.
The foundation is bringing the workshop to Bear Valley in March, and in April, the resort will host the 7th Annual Nickolay Dodov Slopestyle Competition, Natalia Dodov said. Several other events are already planned for February, and more are currently being scheduled for March.
Those interested in supporting NDF’s work can send checks to Nickolay Dodov Foundation, PO Box 5035, Bear Valley, CA 95223, or donate through Paypal at nickolaydodovfoundation.com/donate. Donations are tax deductible, and contributors will receive an invoice for their records.


“Bear Valley, CA Resident Teaching ‘Know Before You Go’ Avalanche Awareness to Californian Schools and Ski Resorts” SnowBrains Media-AvyBrains/September 10, 2018

We are reaching out with avalanche education in the light of our son who was killed in avalanche in Alaska

31243_1423302913167_2751218_n.jpgOUR Nick was killed in avalanche  on Thankin Ridge, Haines, Alaska on March 13, 2012. Nick was heli snowboarding under the supervision of Alaska Heli-skiing Company out of Haines. From our investigation we discovered that AH ignored obvious red flags. Recent five feet snow storm, wind storm over night prior to the avalanche and rapid warming. Profit over safety. AH didn’t follow any of its own safety protocols. The AH Company didn’t have drug screening policy. Nick’s guide Rob Liberman, who also died in the avalanche autopsy reveled that his THC levels were 3 times higher than normal background. Therefore he was stoned. Nick was buried under the snow for 1 hour and 27 minutes. Search and rescue began 47 minutes after the avalanche happened. Nick had an Avalung in his mouth, if they would recover Nick under 1 hour and 15 minutes he would survived. He also carried an Air backpack, unfortunately he couldn’t use it, the rip cord was zip in. The AH guides didn’t wear air backpacks and were talking sarcastically about them and quoting that when there time comes this is fine by them. This why they didn’t have the practice t check the readiness after get out of the helicopter. On the top of the fatale run the group of clients was insured that they should not worry everything will be fine this is just an open alpine bowl with rolling hills with steepness between 35-45*…. in considerable conditions. We have a go pro footage of the time frame from all the events and the witnesses stamens. There were two groups of clients and two guides at the scene. Only the two guides end four survivals from Nick group took place in the search and rescue.  After they recovered Nick he still had a heart beat, they didn’t fly Nick to the medical center, he was dropped at the base at AH , 33 miles from Haines to wait for Paramedic car… and the most cruel thing AH, Medical center, VOGA Insurance and the Trooper Department and Haines Bureau did  it was to cover up their mistakes by sending Nick to Seattle to die in another state to prevent investigation. AH didn’t file an accident report neither to the  of Alaska or to the National Avalanche Center until six month later and it was falsified. We started with free avalanche educational project with the hope that by educating the next generation we can prevent future fatalities

It is very hard to find the words to describe our lost.

Nickolay was not our only son, he was our best friend, our beast team made, our teacher in many ways. He was very special young man, his light was so bright, everyone who had the opportunity to know him, was amazed of his talents, wisdom, his big smile and huge heart, always ready to help everyone.

My husbands Alex and I with the help of good friends have started Nickolay Dodov Foundation four years ago… We started reaching out with free avalanche educational programs with the hope that by educating the next generation we can prevent future fatalities… and save lives!

The mission of the Foundation is to spread avalanche awareness to all who enjoy the snow mountains… but the most to our youth… Our Foundation is brought up from our love for Nick!… From our love for the mountains!… From our love for skiing in the backcountry!
In the last three years we have reached out with the avalanche awareness program KBYG to close to 6000 ski and snowboard athletes, middle, high school and university students, coaches, teachers and parents…..With the hope that by being able to reach out with avalanche education we will save lives!

The movement and the progress of reaching to youth with free avalanche education is so meaningful for us… feels like Nick is right next to us. … with his big beautiful smile….The Foundation gives Alex and me a huge powerful positive purpose…We are VERY THANKFUL to be connected with Karl Birkeland, Doug Chabot, Craig Gordon, Richard Bothwell, Bruce Tremper, Paul Diegel, Don Triplet and all avalanche educators… we feel like Nick is orchestrating it all.. Powerful good feeling!…We are so very passion about spreading avalanche education especially to youth…. we feel like all the kids we reach out to with KBYG are our kids now .. and we always will encourage them to go and play on the mountains…and will continue spread avalanche awareness and educate them to travel safe in the snow…especially to youth….together with our love for the mountains…for life… for hikes, skiing, snowboarding, windsurfing, skateboarding…sharing good moments… good food with friends..as our Nick did…

We live in a small ski resort Bear valley, California and we ride the mountain every given day. We have 100+ ski days … half of them in the backcountry… ALWAYS FIRST CHAIR on POWDER DAYS! My husband Alex was a professional athlete in ski and snowboarding, rock climbing and mountaineering. He was for two years in Mountain Alpine Division. We used to run private ski and snowboard school and Alex worked with the first heli ski company in Bulgaria. In the Summer time Alex had a Sky Genie business; working on sky scrapers, factory chimney, power towers and bridges using his climbing belaying skills. Our son Nick was a member of Bulgarian National Snowboard Team. He competed in the Junior World Cup in Telluride in 1999. After we moved to California, Nick competed in Tahoe Series, US National Series and US Open in slalom, boarder cross, slope style. For over seven years Nick was living in Truckee in the heart of the snowboard industry. He was sponsored by different companies, having 100+ snowboard days half of the days snowmobiling and split snowboarding backcountry adventures. Nick was very well know as a very good snowboarder and the one always looking for the safety for himself and everybody else. Nick was also an avid surfer and amazing artist…..We will continue to encourage and teach as many as we can to play on the snow and be safe!…We will continue our Foundation work in the light of our Nick!…www.nickolaydodovfoundation.com

A ghost from the past…


Alaska Heliskiing removed their advertising post on facebook yesterday because of our comment….  Was it the ghost from the past that they wished to be rid of ….

Alaska Heliskiing facebook page state it;

Alaska Heliskiing is feeling like getting in on the action in Haines, Alaska.

“Infuse your life with action. Don’t wait for it to happen. Make your wildest dreams come true!”…. and a photo of deep blue bird day on an Alaskan spine

The moment we read : “Make your wildest dreams come true!” …. It felt like struck by lightning ….Loosing our son who followed his wildest dreams to snowboard the Alaska dream snow with Alaska Heliskiing

We commented:

NataliaAlex Dodov : Because of the gross negligence of Alaska Heliskiing our son didn’t come home…. His heli guide Rob Liberman was under influence with THC levels 3 times higher than normal background… Beware that they don’t have insurance coverage ….You should get life insurance…..They operate under gambling and amusement park license…Check their drug screening policy…..Take an Avy class before you sign with this guides to make sure that you will be part of the decision making….Bring Avy bag and AvaLung ….Check the Avy bag rip cord every time you leave the helicopter….Go with your best friends you train with in the backcountry search and rescue drills because they will be the ones to save you if something goes wrong…Our son was under the snow for an hour and 27minutes and there were two guides with sixteen clients who didn’t start the search and rescue until 47 minutes after the avalanche happened…If you want to learn more go to our blog https://alexnatalianickdodovdotcom.wordpress.com/

We are not surprised…. Knowing from our experience that Alaska Heliskiing will do anything to hide and cover up to come out clean …..We fear that nothing has changed in the heliskiing industry regulations.

More articles coming soon.

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

Chilkat Valley News; “Dodovs say they’re ending heli-ski suit”

Dodovs say they’re ending heli-ski suit

Chilkat Valley News

February 12, 2015 | Volume 45, Issue 6  | View PDF

By Karen Garcia

Parents of an Alaska Heliskiing client who died in a 2012 avalanche said this week they are dropping their civil suit against the company.Natalia and Alex Dodov filed the suit in state court in February 2014, claiming Alaska Heliskiing “sought profit above safety” and failed to avoid the fatal avalanche that killed their son.The case was moved to federal district court in July.

Nick Dodov, 26, died in a Takhin Ridge avalanche while snowboarding with Alaska Heliskiing in March 2012. Company guide Rob Liberman, 35, of Telluride, Colo., also died in the accident.Natalia Dodov said she and her husband dropped the lawsuit because it wasn’t going to result in what they wanted: more rigorous and enforceable safety regulations in the largely unregulated heli-skiing industry.

Dodov said the case devolved into discussions of a settlement between her lawyer, Juneau-based attorney Mark Choate, and lawyers from Alaska Heliskiing’s insurance company. “The terms of the settlement are against our will. It only supports the insurance company to release every party involved from their responsibility,” Dodov said.“We were never after money or anything like that,” Dodov said. “We never wanted to settle this and release them from responsibility and just get money.”In September, the Dodovs sent an email to Choate telling him they weren’t interested in a settlement.

“We sued Alaska Heliskiing because we thought that it would bring to light Alaska Heliskiing’s unsafe practices which led to our son’s death and help bring much-needed safety regulations to the heli-skiing industry. We decided to drop the case when we and our lawyer disagreed about the direction of the case and we were asked to sign a settlement agreement that went against all our principles and felt to us as if we were selling out our son,” the Dodovs said in an email this week.

According to court documents, Choate said he wrote to the Dodovs on Jan. 6 and told them he could no longer represent them because of a “breakdown in communications” between his office and the Dodovs.Choate said the Dodovs needed to find themselves new legal counsel, and if he didn’t hear from them by Jan. 27, he would move to withdraw himself from the case.Choate said he sent the letter to the email address they successfully used for prior communications. He also sent the letter via mail. “I’ve heard nothing from them and cannot continue to represent them given this breakdown in communications,” he told the court.He moved to withdraw himself on Feb. 4, and the judge granted the withdrawal.

Natalia Dodov said Choate removed himself because she and her husband weren’t interested in signing the settlement. On Jan. 27, Dodov sent Choate an email telling him they wanted the case dismissed.Choate did not return calls for comment. Dodov said she hasn’t heard back from him regarding her Jan. 27 email requesting the case’s dismissal.The Dodovs don’t intend to hire a new lawyer. Dodov said she is not upset with Choate or her legal representation. “It’s all about the system. It’s nothing against the lawyer.”Dodov said the lawsuit was an avenue toward getting the heli-skiing industry to strengthen its safety standards.

The couple also launched a backcountry ski safety program and has aggressively pursued stiffer heli-skiing laws and permitting in discussions with the Bureau of Land Management, Alaska Occupational Safety and Health department, Alaska Department of Natural Resources, and U.S. senators and congressmen.“This was another way we tried,” Dodov said.Natalia Dodov said she was naive to think that filing a lawsuit would result in a more complete investigation of Alaska Heliskiing’s operations and bring focus to heli-ski safety standards.

The Dodovs claimed Alaska Heliskiing’s negligence led to their son’s death and that the company failed to properly assess snow conditions, failed to make a full disclosure of risk, marketed efforts emphasizing affordability (implying cost-cutting at the risk of safety), failed to exercise judgment required of a competent guide, failed to provide a second guide, failed to timely execute post-accident procedures and inadequately trained clients in avalanche search techniques.Tim Lamb, an Anchorage-based attorney for Alaska Heliskiing, said he hoped the case would be dismissed but that he couldn’t address details because it’s officially active.“It’s truly sad. My heart goes out to the Dodovs, as does Alaska Heliskiing’s. For everyone involved, it’s a tragedy,” Lamb said.


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



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


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:


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


Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development

Occupational Safety and Health Section

Attn: Krystyna Markiewicz

3301 Eagle Street, Suite 305

Anchorage, AK 99503


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