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.