OUR 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
LABOR STANDARDS AND SAFETY DIVISION
Occupational Safety and Health
3301 Eagle Street, Suite 305
Anchorage, Alaska 99503-4149
Toll free: 800.770.4940
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@example.com (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
click on the link to see the actual AKOSH notice
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.
CHILKAT VALLEY NEWS
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 consist of high level mandatory statements
Standards consist of specific low level specific mandatory controls
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
To see the full article in Chilkat Valley News click on the link below
Anchorage Daily News
Haines heli-ski guide in critical condition after being buried in avalanche
By DEVIN KELLY
firstname.lastname@example.org 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 email@example.com or 257-4314.
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|This Season: November|
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.
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
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.
Our mission is to promote snow sport safety and awareness through fun, hands on educational programs and events. Our goal is to inspire children and enthusiasts of all ages to explore the beauty of the mountains and ocean, while maintaining a healthy and positive lifestyle.
The Nickolay Dodov Foundation is committed to carrying on Nick’s legacy and spirit with the hope of preventing future accidents.
The Nickolay Dodov Foundation is a registered 501 Non-Profit organization.
At age three, Nickolay Dodov started skiing. By six and a half, he could handle the runs of his home mountains by himself. At eight, he strapped on a snowboard and fell in love. Nick’s passion led to competition both in Bulgaria, where he was born and lived until age thirteen, and in the United States, after his family settled in the small, mountain community of Bear Valley, California. Eventually, Nick brought his passion and skills to the backcountry, sharing experiences, encouragement and the amazing outdoors with kindred spirits in stunning terrain.
In March of 2012, Nick was killed in an avalanche while snowboarding in Haines, Alaska.The loss of his life has borne the Nickolay Dodov Foundation and prompts us to look with great care and deliberation at snow sports industry safety standards, as well as “the human factor” in extreme sports. We believe that through continuing snow sports safety awareness education, an individual strengthens his or her ability to assess situational safety in snow sports activities.
Nickolay was a beloved son, athlete, teammate, artist and teacher. A shining light with a great passion for life, Nickolay lived with heart. We wish you the same and strive to help provide access to information and skills that will enable you to participate in activities equipped with outdoor readiness.
OUR UPCOMING EVENTS:
With your support, the Nickolay Dodov Foundation will participate in school and mountain-based educational programs focusing on snow sports safety and backcountry avalanche awareness.
*Check our website for additions & updates!
*Bear Valley Mountain Safety Week: January 18-24
Snow Sports Safety Talk & Information Booth
at Bear Valley Mountain’s Winter Explosion!
*Avalanche training with Mountain Adventure Seminars.
Tax-deductible donations accepted online or at the mailing address below!
Thank you for your support.
PO Box 5035
Bear Valley, CA 95223
We presented Nickolay Dodov Foundation at the Annual Winter Fest in Bear Valley Ski Resort, California the weekend of November 29th and 30th, 2013. Thank you to the great team of board members; Joel Barnett, Lauren Schimke, Stephanie Forbes, John Jackson, Cate Wallenfels and Mike Page! Thank you to John Jackson who was signing autographs in support of the Foundation and sharing his love for snowboarding. Great to share the Foundation with so many people and see so many kids’ smiling faces! Thank you for all the love and support! Keep sharing our mission! The Foundation is grateful for all the support!