Addressing our challenges.

Energy use is an essential part of helicat operations, as it is with all human activity and development around the world.  Although maintaining an economically sustainable helicat operation requires energy for skiing and lodge operations, the conundrum faced by the industry is that the climate change caused by worldwide emissions could impact the sustainability of the snow and cold temperatures on which the industry relies.  

“Currently, the ski industry faces an existential crisis as climate change threatens the core business asset...”

— Getting ahead of the avalanche. Natalie Knowles, 2017

The shift to lower snow years in the Northern Hemisphere has already been noted in research and also in the anecdotal observations of helicat operators.  Climate change is a concern, and will be a significant environmental factor for operations to consider when planning their future.

The vision.

The vision for energy use and climate change is for helicat operators to measure and track their energy use, and prioritize actions that will further progress towards the goal of reconciling their energy demands with the supply of renewable energy.

A common interest in energy efficiency.

Helicat operations have a vested interest in being as energy efficient as possible.  The procurement and consumption of energy in the remote locations in which they operate can be one of the largest expenses within a business.  Reducing these costs contributes to operators’ economic sustainability as well as the overall environmental impact of energy use.

Helicat operators are aware of the efficiencies gained by reducing their demand for energy use.  Policies are in place to minimize helicopter and snowcat running times, energy used by guests and staff at lodges, and transportation to their operations.

There is also a growing opportunity to produce renewable, sustainable energy to supply business operations.  Many operators have invested in micro-hydro power plants, solar systems, battery storage and wood-burning stoves, water heaters and fireplaces to take advantage of renewable energy from the natural environment.  Operations that are on the grid in British Columbia are fortunate in being able to purchase hydro-power electricity. However, in cases where the above is not available, operators still rely on burning natural gas, propane or diesel in generators to supply heat and electricity.

Operations impact energy use outside of their direct control as well. Energy use within supply chains, including importing goods and services, equipment production and waste management, is linked to operations.  However, there is an opportunity for operations to align themselves with suppliers and partners who hold the same environmental values to reduce energy use through the supply chain.

Energy related challenges.

There are many challenges that will face the industry in the future regarding energy use.  The fundamental contradiction between helicat industry sustainability and burning fuel as an underlying business model makes working towards energy efficiency a difficult task that is more complex and long term than simply changing out light bulbs.  However, this is a commonality around the world, and the industry is not facing the task of creating a solution to this challenge alone.


Fossil fuels

There is uncertainty in the future pricing of various energy sources, primarily Jet A and diesel fuel, and the resulting impact on operators’ profit margins.  However, current technologies don’t provide for a satisfactory alternative to these fuels.

Increasing energy use demands

Increasing energy demands are becoming a challenge as technology and home comforts become more important for individual guests and for growing operations, even as operations become more efficient.  

Lack of a baseline

The current lack of a way to measure baseline energy use, which would help benchmark and improve energy management practices, presents a challenge as progressive savings are not always discernible.  

Raising capital for investment

The upfront cost of improving energy use while maintaining economic sustainability is also a challenge for operations.


Making progress and keeping track.

As part of this project, HeliCat Canada partnered with Natural Capitalism Solutions to provide some concrete tools to aid members in planning for sustainability, prioritizing strategies and measuring their energy use. These tools are customized for the industry to help operators implement new systems effectively.

strategy Prioritization Matrix

Energy Tracking & Benchmarking Tool

An operation's sustainability strategies are limited by many factors including the financial and capacity constraints of each operation. The goal of this tool is to provide a method for operators to identify which strategies will create the best benefit towards their pursuit of their unique situation and sustainability goals.

The tool encourages operations to consider their own unique needs and situations when choosing sustainability strategies. It provides managers with a method to create an objective assessment of potential strategies and ensure resources are directed to those which are the most beneficial.

The goal of this tool is to provide a method to assess the financial and environmental impact of energy use by helicopter and snowcat skiing operations by tracking and benchmarking energy use, cost and greenhouse gas emissions.. The tool addresses the unique tracking needs of the industry.

The tool also provides managers with a way to create a more comprehensive understanding of energy use associated with their operations by assessing use that is beyond their immediate control.The tool will provide members with insights on how to be more sustainable in their energy use.

The helicat industry as a model of responsibility.

For many helicat operations, the business case for sustainability drives a desire to operate efficiently.  These members focus on ensuring profitability and providing an outstanding guest experience while recognizing the greater social and environmental limits in which they operate.

The helicat industry also has a unique ability to create positive connections between staff, guests and the natural environment.  As an industry, we operate in the perfect setting to educate our audience about the necessity for action in the face of climate change.  The direct connection to the natural environment that helicat guests experience when skiing in the mountains could lead these people, including investors, government workers, and business leaders, to realize the necessity of embedding sustainable energy use and considering climate change in their wider business practices.

While it is a difficult task to address sustainability in a carbon-heavy industry, operations have a multitude of opportunities to make significant strides in energy use, emissions and cost.  The industry is passionate about skiing in mountain terrain, providing exceptional experiences to its guests, and striving for continual improvement in all aspects of operations. Energy use and carbon emissions are having an increasingly significant impact on operations, and there is a collective willingness to pursue opportunities that will preserve economic sustainability, guest and community relations and the natural environment on which operations depend.