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SAM Magazine—Big Sky, Mont., Sept. 20, 2023—In a move toward sustainable operations, Montana’s Big Sky Resort has transitioned to 99 percent renewable diesel fuel to power its snowcats, trucks, and other heavy equipment. Big SKy

Also known as hydrotreated vegetable oil (HVO), renewable diesel is derived from agricultural byproducts such as animal fats and cooking oils and is a “cleaner and better performing fuel” than petroleum diesel, according to the resort. The renewable fuel will replace conventional petroleum diesel and does not require any engine modifications. 

“By embracing renewable diesel, we’re demonstrating that this lower-carbon HVO diesel is friendly to burn in modern heavy equipment,” said Big Sky president and COO Taylor Middleton.

Big Sky will utilize an R99 blend of renewable diesel, which “demonstrates a commitment to the cleanest and most effective form of HVO,” said Big Sky’s announcement. In addition to fueling resort fleets that had previously relied on diesel, it’s also available to contractors who fill up at the resort’s fuel pump.

The transition is anticipated to bring a 60 percent reduction in emissions in the first year. It’s part of an effort by the resort to reduce carbon emissions to net zero by 2030 through its ForeverProject2030.

“Renewable diesel offers a substantial solution for us, especially since there are currently no viable alternatives for fully electric snowcats or construction equipment,” said Amy Fonte, Big Sky sustainability specialist. “Achieving a 60 percent reduction in emissions is a significant step forward.”

The resort has also partnered with Yellowstone Teton Clean Cities Coalition and Parkland USA to provide R50 renewable diesel (a 50 percent renewable diesel blend) to the Gallatin Valley public through the Commercial Fueling Network in Belgrade, about 45 minutes away.

The use of renewable diesel has been gaining traction at ski areas worldwide. Some European resorts have begun using HVO to fill grooming machines, including Compagnie des Alpes, which operates many of the largest resorts in France with well over 100 snowcats between them. The company made the transition ahead of the 2022-23 winter season.

Other U.S. industries, municipalities, and cities are embracing renewable diesel too, including the airline industry. United Airlines, for one, has partnered with two biofuel companies with hopes to produce enough sustainable aviation fuel to power 50,000 flights between Chicago and Denver per year by 2028.