“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

Summary of Nickolay Dodov Foundation Avalanche Educational Work for Winter 2017/2018



For the months of December, January, February and March Nickolay Dodov Foundation presented 12 presentations of the avalanche awareness program Know Before You Go to more than 1500 ski/snowboard athletes, middle, high school and university students, coaches, teachers and parents. In April the Foundation had two educational avalanche workshops.

December – Heavenly ski/snowboard teams

January – Kirkwood Big Mountain ski/snowboard teams and Alpine race teams, Mt Shasta ski/snowboard teams

February – Avery Middle School, Bret Harte High School, two presentations at South Tahoe High School, Bear Valley ski/snowboard teams, two presentation at Squaw Valley to Big mountain ski/snowboard teams and Alpine race teams,

Montana State University to the Backcountry Club -with the help and support of the Forest Service National Avalanche Center, Gallatin National Forest Avalanche Center and Montana State University Backcountry Club presented KBYG to Montana State University Students. Karl Birkeland /The Director of the Forest Service National Avalanche Center, Doug Chabot /The Director of the Gallatin National Forest Avalanche Center and Jordy Hendrikx /The Director of the Snow and Avalanche Lab at MSU for presented KBYG in behalf of the Nickolay Dodov Foundation



March – Bulgaria, mountain hut Skakavica, Free Mountain Association and their mountain guides and avalanche educators Georgi Georgiev, Jordan Smolitchki and Hristo Ivanov presented the Avalanche Awareness Program “Know Before You Go” in behalf of Nickolay Dodov Foundation to the mountain enthusiasts, guides and search and rescue from the mountaineering clubs Nickola Dodov and Seven Rela Lakes and visitors from Macedonia! Great two days presentation and workshop!

April – Snowmobile Avalanche Safety workshop to the Stanislaus National Forest Rangers with Specialized motorized AIARE Avalanche Educator Duncan Lee and our Foundation first two day AIARE Avalanche workshop for Kirkwood coaches and mountain enthusiasts with AIARE Avalanche Educator Michael McCarthy. We had the two Olympians Kyle Rasmussen and Daron Rahlves who came to take the workshop and to Support our Foundation!!!



Two years ago with the help of Karl Birkelnad, Director of The National Avalanche Center, Craig Gordon and Paul Diegel from Utah Avalanche Center, and Georgi Georgiev, mountain guide and avalanche educator from The Free Mountains Associations Nickolay Dodov Foundation has translated KBYG Program in Bulgarian language and has been organizing presentations in Bulgaria! We also have translated the Avalanche Safety brochure into Bulgarian language to be distributed to the mountain resorts, ski and snowboard teams and mountain huts in Bulgaria.

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!…

Our Foundation goal for the next year is to bring Avalanche workshops to all of the ski and snowboard teams we had been with KBYG to prepare them for Level 1 Avalanche classes and to bring KBYG to ski and snowboard teams and schools where we haven’t been yet!


 My husbands Alex and I have started Nickolay Dodov Foundation four years ago…

The mission of the Foundation is to spread avalanche awareness to all who enjoy the snow mountains… but the most to our youth…. ….With the hope that by being able to reach out with avalanche education we will save lives!…

Our Foundation is brought up from our love for Nick!… From our love for the mountains!… From our love for skiing in the backcountry!… 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!…

If you would like to support the Nickolay Dodov Foundation we are charitable 501c3 nonprofit organization #46-3764229. All donations are tax deductible (you will receive a NDF invoice) You can donate at our website www.nickolaydodovfoundation.com You can send us a check to Nickolay Dodov Foundation, PoBox 5035, Bear Valley Ca 95223 You can support us through your charitable organization

We will be very thankful if you can help and support our Foundation to reach out with avalanche education!

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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.

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.

2nd Annual Nickolay Dodov
SlopeStyle Competition
March 8, 2014
Along with great prizes for 1st, 2nd and 3rd places, there will be a silent auction benefiting the Nickolay Dodov Foundation!

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!


 Couple of days after the event start snowing


2nd Annual NICKOLAY DODOV SlopeStyle Competition will be March 8, 2014, Bear Valley, Ca.
Along with great prizes for 1st, 2nd and 3rd places, there will be a silent auction
benefiting the Nickolay Dodov Foundation! An Avalanche Safety Program will be presented, there will be a great DJ at the mountain and a Bulgarian diner after the competition!


Nick in action!



Photos from last year Nickolay Dodov Slope Style event. .883724_10151377769003031_1076469446_o (2)893799_10200656435963900_937206221_o

Searching for Answers

For the last day of the season Bear Valley Mountain Resort always brings live music. For the end of 2012 winter some of Nick’s friends were going to spin reggae music along with a reggae band. The
morning happened to be a powder day.

We rode together with Nick’s fiancé Kalei and Casey and Brandon, two of the avalanche survivors. We shared our concerns about the controversial information in the newspapers. Casey Osteen’s reaction was: “Alex, these guys from Alaska Heliskiing were just a bunch of wild cowboys”. He also said that in the evening, after the avalanche accident, he went back to the base of Alaska Heliskiing to pick up his and Nick’s gear and found all the guides dead drunk.  He said that Sean Brownell walked by him, not saying a word. Casey confirmed that Alaska Heliskiing made them sign papers right after the avalanche accident and said, “we were still in a big shock, I don’t know what we signed , they guided us through the papers, telling us what to do”.

Forty five days after the avalanche accident there still was no report from Alaska Heliskiing filed with the National Avalanche Center.

Kalei, Nick’s fiancé, was the first one to call Alaska Heliskiing to ask for an accident report. She was able to speak to Vicki Gardner, the owner of the company. Vicki Gardner asked Kalei, “Why do you need a report?”. Kalei politely explained to Vicki that we want to learn about the accident and come to closure. Vicki Gardner said in return, “Come to Alaska. Our guides will explain to you what happened”. After Kalei’s response that we don’t want to go to Alaska, we just want a report, Vicki Gardner lost her nerves and asked, “What are you after?”

We emailed our friend in Haines, Rob Goldberg, that it had been forty five days since the accident and we hadn’t received an accident report from Alaska Helliskiing and the State Troopers Department, and asked him how to get in touch with Trooper Bentz. It was a week later when we received an email from Rob Goldberg with Trooper Bentz’s  phone number. We called Trooper Bentz to ask for his report. He was surprised that we were even contacting him. Trooper Bentz assured us that he would send his report to us a couple of days after the report was signed by his supervisor. The next day we tried to call Trooper Bentz more than twenty times, with no answer from him. We wanted to ask him for the local avalanche report by Eric Stevens, as well as the Alaska Heliskiing accident report. We never received any report or a phone call back from Trooper Bentz.

Kalei received an email from Orion  Koleis;

From: Orion Heliskiing <orion@alaskaheliskiing.com>
Date: Sun, Apr 15, 2012 at 4:39 PM
Subject: Re: Nick Dodov
To: kwodehouse@gmail.com

Hi Kalei,

I know there was too much going on around the memorial to get into the details. I assumed you would have talked to Brandon and Ike about it; but they are having a hard time with it also, having been there. Especially Brandon. I called today and left a number for the office. Both Brandon and Ike have all of my contact info, so if you or Alex or Natalia ever want to talk about anything, please, don’t hesitate. I was in the field the last two days and couldn’t find time to call you back, it is still busy around here. Even though our season is winding down, so is our staff; which means I am always working.

There has been an avalanche report completed and is filed in with our company accident report. Which we have given to our attorney and insurance company. Because of the legal process, it is not being released to the public. However, If you or Nick’s parents want to talk; I am fully willing to go over the details with you. I want you all to know what happened to cause the avalanche and what was done afterwords. There is a process that we have as a company, which we accomplished. But, there is another process with the insurance company which I am still dealing with. It will likely continue for a few months as it is a detail oriented process, with many checks and balances. I’m stuck between a rock and a hard place trying to balance all of the different sides of this equation. I won’t go into details in an email, but when we talk I will tell you what ever you want to know.

This is my company email address, my personal one is koleis@yahoo.com, and my cell phone number is (907) 317-1757. I don’t get cell reception around our base, only when I’m in town or when I go back to Anchorage. The office number is what I left on your voice mail, (907) 767-5601. I want to thank you all for being so kind and welcoming to me when I was down in California. I was honored to be present with all of the people important to Nick, it was a warm and positive experience, and I want the same kind of celebration of life when my time comes. You are a remarkably strong person, and his parents are amazing. I look forward to seeing you all again. I hope I can help bring some closure to this subject to help move through the grieving process. If there is anything I can do to help anyone at anytime, just ask.

All of my best, with peace and love,

For us it was very disturbing to learn from this email that Orion came to Nick’ s Life Celebration and he never introduced himself to us as a manager of Alaska Heliskiing. We were told that he was an Alaskan Ranger. Natalia lent him one of her powder skis and personally talked to him after the Celebration for more than twenty minutes, without knowing that he was a member of Alaska Heliskiing. We questioned ourselves why Orion came to our son’s Life Celebration if he didn’t introduce himself formally to everyone as a member of Alaska Heliskiing and speak regarding the accident.

Many questions started to rise; we spoke number of times with Casey Osteen. He said that a week prior to the avalanche, they went to ski Swanny Run  (the same run where the accident  happen), and the snow conditions were more like spring conditions. After five days of storm they received three to five feet of snow. The day before the accident the snow conditions were stable. Casey recalled that jumping off a cliff on a run called Overhang, landing he sunk in over his head in the snow. He got scared. He said to us, “I don’t know how Rob Liberman let us jump in these deep conditions.” Casey said the next day was a different story; the snow was crusty and sticky, more like wind deposit snow. Rob told the group before they left the base on March 13 that they will ski the lower mountain, the “bunny hills”, because of the overcast conditions. Ike Bailey didn’t even take his air backpack. Casey told us that on the run prior to the avalanche, Rob Liberman did a snow stability check and didn’t let the group ski the site. Instead, he took them to alternative run. Casey said the snow was so sticky there, he took his board and walked half of the way. At the bottom of the run, while waiting for the helicopter to pick them up, Rob didn’t share with the group the danger in the snow and why they had to take alternative route. He left the clients to decide whether or not to continue skiing. Casey said that he told everybody he doesn’t want to pay more money for crappy snow, but the group decided to continuing skiing. This is when Rob told everybody he was also paying for the helicopter and let’s go find better snow.

Rob took the group to Swanny Run.

Casey said that going down the long traverse to the drop zone, the snow was crusty. Ike Bailey told Rob, “to me the snow looks suspect”. In return Rob said, “I have a good feeling about this run”. Rob didn’t do a snow stability check. He traversed down to the left of the group and started calling for the skiers to come down the hill. First was Brandon Corbett; second was Ryan Kirkpatrick, who, at the end of his run at the bottom of the gully, was caught by surprise by a rock outcrop and rolled, flipping forward, landing on his board, without impacting the snow. Casey said that, as the third skier, the run was going over rolling hills entering multiple gullies with steepness of 25-40*. Casey remembers when he entered the gullies, he noticed there were fractures across the snow. Nick was the fourth skier. Casey heard on the radio Rob telling Nick, “Go to the right, there is a better powder there”. While Nick was making turns the avalanche broke, Nick disappeared under the snow, and Rob was pushed over the cliff and went under the snow. Casey said, “The avalanche went three, four feet by us. I even pulled the rip cord of my air back pack. After the avalanche stopped, Brandon and Ryan started climbing the avalanche debris. We didn’t have a radio to get in touch with the base. I started searching the area where I was, trying to walk on the layer that the avalanche slid off. It was impossible; it was shear firm snow. It took forever before they droped somebody to started the search and rescue. It felt close to an hour before the bodies of the victims were recovered”.