Welcome to a new era of carbon-neutral heli.
Imagine endless miles of big-mountain terrain as far as the eye can see, and a perfect slope of untracked powder below your skis just waiting to be ripped. You drop in with your buddies, turn on the Go-Pros and make your own ski porn. This and much more comes with the ultra-adventure experience of heli-skiing.
With the continuously changing climate, flying around in the mountains and burning buckets of jet fuel seems like the epitome of jerk-dom and disregard for the planet. And for many years it was. Lately, some heli-skiing operators have started to minimize their impact on the environment and offer their services in a more climate-conscious way, starting a new era of carbon-neutral heli-skiing.
Sliding down the deep snowpack and breathing in the crisp air while enjoying gorgeous views of pow-covered mountains counts as an “A+” day. Warmer climate, however, means that these experiences might become a thing of the past.
“I spend my life in the mountains and wilderness, and I’ve seen the incremental changes in our climate, in our snowpack and our glaciers,” says John Forrest, Co-founder & General Manager of Northern Escape Heli-Skiing. “We need to do the best we can to mitigate this and become a part of the solution rather than a part of the problem.”
Northern Escape Heli-Skiing (NEH), located in northern B.C. near the Alaskan Panhandle, has recently undertaken the process of becoming one of the few carbon-neutral heli-ski operators on the planet. Becoming carbon-neutral certified is a long-term process that requires years of analyzing operations, replacing gas-powered machinery with electric, and installing renewable energy sources, such as solar panels.
“This is a very long journey for us. It’s not something that’s a quick fix within the world or our company. Our ability to take people to remote places is predicated on using helicopters. We can’t ever change that carbon footprint, but we are trying to mitigate everything we possibly can, not only by going carbon neutral but also by looking at how we can reduce our usage, reuse and recycle and how to make this approach a way of life,” Forrest explains.
With increasing levels of climate consciousness, many guests are concerned about the carbon emissions their trip to the mountains leaves behind. Northern Escape therefore partnered up with Synergy Enterprises and Offsetters Community to contribute to projects that prevent the equivalent amount of emissions elsewhere. Guests are also encouraged to offset their flights to and from Terrace. Northern Escape’s offsets will benefit The Great Bear Forest and the First Nations living in the region, as well as the Lara Ceramic plant based in Brazil, which helps to decrease deforestation in the area and reduce the plant’s yearly operating emissions by approximately 10,000 tCO2e.
How Bad is Heli-Skiing?
Yes, heli-skiing indisputably contributes to the total amount of greenhouse gas emissions. The comparison of the tCO2e emissions to some other activities people practice regularly might be surprising:
- Northern Escape Heli Skiing 0.62 tCO2e/ skier/day
- One-way Flight, New York – LA (economy) 0.64 tCO2e/ passenger
- One-way Flight, New York – LA (business) 1.87 tCO2e/ passenger
To put this further into perspective, a Classic heli-ski package at NEH uses the same helicopter for three groups of six skiers (the industry standard is three groups per machine), which means that 18 skiers in total typically all share the same machine and because of the skill of the pilots and guides, guests can ski fresh powder non-stop, all day with a total engine run time of only three hours.
Other Ways To Reduce Your Carbon Footprint
Besides choosing a carbon-neutral operator there are other considerations like lodge access, group size and ground operations that have a considerable effect on carbon footprints.
A quick and easy lodge access is one of the main advantages on NEH’s carbon-neutral path. NEH has two lodges located near Terrace in northern B.C. The Yellow Cedar Lodge is a short drive from the Terrace airport and the new Mountain Lodge requires a short helicopter flight in winter months. (Long drives and small planes used to access other heli-ski operators emit considerably more CO2 per person compared to larger jets.)
Other ways to reduce carbon footprint include increasing the involvement in the local community and sourcing every product possible from local suppliers.
“We work with the various recycling companies in Terrace to make sure everything is being recycled the best it can. Within our company we’re looking at every single individual department and breaking it down under the microscope to see what we can improve, such as stopping the use of one-use plastics, using recycled products,” adds Forrest.
Offsetting, lowering the impact of operations, and mitigating the impact of helicopters on wildlife is only the beginning of Northern Escape’s more sustainable journey for a future of adventure skiing and brisk winters.
Article supplied by Northern Escape Heli-Skiing.