Rob Rohn - President Report
The 2016-2017 season was a very good one for the helicopter and snowcat 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
Elevating Adventure to 2020 and beyond
The start to our fiscal year was marked by the development of our 2020 Strategic Plan in the fall of 2016. With its four goals of Safety, Tenure Integrity, Sustainability and Member Service, this new plan plots the long-term goals for our association, its membership, and the industry it serves.
Our core competencies of Government & Public Relations, Conferences/Workshops, Research, Special Projects, Accreditation and Member Service continue to grow and expand. Our communications network took a big step forward with the development of a long-term communications plan and resulted in the significant expansion of our reach, including excellent growth in social media and our Industry eNewsletter program.
Safety remains to be our top priority at HeliCat Canada. This year's efforts to enhance our safety programs and services helped our sector improve. The establishment of our new Safety Think Tank, the development of an incident reporting system and analysis of historical risk in our sector, the work and dedication of our Accreditation Committee, and our collaboration with stakeholders like WorkSafeBC, the BC Coroners Service and Transport Canada all contributed to this progress.
2016/17 was a year of change for our many government relations files. The formation of the Adventure Tourism Coalition this past year was intended to help focus work related to business operations within the industry. It was very successful in clarifying many of the key issues affecting the various sectors that contribute to adventure tourism in BC. HeliCat also received a number of requests from members, as well as some non-members, for support with front-line tenure issues and was able to respond with the collective resources and expertise of the organization, its board and committees, to assist in a wide range of capacities, from educating and consulting to advocating on behalf of members facing challenges related to land use.
Research & Special Projects
Our research and special projects program expanded again this year with a total of 10 projects receiving $109,000 in funding. Our focus on research to help improve safety and inform best practices in the sector remains a core strength of the association, and its outputs help to inform the development and improvement of the HeliCat sector not only in Canada, but internationally. This year, we supported avalanche research at SFU, developed a new incident database and system to analyze risk factors in helicopter and snowcat skiing, conducted a wage and benefits survey of employers, delivered First Nations training for members, and completed a project that greatly expanded and matured our approach to communications and outreach.
The HeliCat community is as strong as it has ever been. Our membership, financial health, attendance at meetings and participation on committees are all strong evidence of this strength. Thank you for playing your role and making it all 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, Mike Sadan, Geoff Straight and Paul Osak.
Looking at 2018 and beyond, I see a bright future for our association and the industry it serves in BC. It continues to be an honour to support this world-leading industry and to be your voice to the world.
Here's to another great year ahead. Let it snow!
42 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 seventeen objectives, the plan provides a clear vision and mandate through to 2020.
Tenure Security & Integrity
Improve the Adventure Tourism Policy - Enhance Government Relations - Collaborate with CWSAA - Increase Stakeholder Engagement
Enhance Best Practices for Sustainability - Develop Sustainability White Papers - Monitor and Engage on Wildlife Files
Value of Membership
Pursue Alternative Funding - Recruit New Members - Enhance Professional Development - Enhance Communications - Continue to Fund Research & Special Projects - Expand Networking Opportunities
Enhance the Accreditation Program - Facilitate Case Studies & Incident Reporting - Fund Safety Research & Special Projects - Enhance Safety and Risk Management Programs for Industry
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 a thorough review by members and the Accreditation Committee, the board approved the updated program and standards in the fall of 2016. The new format allowed for a number of refinements and amendments to standards this spring. Discussion continues on many fronts, including around the formation of a new Medical Sub-Committee to work with our Accreditation Committee moving forward.
Research and development
Continual improvement in all aspects of safety is what guides our research and development. Relationships with government, regulators, the public and various stakeholders enhance and increase our association's efforts to promote the sharing of experiences and expertise in order to inform best practices across the board. Key highlights include the federal approval for Dr. Pascal Haegle's NSERC Research Chair in Avalanche Risk Management, of which HeliCat is a key source of financial funding from within the industry, and supporting an international software development initiative, called SnopViz, to create an 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 in an effort to better understand risk within the sector. This past winter, 10 incident reports were filed with the Association, and 4 case studies were presented at our spring meetings. Work continues with Gougeon Insurance to develop and enhance incident management resources for our 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 throughout the sector. Consultation with WorkSafeBC occurred on numerous fronts, including discussions with respect to potential rate increases, funding opportunities, regulatory amendments and research initiatives.
Continual Improvement, Networking & Communication Highlights
Our fall AGM & spring meeting were attended by a sweeping variety of members and non-members, from ski guides and operators to policy makers and non-government stakeholders. 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, including the following:
Wildlife Management in a Modern World
Safety Management Systems
Fuel & Hazardous Substances
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. Through the continuous development of our primary and special event sponsorship categories, and benefits, we continue to strive for growth within our sponsorship programs.
HeliCat was thrilled to welcome the following businesses as affiliate members this past year:
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 saw the development of a robust communications plan. Our goal was to align key communications objectives with our 2020 strategic plan. The result was a significant increase in social media engagement, increased traffic to helicat.org, increased attendance to key HeliCat events, extensive 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 engagement
49 published newsletters, updates and reports. 248 additional stakeholders on additional mailing lists.
20,900 Annual Circulation
Distribution to owners, staff, investors and decision makers around the world.
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 respond to the changing face of our industry 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 Mountain Caribou MOU with the province of BC.