In March 2012, Natalia and Alex Dodov lost their 26-year-old son, Nickolay Dodov, in what is referred to as the Takhin Ridge avalanche. The backcountry avalanche occurred in steep mountains near the southeast Alaska town of Haines, Alaska. A party of six skiers, including guide Rob Liberman, 35, of Telluride, Colorado, were heli-skiing when the group was swept by the avalanche. Liberman was buried and died at the site. Dodov was also buried but was rescued and taken to a local hospital where he died the next day.
Dodov’s parents have filed a lawsuit against the tour provider, Alaska Heliskiing, alleging misleading marketing that implied reduced risks and fostered a false sense of safety. Prior to filing the lawsuit, the couple wrote five U.S. senators in 2013, urging Congress to investigate the tragedy. They also urged the Haines Borough to deny renewal of Alaska Heliskiing’s ski tour permit. Borough Clerk Julie Cozzi found that the company violated state law by failing to properly register to use the Haines State Forest for business purposes, according to a 15-page letter explaining the decision. But Cozzi concluded that the violation and other problems did not warrant refusing a renewed tour permit.
In the lawsuit, the couple accuses Alaska Heliskiing of failing to provide more than one guide for the trip, failing to assess the danger of skiing in the area of the avalanche and failing to provide adequate radios, among other complaints. The lawsuit was first filed in February, in state court. The venue has since been moved to federal district court; the heli-skiing company is expected to respond to the complaint by Aug. 20.
The lawsuit seeks an unspecified amount of money, including funds to promote backcountry snow safety.