Rob Rohn - President Report
The 2016-2017 season was a very good one for the Heli and Cat Skiing sector in British Columbia. It was a real winter again, with cold temperatures, lots of snow over most of the province and consistently excellent skiing conditions.
Business is booming, buoyed by favourable exchange rates and strengthening economies in key markets. Skier days in the sector grew 3.2% to a record 117,000, with many members reaching near full capacity.
But our success is not just the result of macro-economic factors. It’s a testament to our commitment to creating such exceptional experiences for our guests from across the globe. Helicopter and Snowcat skiing in British Columbia is the dream of every skier and is an experience that is unrivalled, anywhere.
The biggest challenge and top priority for our sector is safety; ensuring that everyone returns home at the end of their trip healthy and happy. By this metric we were not as successful as we would like to be. This past winter we had two guest fatalities, one in an avalanche, another in a tree well. Nyle Mulkey-Chose, a guide at Baldface died in a motor vehicle accident after a shift at work. Our hearts go out to his family and all his many friends.
We had a number of close calls with helicopters this season and there’s clearly work to be done in this area. Tim McLean, a guide with Mike Wiegele Heli Skiing was seriously injured in one of these incidents. We wish him the very best with his recovery.
One of our key strategic goals is to enhance safety in our sector. The presentations and case studies we had at the spring meeting are an important element in our quest for continual improvement. It’s critical that when something goes wrong we all have the opportunity to learn from it.
HeliCat Canada continues to build its capacity and its accomplishments. Four years ago we decided to transition into an autonomous association and we haven’t looked back since. I see the record attendance at our spring meeting as a vote of confidence in this direction and a sign that you truly see value in membership. We intend to keep building on that.
The challenges and opportunities we face as a sector are numerous; the security of our tenures; our relationships with other users of the land base, government policy makers, First Nations and our local communities; the changing landscape around species at risk. These are all files that we are actively engaged on. We must ensure that the needs of our sector are looked after but we must also operate responsibly and sustainably. Our social license to do what we do depends on it.
I would like to express my appreciation to the Board of Directors and committee members who work diligently on behalf of the association and our sector. But I must reserve a very special thank you to Ian and Andrea who do the real heavy lifting. We’re very fortunate to have the two of you at the helm of HeliCat Canada!
It’s been an exceptionally hot and dry summer in Western Canada. Here’s to another snowy and cold winter to follow!
We look forward to seeing you at the AGM in Sun Peaks in September.
All the best,
HeliCat Canada President
The 2015-16 season was one to remember with good conditions throughout the winter and the continued strengthening of BC's Winter Tourism Economy with winter visitors up over 6% from the previous year. The helicopter and snowcat skiing sector in BC saw strong growth during the 2015-16 season, just over 20% for the sector as a whole and all reports point to this trend continuing into the 16/17 ski season.
The programs and services of HeliCat Canada continue to grow and adapt to the changing needs of industry. Our core services of Policy, Programs and Research all saw significant activity last year. Our core competencies of Government & Public Relations, Conferences/Workshops, Research, Special Projects, Accreditation and Member Service continue to refine and improve. Our communications network also saw maturing with a web and brand update, expansion of our social-media strategy and the continued growth of our Industry eNewsletter program.
On February 2, 2016 the entire BC Adventure Tourism industry meet with senior BC Government officials to discuss the future of the industry. Outcomes from that meeting include; (1) focused attention on License of Occupation document language; (2) addressing inconsistencies in regional interpretation of the AT policy and; (3) a new pilot project in the Kootenay's to work with local and provincial stakeholders on a management plan project addressing public recreation and adventure tourism needs, pressures and interests. In addition to this important tenure focused work, our government relations files on several other fronts including Wildlife & Species at Risk, BC Tourism Policy, Occupational Health and Safety, and Forestry Policy (OLTC) also saw positive progress. It is clear that the role of HeliCat Canada in representing the community of helicopter and snowcat skiing business in BC is strengthening and evolving.
Research & Special Projects
2015/16 was a year that saw significant projects like our Socio-Economic Impact Analysis and WorkSafeBC/Gougeon Insurance funded Noise Exposure of HeliSki Guides project come to completion, among others. The changes the organization made to the Research and Special Projects fund in the fall of 2014 continue to have positive impact on the associations ability to produce meaningful direct and in-direct value to the HeliCat industry and broader community.
HeliCat Canada and the community of helicopter and snowcat operators in BC continue to be focused on the fundamental value of Continual Improvement. From our staff and board to Policy, Accreditation and Sustainability Committees and our ad hoc working groups (Helicopter Advisory Committee and OLTC Work Group) this core value of continual improvement permeates all of our activities. Our twice per year face to face meetings continue to be a vital source of information sharing and best practice discussion, including the presentation of meaningful case histories from our sectors recent past.
The HeliCat community is stronger today than it has ever been. Thank you for playing your role in making that happen. I'd especially like to highlight the important and thankless work of the board; Rob Rohn, Chris McNamara, Doug Feely, Beat Steiner, Jeff Honig and Mike Sadan. In looking to 2017 and beyond I see a bright future for our association and the helicopter and snowcat skiing industry in BC.
It continues to be an honour to support this world leading industry and be your voice and face to the world. All the best for a safe, exciting and adventure filled 2017.
41 BC Operations:
HeliCat Members* vs Non Members
Helicopter vs Snowcat
* numbers includes Full and Associate members
Total Annual Skier Days: Helicopter and Snowcat
BC Tourism Stats - International Visitor Overnights
Financial health empowers quality service, support and advocacy for the sector.
2017 Member Equity
research & special projects spending
Total Expenditures $109,463.93
Core staff time allocations
3,047.9 HOURS | 1.6 FTE*
*hours do not include accreditation inspectors, external research or special project contractors.
All great visions start with a plan
This past year saw the development of a three year strategic plan. With four strategic goals and 17 objectives, the plan provides clear association goals and objectives through to 2020.
Tenure Security & Integrity
Value of Membership
Our number one priority.
This past year, HeliCat updated the Accreditation Program and fully implemented it with our members. Updates included improved clarity of existing standards, along with the development of robust policies, procedures, and supporting documentation around the new Accreditation Program. After thorough review by members and the Accreditation Committee, the board approved the updated program and standards in the fall of 2016. The new format has allowed a number of new refinements and amendments to the standards this spring. Discussion continues on many fronts, including the formation of a new Medical Sub-Committee to work with our accreditation committee going forward.
Research and development
Continual improvement in all aspects of safety guides our research and development. Relationships with government, regulators, public and stakeholders enhance our associations efforts to promote an open environment to share experiences and expertise to enhance safety in all aspects of our industry. Key highlights include the federal approval for Dr. Pascal Haegle's NSERC Research Chair in Avalanche Risk Management, of which HeliCat is a key industry funder. Financially supporting an international software development initiative, called SnopViz, to create open sourced snow profile data recording and visualization web service. Our season ended with a half day seminar at our spring meeting on Safety Management Systems in Aviation.
Sharing and learning from one another only strengthens a community. HeliCat continues to develop its incident management program including a first of its kind project with SFU and MiTacs to build a database of historical incidents to better understand risk in the sector. This past winter 10 incident reports were filed with the association. 4 case studies from the winter were presented at the spring meetings. Work continues with Gougeon Insurance to develop and enhance Incident Management Resources for members.
occupational health & Safety
Industry continues to enhance its efforts on OH&S fronts. The first heliskiing company to be COR certified, Selkirk Tangiers Heliskiing, passed their audit this past year. HeliCat's OH&S Program Template continues to see adoption in the sector. Consultation with WorkSafeBC occurred on numerous fronts including potential rate increases, funding opportunities, regulatory ammendments and reserach needs.
Environmentally, socially and economically sustainable.
Wildlife Consultant on Call
Responsible use of BC's backcountry.
First Nations Training
We welcomed Debbie Millar, Chief Negotiator at Katzie First Nation, to our AGM this year to faciliate a workshop on First Nations in BC and how the HeliCat industry can promote proactive partnerships.
HeliCat Canada is one of 19 sector associations forming the Adventure Tourism Coalition. This group meets regularly to discuss areas of mutual interest and concern for BC's $2 billion AT industry.
HeliCat saw its relationships grow in all aspects of BC's snowmobiling community. These include; annual sponsorship of the BC Snowmobile Federation, continued collaboration with the Commercial Snowmobile Operations Association of BC and helping to promote mutually beneficial relationships locally with snowmobile stakeholders and HeliCat members. See our article in BCSF's newsletter here.
Continual Improvement, Networking & Communication Highlights
Our fall AGM & spring meeting where attended by a sweeping variety of members and non-members, from ski guides and operators to policy makers and non-government stakeholders, and we were encouraged and inspired by the common desire to support the positive growth of our industry.
Member operations represented
HeliCat sector based on skier days
Education & Training
Member education and training is important for growth. We continuously provide opportunities to educate and train our members on many topics. This past year we offered several sessions during spring and fall meetings.
Wildlife Management in a Modern World
Safety Management Systems
Fuel & Hazardous Substances
Wage & Benefits
HeliCat was thrilled to support non HeliCat events including the Fall and Spring backcountry wine event sponsored by Mustang Powder and Chatter Creek. The wine events are an opportunity for members and stakeholders to learn more about BC wines. Using the opportunity to work as a group, to increase purchase savings and enjoy several days of wine tasting and bike riding.
HeliCat continues to work with sponsors to promote the HeliCat industry. We would like to thank all our sponsors from the past year, especially our primary sponsors listed below. With continuous development of our primary and special event sponsorship categories, and benefits we continue to strive to grow our sponsorship programs.
HeliCat was thrilled to have the following businesses join as affiliate members.
Sun Peaks Resort
West Coast Helicopters
Wild Cat Helicopters
Effective communication allows stakeholders, members and the public to be informed of our industry's work and projects.
2017 year marked the development of a robust communications plan. Our goal was to align key communications goals with our 2020 strategic plan. The plan resulted in significant increase to social media engagement, increased traffic to helicat.org, increased attendance to key HeliCat events, media coverage for key HeliCat initiatives and the development of numerous resource documents for the organization and its members.
270 Twitter followers
300 posts | 97% increase in impressions
167 Facebook likes
200% increase in impressions | 500% increase in egagement
49 published newsletters, updates and reports. 248 additional stakeholders on other mailing lists.
20,900 Annual Circulation
Reader breakdown: Canada (80%), the USA (10%) and many other countries around the world (10%)
5,933 Unique Visitors
18,800 Page Views | 37% YoY increase
9,354 Visits | 50% YoY increase
Our industry's philosophy of 'continual improvement' extends to all facets of our organization.
The board and four keystone committees continue to develop how they operate with updated and improved oversight, terms of reference, work plans, and ever-evolving policies and procedures to guide their work. Together this volunteer team works with staff to fulfill the mandate of HeliCat Canada, optimizing the use of human and financial resources to maximize value to industry.
Continued oversight and guidance on key policy issues impacting the sector.
Revitalized the HeliCat Canada brand including the launch of a refined website.
Reformatted standards and procedures to simplify and clarify the accreditation process.
Initiation of an upgrade to our Best Practices of Environmental Stewardship and continued oversight of the Mtn. Caribou MOU with the Province of BC.