Objectives and Solutions
One of the nation’s largest ski resorts is saving labor and time, while boosting snow quality and overall efficiency, by integrating computer-driven automation to control its extensive high-volume snowmaking operation. The fully networked system at Heavenly Valley is so advanced that it constantly monitors the environment for changes in air temperature, humidity, wind direction, water pressure, and other elements critical to making great snow.
The result is an ability to generate larger quantities of higher quality snow in shorter periods of time, using fewer man-hours. “Snowmaking used to be more art than science, and it took a lot of time and effort,” commented Heavenly Valley Snowmaking Manager Barrett Burghard. “In the past, we had a team of six snowmakers who handled all the equipment, manually opening air and water hydrants, charging lines, and starting up each unit, then reversing it all for the shutdown. It was very labor-intensive, and adjusting snow quality required an experienced technician,” he said.
That situation has changed with Heavenly’s installation of 49 “big throw” snow guns – all SMI® Super Polecats – and SmartSnow™ automation software. This state-of-the-art program delivers complete control over snowmaking operations, with interactive trail maps and gun locations, an extensive weather station package, superior graphing capability and data export. Optional modules can also be included for excellent modeling and control of auxiliary systems, such as pump stations, compressors, security, trail lighting, even building lighting and HVAC.
“Ease of operation is the key benefit to the computer-controlled system,” Burghard continued. “We can now monitor and control all of the SMI machines from a single computer. We can take temperature and humidity readings from all over the mountain, and we can configure individual weather stations to run a combination of guns, based on the specific conditions from that area,” he said. “I can even log on to the system from home and control the operations from my computer there.”