“Nickolay Dodov Foundation has busy year despite coronavirus” By Noah Berner, Calaveras Enterprise

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“Organizations of all kinds have been hit hard by the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, and local nonprofits are no exception.
After shelter-in-place restrictions went into effect in mid-March, the Nickolay Dodov Foundation (NDF) had to cancel several events, including one of its main fundraisers.
Founded by Natalia and Alex Dodov, and named after their son who died in an avalanche in Alaska, the NDF is a leading provider of free avalanche awareness training in the Sierra. Over the past seven years, the NDF has worked to educate youth and all ages of mountain enthusiasts on how to stay safe in the mountains, teaching free avalanche safety presentations and workshops to more than 10,500 people.

The Dodovs hope to save lives through their work, and attend every event themselves. While the NDF had to cancel five presentations and three workshops due to COVID-19, they still had one of their busiest seasons so far.
“Before the pandemic started, NDF was able to present 18 free avalanche educational events to more than 2,500 ski and snowboard athletes, middle, high school and university students, coaches, teachers, parents and all-age mountain enthusiasts,” Natalia Dodov said. “All the events we had this winter were by request from the benefiting groups – ski and snowboard teams and schools, colleges and universities. There has been an increased number of organizations seeing the need for avalanche education and reaching out to NDF.”
The seventh annual Nickolay Dodov Slopestyle competition at Bear Valley was canceled this year following the closure of the downhill ski resort.
“We missed the opportunity to have a fundraiser during the Slopestyle,” Natalia Dodov said. “We are hoping the current situation will improve and people will continue to contribute in the future.”

Three additional avalanche educators joined the NDF this year, bringing the total to seven.
“We have been discussing with our avalanche educators different ways how to approach youth and all-ages mountain enthusiasts with online avalanche education,” Natalia Dodov said. “Even though we are hoping for normal times to return, as we are already planning many events for the next winter season.”
Natalia Dodov said that the work of the NDF has become even more important during the current crisis.
“Resort restrictions may unleash a flood of new users with no foundation of avalanche safety education and knowledge into the backcountry next winter,” she said. “The avalanche classes were already too expensive for many. Now, with the current economic situation, even more people won’t be able to afford them. Free avalanche education will be crucial.”
The NDF was founded to help winter sports enthusiasts safely enjoy the mountains, and that’s just what the Dodovs have been doing with their time off.
“In the last two months, living in Bear Valley, we have spent our time that otherwise we would volunteer towards avalanche safety presentations and workshops to backcountry ski and snowboard and oversee the safety around our backyard,” Natalia Dodov said. “So far this season we have had over 100 ski days – only about 20 days in the ski area – the rest were in the backcountry. With the high passes open there is more spring skiing to be had.”
Those interested in supporting the 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.

 

http://www.calaverasenterprise.com/news/coronavirus_information/article_8ce42c7a-a0ab-11ea-bae9-13fb5d185587.html

The Dodov Foundation… A ‘Beacon’ Of Positivity by Alex Silgalis, Local Freshies

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“In today’s world, our own voice is the strongest it has EVER been. You can reach so many people through social media. Unfortunately, very few of us use this platform to do something bigger than ourselves. We post our opinions but don’t act upon them to make changes. And that’s where Natalia and Alex Dodov stray from the rest of us. Instead of sitting on the sidelines, they use their opportunities and energy to help kids learn about avalanche safety solutions.

Seeing The Dodov Foundation In Action

I’ve been good friends with the Dodov’s for quite a while, but it wasn’t until this week I came to the realization of what they are actually doing. I was given the privilege to step into a South Tahoe High School classroom and see their foundation in action. Looking around, I saw something that absolutely blew my mind. Attentive high school kids listening closely to an avalanche educator teaching them about avalanche safety solutions. The lyrics of the hip-hop group Jurassic 5 pounded in my head over and over again:

Are you part of the problem,

Or are you part of the solution.

Are you part of the problem,

Or are you part of the solution.

What’s your contribution to life?

Taking Something Tragic & Fueling A Mission

What would you do if your son, daughter, husband, or wife died doing something you love to do? Would you give up on that activity? Maybe sue the company or business? Well, a few years ago, Alex & Natalia lost their son in an avalanche during a heli-skiing excursion in Alaska. Instead of rage or seeking revenge, Natalia & Alex took a different route. They used their son’s tragic accident as a calling and created the Nickolay Dodov Foundation. Their goal is simple… to provide FREE avalanche courses to educate youth and all-age winter enthusiasts. While people living near the ocean need to worry about things like riptides, here in the mountains, the worry is avalanches.

Putting Their Money Where Their Mouth Is

Alex and Natalia work hard all summer long from sun up to sun down. Instead of living the pampered life and chasing powder to ski wherever it snows, they take that money and put it into the Dodov Foundation. Not just money either. Like monks of the mountains, they travel across the state putting on avalanche seminars. From schools to children’s ski academies and everything in between, they are trying to teach the next generation on how to stay safe when playing in the mountains.

Help The Next Generation

Right now, they’re doing this 100% on their own with only a handful of sponsors. Their goal isn’t to become famous but rather continue to expand the amount of kids reached. If you know a class, school, or organization that wants a FREE class, reach out to Natalia. Or better yet, if you think what they’re doing is awesome and have a few bucks to spare, consider donating to the foundation. Every bit helps to reach just one more kid. Either way, Natalia will make sure she gives you “buckets of hugs” for helping.”

Nickolay Dodov Foundation Summary of Avalanche Education Events for the Winter 2018/2019

The Winter of 2018/2019 was an EPIC ONE …. We skied 150 days …75 in the backcountry….and very busy for the Nickolay Dodov Foundation bringing Free Avalanche Education to youth and all ages mountain enthusiasts! As Founders of the Foundation, we have been traveling across California and Nevada from December 1st until May 5th in stormy weather and bluebird powder days to be at every presentation and workshop!
NDF PRESENTED  12 KNOW BEFORE YOU GO AVALANCHE AWARENESS PRESENTATIONS AND 7 AVALANCHE WORKSHOPS TO MORE THAN 2000 ATHLETES, STUDENTS, COACHES, TEACHERS AND MOUNTAIN ENTHUSIASTS AND ORGANIZED THE 6TH ANNUAL NICKOLAY DODOV SLOPESTYLE!
The new five hours interactive avalanche educational workshop for youth developed by the NDF Avalanche educator Chemistry Scholar Michael McCarthy  was a big success that filled out the gap between KBYG and Level 1 class!
Special THANK YOU  to the NDF Avalanche Educators Paul Henrickson, Michael McCarthy, Richard Bothwell, Duncan Lee, Georgi Georgiev, Hristo Ivanov, Jordan Smolitchi, Milena Padalska, Stanislav and Georgi Penev  for their passion, support and commitment to bring avalanche education!
All of these was possible thank you to our donors who are passionate about winter sports and Avalanche education!
We are very thankful for the BCA avalanche safety gear and the Scullcandy headphones that played  an important role in our presentations and workshops!
We would like to project a Big Thank you to the National Avalanche Center, Utah Avalanche Center and Sierra Avalanche Center for the support and partnership !
Special Thank you to the Nickolay Dodov 2019 Slopestyle sponsors for the amazing prizes; Reba Sport Shop, Hydro Flask, Stinky Socks, Scullcandy, Be Inspired, Sierra Nevada Adventure Company, Shred Soles, Hwy Four Store, All Good, A Singletrack Mind, Boyle Macdonald Wines, PowE Snowboards, Thrive Snowboards, Earth and Ocean Boardshop, New Earth Logic, Tamarack Lodge…and HUGE Thank you to all the friends who came out to support Nick’s event!
 
Have a nice Summer!… We are looking forward to see you next Winter! 
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SUMMARY of Winter 2018/2019
December 2018 –
December 1st – One day Avalanche Workshop in Cabrillo College/Santa Cruz
December 3th  – KBYG Avalanche Awareness Presentations to the students of South Tahoe Middle School 
December 15th – KBYG Avalanche Awareness Presentations to the students of  Mammoth High School
January 2019-
January 4th – KBYG Avalanche Awareness Presentation to the ski and snowboard teams and public at Squaw Valley
January 5th -One day Avalanche Workshop to winter enthusiasts in Bear Valley
January 24th – 2 KBYG Avalanche Awareness Presentations to the students of Truckee Forest Charter School.
February 2019 –
February 24th -KBYG Avalanche Awareness Presentation to Yosemite Ski team and public
March 2019-
March 15th – 2 KBYG presentations to 7th and 8th grate students at Sonora Elementary School
March 16th and 17th Avalanche workshop in Borovets, Bulgaria
March 23th – Avalanche Workshop with inbound, soft boundary safety lecture and beacon search practice session to the Bear Valley Ski Teams
March 28th – 2 KBYG presentations to the students of South Tahoe High School
April 2019 –
April 11th – 3 KBYG Presentations to the students and ski team of George Whittell High School
April 20th – 6th Annual Nickolay Dodov Slopestyle in Bear Valley
April 27th – Motorizes Avalanche Workshop for the Sled fest in  Bear valley 
May 2019 –
May 4th – 5 hour Interactive Avalanche Educational Workshop for youth at Heavenly for Heavenly, South Tahoe High School and George Whittell High School ski and snowboard athletes! 
May 5th – 5 hour Interactive Avalanche Educational Workshop for youth to Sugar Bowl Academy free ride and race team athletes!
 
Some feedback for the NDF work
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Nickolay Dodov Foundation rock on! You are saving lives! It is a beautiful thing and I know that Nick is very proud of that remarkable accomplishment!
Craig Gordon
Utah Avalanche Center
Founder of KBYG Program

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You are making an incredible impact for our Snow sports world! Thank you so much! Nick is there with you every step of the way!
Daron Rahlves
Sugar Bowl Ski Team&Academy Board of Trustee

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You are rocking it! Thanks for all you do!
Karl Birkelnad
Director of National Avalanche Center
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Amazing people with an amazing mission! I am beyond proud to be a part of the Nickolay Dodov Foundation educators team! You two feel so many people with love and are helping the World to be a better place!
Duncan Lee
Professional Backcountry Snowmobiler
AIARE Avalanche Educator
Sierra Avalanche Center Adviser
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I look forward to the NDF Slopestyle event all year. Not only do I get to send it, but the people participating and hosting the event are the best. There are great friends and great vibes on the mountain. I cannot wait for next years event and also to attend some of the great NDF Avalanche presentations and workshops!

Geo Alber 13 years old – 2x Winner NDF 12 and under

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Thank you notes from coaches and teachers to the NDF

Natalia,

I just wanted to reach out and tell you how grateful I am for people like you and Alex!  Your enthusiasm and dedication to the education of our youngsters is unparalleled!  You’re literally the nicest people ever.  I thought Michael ran an excellent workshop that really kept kids engaged and willing to learn. I’ve been a part of many clinics and this was by far the best interaction within the class I’ve seen.
I really look forward to working with your foundation in the future and you can count on returning to Sugar Bowl Academy in the Fall/Winter to further our relationship and the kids educational opportunities with avalanche education!

I can’t thank you enough Natalia and Alex !

 
Sean Carey, Director of Freeride
 
Sugar Bowl Ski Team & Academy

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We would like to project a big gigantic thank you to the Nickolay Dodov Foundation.   I couldn’t believe it when Natalia reached out to me with her idea of coming to Mammoth to present their program to our student athletes.  From the very beginning their foundation made it so easy to organize the presentation by communicating with our school and providing posters for the event.  There is very little money in the California public school systems to pay for any “extra” programs especially in athletics.  Without the foundation, there would not had been this opportunity for the foundations’s all-important life education.  Our students live at 8,000 feet surrounded by mountains up to 14,000 feet.  The natural environment around us, pose a realistic threat to all of us.  The Nickolay Dodov Foundation presented the realistic hazards of our environment.  The kids were completely engaged, intrigued and moved by the presentation and it made a long lasting impact on their actions where the typical teenage behavior is not to think about consequences of their actions.  At this age, they  think they are invisible.   With the huge records amounts of snow we received this winter at Mammoth (we’ll be skiing on it until August and we are still susceptible to avalanches), our community was constantly presented with the fatal possibilities of avalanches.  It is impossible to measure how many lives the Nickolay Dodov Foundation has saved (probably many), but if it made just one person think before exposing themselves to a fatal circumstance, it was so so worth it.   From the bottom of our hearts THANK YOU Nickolay Dodov Foundation!  We hope they can return every year.
Connie Moyer
Mammoth High School Ski and Snowboard Team Director
CNISSF State Champions 2016, 2017, 2018 & 2019
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The Nickolay Dodov Foundation has brought hours of avalanche education and mountain inspiration to the students at South Tahoe High School in the last four years.  Each year their program touches lives, motivates athletes, and increases awareness in our growing mountain tribe.  Their educators are among the best and cater their lessons and presentations to fit the audience.  It is an honor to work with them in this necessary effort to educate our youth about safe backcountry travel.
Jillian Raymond
History department South Tahoe High School
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NDF is doing amazing things for our young snow sport athletes today. When I was younger, I never even considered how many variables there can be in backcountry riding. I knew about avalanches, but had very little knowledge about how to approach any backcountry work, and so I avoided it. I’m grateful to have been able to see the amazing NDF presentation with our ski and snowboard team. It inspired me to buy beacons for myself and my husband. We plan to take an Aiarie 1 course next fall so we can get even more educated on backcountry safety & reading/understanding snow conditions for those fun adventures! Thanks NDF!!!
Emma Rommo
Snowboard coach Mammoth High School
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Good Morning Natalia and Alex,
On behalf of everyone here, I thank you for making the journey to Yosemite to educate our ski team. As you guys know, it’s critical that we build our knowledge of snow science and potential hazards at the same time we are building our skiing/riding skills. Your avalanche presentation gave this team a lot to think about in regards to training, snow safety, and decision-making. It was well-presented, engaging, and perfectly customized for our youngest skiers. Definitely a winter highlight for this group and we look forward to working with you next year! Again, thank you for your dedication and energy and please give our best to Paul.
Happy skiing!
Kelsey and the Yosemite Ski Team

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Forest Charter School greatly appreciates the program offered to our school from Nickolay Dodov Foundation in January of 2019. Richard Bothwell, Natalia and Alex created a dynamic presentation which captivated our K-12 students. Through two educational and informative presentations, the students learned about snow safety, decision making, safety gear, slope management and backcountry travel. The students were enthusiastic and supported in asking questions, sharing experiences and learning throughout the day. We will continue to utilize the education provided in our snow safety awareness and student support. We greatly appreciate the opportunity and will continue to seek further collaboration with Nickolay Dodov Foundation in the future.
Mark Keim
5/6 Grade Teacher
Forest Charter School
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​The Nickolay Dodov Foundation presented to our South Tahoe Middle school ski team in the fall and our students loved it. The foundations avalanche educator Richard broke down the avalanche science extremely well for our students and kept them engaged the entire presentation. the ski team walked away with some practical knowledge of avalanche safety and some cool bonus gear too. We can’t wait to have the Nickolay Dodov Foundation back next year to spread the word about backcountry safety to even more students.

James Seider (Educator at South Tahoe Middle School in South Lake Tahoe)

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The Nikolay Dodov Foundation visited Whittell High School this winter to present their Know Before You Go Workshop to my 8th grade science classes and our Alpine Ski Team athletes. The workshop was incredibly engaging for my students, and they really saw the importance of education and proper skills when travelling in the back country. They loved the video, they loved learning about the snow science of avalanches, and they were very excited about receiving headphones as prizes. Our ski team athletes left the workshop with more awareness about the risks when skiing outside of the resort, and they can’t wait for the foundation to return next year and do an on-snow workshop.
I highly recommend the workshop for any ski team or classroom. They do a great job of adapting the workshop for the ages and interests of the students, so all students walk away with more awareness and the desire to keep learning.
Madeline Cronk
Science Teacher and Alpine Ski Team Coach at George Whittell High School

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The Foundation was able to come to Sonora Elementary School this past winter and share a hands on dynamic presentation. The student athletes were able to participate in critical discussions, see new material and equipment that was demonstrated by highly skilled and qualified individuals. The presentation is engaging and beautifully designed. The kids are now able to carry the lessons onto the slopes.

Josette Alomia-Brown. Physical Education 4-8th grade Sonora Elementary School

 

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

After the Avalanche Accident

We were still in Seattle after our son passed away, when Donna Catotti called from Haines. Donna Catotti is our friend who used to live in Bear Valley and had adopted two boys from Bulgaria. We used to have Donna and her husband Rob Goldberg’s art work in our gallery in Bear Valley for years. Every Christmas they would send to us a post card with photos of them and the growing boys, and photos of their trips to Bulgaria. Before Nick went to Alaska we exchanged emails; Donna and Rob were saying that Alaska Heliskiing was the better company in Haines. Donna and Rob didn’t mention about any ongoing disputes for years in Haines with the heliski companies being recklessly operating and flying out of bounds. “It was just a matter of time before something tragic would happen”, we learned later on from residents of Haines, who had been sending complaints to Haines Borough and had been writing letters to Chilkat Valley News. Donna and Rob had invited our son to dinner, they were looking forward to practicing their Bulgarian with him; asking us if “Nick still speaks fluent Bulgarian”.

On the phone call in Seattle Donna expressed her deep condolences and asked if we knew anything about the accident. Alex told Donna that, according to Dr Nobel from Haines Medical Clinic, the accident happened in a remote place and Nick was under the snow for 15 minutes. According to Brandon Corbett, the avalanche happened so fast, Nick couldn’t reach out for the rip cord of his air back pack. Donna said that this is the first accident in Alaska, that Alaska Heliisking is the best company and that their guide Rob Liberman, who was killed in the avalanche with Nick, was Alaska Heliskiing’s best guide.

Donna said that in the evening they would have a Memorial for Rob and Nick in Haines. She asked us if we wanted her to say something about Nick. We talked about how we and Nick, having been living for our whole lives in the mountains and skiing the backcountry, we knew the inherent risk.

Anchorage Daily News and Chilkat Valley News were the two first newspapers addressing the accident.

CHILKAT VALLEY NEWS

Heli-ski guide, client killed in avalanche

Slide danger was ranked ‘considerable’

March 15, 2012 | Vol. 42, No. 11 | View PDF

By Tom Morphet

A heli-ski guide and a client died after being caught in an avalanche Tuesday morning during a heli-ski tour near ChilkatLake.

AlaskaState Trooper Josh Bentz said Robert Liberman, 35, of Telluride, Colo., was pronounced dead at 12:30 p.m. at the Haines clinic. Nickolay Dodov, 26, of Truckee, Calif., died Wednesday afternoon at Seattle’s HarborviewMedicalCenter.

Autopsies will be conducted on both victims, trooper Bentz said.

Dodov and Liberman had been buried in six to eight feet of snow and were unresponsive when other skiers dug them out 20 to 25 minutes after the avalanche, Bentz said. Troopers were notified at 11:11 a.m.

Six skiers, including guide Liberman, had started out on an Alaska Heliskiing tour around 10:30 a.m. and were at the south end of Takhin Ridge, on a slope that faced northeast, Bentz said.

They were making the first run of the day down a familiar heli-ski peak known as “Swany’s,” that some of the skiers on board had descended about a week before.

Liberman descended first, positioning himself downhill and to the left of the clients. Using a walkie-talkie system that linked members of the group, the guide radioed skiers to come down, one at a time.

Three skiers had descended when Dodov headed down the peak, skiing a little farther toward the right than had the previous ones, apparently triggering the slide. Skiers at the bottom of the slope were on a ridge and reported the avalanche passed within 20 feet and on both sides of where they were standing.

Liberman and Dodov both were wearing electronic beacons that helped locate them beneath the snow. Dodov was wearing an “Avalung” breathing device and was found with its mouthpiece in his mouth. Dodov also was wearing a rip-cord-triggered air bag. The bag – designed to keep skiers atop avalanches – had not been deployed and its rip cord was still zippered into a pocket on Dodov’s suit, Bentz said.

Client Dwight Bailey, 35, of Avery, Calif., was at the group’s starting point, about 500 feet down from the top of the mountain, and the last group member still waiting to ski, when the avalanche occurred.

He told Bentz the crown of the avalanche was four to five feet high and that he thought guide Liberman had positioned himself in a safe spot.

The skiers had received a day of safety training, including on use of locator beacons and helicopters, Bailey told the trooper. “Everything was top notch,” Bailey said in an interview later with the CVN.

Bailey told the newspaper that members of the group didn’t make any avalanche tests on the peak, such as digging a snow pit, and he didn’t remember Liberman doing any tests. But he said he didn’t know it would have mattered, as such tests aren’t foolproof. “It wasn’t apparent to any of us that it was a danger.”

The group had been skiing Monday and the snow seemed firm enough that on Tuesday Bailey packed only his Avalung, and not the air bag. The other clients in the group carried both safety devices, he said.

“The stability was good, but different peaks, and different elevations and different exposures…,” he said.

Liberman had worked for Alaska Heliskiing for six years. In a narrative on the company’s website, he described himself as a former college ski racer.

Dodov’s trip here was his first, and he was accompanied by three close friends, including Bailey, a skiing buddy from eastern California.

Both Liberman and Dodov rated their skiing ability as “expert” in pre-tour paperwork filed with the company. Dodov wrote that he skis 100 days a year. Other clients in Dodov’s group Tuesday included Casey O’Steen, 35, of Murphy, Calif., Brandon Corbett, 34, also of Murphy, and Ryan Kirkpatrick, 28, of Salem, Ore.

Trooper Bentz said Alaska Heliskiing had three helicopters working in rotation and 40 skiers, including six guides, on the mountains at the time of the avalanche.

Erik Stevens, Haines avalanche forecaster for the AlaskaAvalancheInformationCenter, said he’d posted a warning of “considerable” avalanche danger in Haines Sunday, his most recent update.

Although the center’s scale of avalanche danger includes higher ratings including “high” and “extreme,” most human-caused avalanches occur at the “considerable” notch because the danger then is most difficult to discern, he said.

“No one goes out when it’s ‘extreme,’ and when it’s ‘high’ you know which slopes are going to slide. It’s easier to predict,” Stevens said.

Avalanche danger increases when a heavy snow falls on multiple weak layers of accumulation, as occurred late last week, he said. Stevens had ratcheted up the danger to “high” on Thursday and Friday, when several mountains shed during “natural” avalanches.

“The problem is that not every slope has reached the critical amount of snow that causes a natural slide to occur,” he said.

Recent cool weather in the mountains means that layers of accumulated snow hadn’t compressed and bound together, he said. Stevens said south winds last week would have tended to load snow onto the north sides of peaks.

Alaska Heliskiing co-owner Vicki Gardner declined to answer questions about the accident this week, but issued a statement. “We are all in a great state of mourning over the loss of our dear friend and our hearts and thoughts are with the family and friends of both victims… I would like to thank everyone in Haines for your expressions of compassion received yesterday and today.”

The company suspended operations Wednesday and was reportedly conducting its own accident investigation.

ANCHORAGE DAILY NEWS

Second heli-skier dies from ‘huge’ Haines-area avalanche

By CASEY GROVE

March 15, 2012

A second man has died after a Haines-area avalanche Tuesday that killed a heli-skiing guide, Alaska State Troopers said.

The “huge” avalanche buried two men from a group of six skiing Takhin Ridge about 11 a.m. Tuesday, said troopers spokeswoman Megan Peters, relaying reports from a trooper in Haines. The ridge is south of Mile 33 of the Haines Highway, where helicopters whisk skiers to and from the backcountry.

Six to eight feet of snow covered the guide, 35-year-old skier Robert Liberman, and Nick Dodov, a 26-year-old client said to be riding a snowboard, Peters said. Everyone in the group was wearing avalanche beacons, and a second group of skiers in the nearby vicinity rushed to help uncover the two men, troopers said.

Liberman, a Telluride, Colo., resident and frequent visitor to Haines, was found dead. Dodov, from Truckee, Calif., was flown to Seattle for treatment and died there Wednesday, troopers said.

Liberman was guiding the group for Alaska Heliskiing.

Coming back from Seattle we found Natalia’s girlfriends from BearValley waiting at the Sacramento airport and they drove us to our little cabin filled with our friends. Later in the evening we received a phone call from the owner of AH, Sean Brownell. He said “This is the most difficult phone call in my life that I’ve ever had to make. As a father myself, I can’t imagine what you are going though.” He explained to us, “It was an accident; the avalanche happened in a remote place; Nick triggered the avalanche, the avalanche was undetectable; Nick and Rob were buried deep under the snow”. He also said that “it was an easy run which they skied six days ago, and the snow conditions were stable.”  He invited us to go to Haines and he would take us to the place. Alex thanked Sean for calling us and said that we are very sorry for the loss of their guide.

On the following day we had to make difficult phone calls, calling our family, relatives and friends back in Bulgaria and around the World.

After this we left for Truckee. We didn’t want to leave Kalei, Nick’s fiancé, by herself. Driving to Truckee we got stuck in a winter storm, it took us more than six hours to get there. Making our way to Truckee and seeing the heavy snow coming down, sad and full of heavy thoughts, but at the same time looking at the snow… we were saying “here comes one of Nick’s jokes, it didn’t snow for the whole season and now is dumping”. Arriving almost at midnight, Nick’s house was full of all his friends waiting for us. The next morning all Nick’s friends from Tahoe took Alex to ride the powder.

We spent the next two weeks with Kalei, Sally and Nick’s friends in Truckee. Kalei’s brother came to visit with his wife from Hawaii. Jared also came to visit. We celebrated all together Kalei’s birthday.

We skied Squaw; thanks to SquawValley Resort management for transferring Nick’s season pass to Alex.

In Truckee for the first time we spoke to Brandon, Ike and Casey, three of the four survivors from the avalanche accident. The first details from the avalanche we heard from Brandon: “The avalanche happened in the area where we already skied before. Nick was the fourth skier coming down the mountain, he triggered the avalanche. They all saw Nick tumbling down the mountain and getting buried under the snow. The avalanche broke wide, Rob Liberman was positioned left of the skier, he got pushed by the avalanche over the cliff and then disappeared under the snow.” Brandon said, “Lucky for them they were on higher ground and the avalanche went by only four feet away.” He said, “After the avalanche stopped, he had a hard time to climb the snow debris. He said that he and Ike, who came down from the top of the hill, and two heli guides that were dropped on the scene from a helicopter, were the ones digging up Rob and Nick. Brandon also said that Nick and Rob were found at least seven, eight feet under the snow. He said it took them approximately 15-20 minutes to recover the bodies and Nick was found with his AvaLung in his mouth. Nick couldn’t open his air back pack, because the rip cord was zipped up. When we asked why Nick’s rip cord was zipped up, Brandon said that the company made them secure the cord while they were in the helicopter for safety, and the company is not responsible for checking the rip cord before each run. He also said, because they were in a remote area, it took awhile to take Nick to the Haines Medical Clinic. Brandon was in a very unstable state while he was talking, breaking, crying and after every other sentence he was saying that AH is the best company and Rob is the best guide. He also said that after this they were taken back to their place where they were questioned by the State Trooper Josh Bentz and  members of AH provided hamburgers and made the survivors to sign papers. Brandon said that he has GoPro footage from the day of the accident. He also said that he is in contact with Ben Clark, who was making a film about AH and he has some footage of Nick.

While still in Truckee a couple of days after the accident, Sally received a phone call from Ike that Trooper Josh Bentz wanted us to call him to close the case. We never did it.

After hearing the story from Brandon, reading Chilkat Valley News article, clearly seeing the controversy with Anchorage Daily News article and having a state trooper in a hurry to close the case, some suspicions started to rise.

Coming back home for Nick’s Celebration of Life our mail box was full of Donna Catotti’s letters. We were telling ourselves how nice of Donna to do this. Along with the letters there were some photos of Vicki Gardner and Sean Brownell, the owners of AH, showing them crying, with explanation on the back of the photos that they are crying for Nick and Rob. Donna’s words about Vicki Gardner, “She was having a hard time feeling responsible. I was trying to help her feel better.”

In the morning, before Nick’s Celebration, all our friends and Nick’s friends came to ski with us. The Bear Valley Mountain Resort generously had given vouchers to everyone. It was a blue bird powder day.

Nick’s Celebration was held at Ironstone Vineyard, thanks to all of Nick’s friends who organized it.The beautiful spring flowers at the entry of the vineyard hall brought a welcoming and cheerful atmosphere.

Hundreds of people gathered to celebrate Nick’s life; among them were many of Nick’s friends from Truckee, South Tahoe, CalaverasCounty, Santa Cruz, southern California, friends flying over from East Coast, Oregon, and England.  Bear Valley Residents, Bear Valley home owners, our friends from Bear Valley Real Estate, all the Local Contractors, Post Office, General Store, MAS, The Snowmobile Center, The Cross Country Center, the Bear Valley Mountain Resort, the Sheriff Department, members of Arnold Fire Department, Nick’s teachers, Nick’s schoolmate’s parents, some Bulgarian friends, our windsurf friends from San Francisco Bay and Rio Vista, Angels Camp, Murphys and Sonora friends.

We all cheered Nick’s photos and Go Pro videos, and shared stories of Nick’s life. Everyone was with a big smile on their faces, full of love hearts and tears of joy, saying we should live our lives to the fullest the way Nick had lived his.

Our friends, family, ski, snowboard and mountaineering communities in Bulgaria have had a Celebration of Nick’s Life in a beautiful way too.

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NICK’S LIFE

Nick was born free on February 15/1986 in Sofia, Bulgaria. He lived all his life free and he left this world free.

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Every winter on Nick’s Birthday would always snow a lot. We were very young when we had Nick, Natalia was 17 and Alex was 22. Our life back in Bulgaria was spent between camping by the Black Sea every summer and skiing the mountains in the winter. At the beach Nick, being two and a half years old and butt naked was making friends with the whole campground.

At three and a half we put Nick on a pair of
skis. By the age of six and half he was skiing by himself the whole mountains.

At the age of eight he converted to snowboarding and ever since he dedicated his life to snowboarding.

Three years ago after surgery to repair a torn ACL Nick, being in pain and grumpy said “what am I going to do in my life if I can’t snowboard”.

Nick’s snowboard racing career started on a hard plate binding board going around the gates. Then came snowboard cross, free style, slope style,

jibbing on every rail and obstacle that Nick could imagine. He would apply the art of snowboarding everywhere.

Later on he brought his free style moves to the backcountry and the open mountain, slashing the fresh powder and jumping from every cliff flying as high as he could get with his favorite trick “method grab”.

Nick was a member of the Bulgarian National Junior team and in 1999 he competed in a Junior World cup in Telluride, Co. After we moved to the USA, he was competing in Tahoe Snowboard Series, The U.S. National Championship and qualified for U.S. Open.

Nick loved skateboarding and windsurfing.

During the two summers living by the ocean in Santa Barbara, Nick met two boys from Brazil who inspired him to learn how to surf. Nick loved surfing and the ocean as much as he loved snowboarding and the mountains.

Nick was an artist in many ways. He loved
drawing and painting on a canvas, seeing the world in bright colors, always
happy with a big smile.


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Nick graduated from high school and went to college for two years.

After this he said “Now is my window to explore the mountains”. Nick was good with numbers and mathematics and was planning to go back to school to study architectural design.

Nick touched many people and made many friends. He was a loving person, helping everyone. Nick with his good heart would have been a good father. Nick had a passion and love for snowboarding and life itself.

Nick was our son, our best friend, our best team mate, and our teacher.

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