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Automated Snowmaking

jimmywilson69

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isn't valve and line freezing and issue on the automated stuff? in a lot of places pipes and the valves are above ground, I would think that would be a problem especially further up north.

I know Roundtop has the ability for their Areco Fans to be automated, but they always manually connect and disconnect them. I'm guessing that maybe they control changes in water remotely, but always see staff running the line checking them or brining them on/offline.
 

Newpylong

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Pipes in general (except base areas and trail crossings) are above ground at just about all locations in New England as there is too much ledge to bury them. So yes, constant water flow is required. If the water stops, the lines need to be drained. I don't know of anyone that actually has automated valves on their water distribution pipe up here to be able to comment much on it.

On the actual on-hill equipment, drains are integrated to prevent the hoses from freezing when the guns shutdown.
 

thetrailboss

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Sugarbush had excellent automated snowmaking from both york and snomatic. They worked great. I could run the whole operation from the start up to shut down from the control room. However, they were potentiometer-based, which means they needed regular calibration in order to work properly.

They never bothered to do the seasonal maintenance needed because they didn’t want to keep a snow maker on you around. So, after a few years, They ended up ripping out all of the automation and going back to manual. Upfront costs are one thing, but if you’re not willing to spend what it takes to do the upkeep required to keep the system operational, you will not have an operational system for a long.
You beat me to it. I was going to say that pre-LBO Sugarbush had a York automated system on part of LP. Back then one had to ride a Sugar Bravo Triple Chair to access the mid-mountain terrain.
 

tumbler

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Some huge hurdles on automation. Subfreezing temps and automation generally do not work well especially when the tower turns off to make sure the hoses and hydrant drains properly and does not freeze. It is not a conditioned building. Another one is the quality of the water that is being pumped. Snowmaking water is not filtered so the minerals and other crap in the water eats away at the equipment, especially the yorks.
 

IceEidolon

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Roundtop used to have full auto Areco fans, but the hydrant actuators wore out/never worked right and got eliminated. Roundtop actually built an in house/Snowtime proprietary control system for their Arecos, not the system that came with the guns.
 

machski

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Maine Calling program on NPR today was about the current state of the Maine ski industry. The Sunday River rep mentioned they are starting to put in some automation to be able to quickly turn on/off the snowmaking as conditions change.
Sunday River is installing a lot of Semi-Automated Snowmaking HKD KLIK hydrants and associated Impulse Guns. They are not fully automated but are always connected hoses that autodrain when shutdown. Control for air/water is a single lever so one crewmember can quickly turn on/off a trail single handedly or make adjustments. They experimented with the fully remote controlled version in Barker Basin a few years back but moved away from that, at least for now. To do that across the mountain would require good wifi coverage mountain wide or fiber optic lines up each trail.
 

IceEidolon

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I like the semi auto Klik or the Top Gun semi auto hydrant - it speeds up startup and shutdown a ton. Having semipermanent connections that auto drain saves so much effort digging out hoses, cleaning ice out of cam locks, making sure the lines aren't kinked or in the way... Huge benefits, especially if you can send a supervised team of rookies down the Klik areas while a few experienced guys go start any manual air water guns.

TechnoAlpin and DmacLenko don't really have anything for the semi auto market, they're big on full auto.
 

Kingslug20

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Just pay the snow makers more...
Or go back to relying on natural snow..which is a bit scarce lately
 

FBGM

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I hate running more com lines and conduit

Cost is 30% more for install.
 

FBGM

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Also you can’t automate wind. Still need guys on ground, move guns, work with wind. Don’t burry shit.

I’m all for auto at resorts that it makes sense. I’ve installed plenty of both systems.
 

IceEidolon

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You'd know. Speaking of automation, did you see the four Areco towers posted on CHS Classifieds a couple days ago?
 

jimk

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Comments I made from a visit to Wintergreen ski area in VA in Feb 2006, not sure of the operational status as of Jan 2022:

Skiing throughout the mid-Atlantic over the last 50 years I’ve been able to observe some of the best snowmakers in the world. Wisp, Seven Springs, Snowshoe, etc. come to mind. But this two year old York system (as of 2006) at Wintergreen may rank right at the very top. On Sunday it seemed like 80% of the entire massive system operated for all or most of the day, even as temps rose to the 25-30 degree range. Over a 12 hour period during Saturday night the conditions on the mountain went from rain-drenched slush to relatively dry loose snow on many trails. I’m not sure if the new manmade snow was even groomed. The surfaces my son and I enjoyed from Upper Cliffhanger to the far side of the mountain on Sunset seemed more like freshly cut-up natural snow. Skiing while snowmaking is underway at barely below freezing temps can sometimes be unpleasantly moist, but the slopes were in such need of new cover and the quality of the product was so good that it was a pleasure to “run the guns” on Sunday.

Some fascinating information can be gleaned from the York Snow Inc. web site, providing details on the type of 100% computerized system employed at Wintergreen. Basically, 315 snowguns are mounted on towers about every 120 feet over all 125 acres of the trail layout. Electronic probes that measure temperature and humidity in various locations on the mountain (approximately one probe for every 5-7 guns) are linked to a computer providing continuous control of gun operations. Start up to full capacity can be accomplished in a matter of minutes, while requiring half the overall crew of conventional manual systems. The automated system is activated by the touch of a screen. The computer then selects which areas are to be covered with snow, at what settings the guns will operate, and their order of priority. 100% of system capacity can be utilized at all times. Every gun can be set at its optimum capacity or the operator can intervene to produce a maximum amount of snow at predetermined priority locations.

As I type this several days after our visit (in Feb 2006) I believe Wintergreen has been making snow almost around the clock since we left. A lady on the Big Acorn chairlift told me that it costs the resort $4000 per day to run the system. I can’t confirm that, but I know one thing, you get what you pay for! I encourage you to check out Wintergreen’s snowmaking results for yourself.
 

IceEidolon

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York is now part of TechnoAlpin by way of Johnson Controls. Wintergreen still uses that auto system with some adjustments and additions.
 

deadheadskier

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I hate running more com lines and conduit

Cost is 30% more for install.

This opinion of yours is kind of surprising. Aren't you of the opinion that snowmaking pipe should be buried? That's obviously a massive expense compared to above ground both to install and maintain.
 

IceEidolon

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You don't have to run comms for a manual gun, though. Ideally an auto stick gun would have reliable wireless comms and could get power from solar/thermocouple/compressed air, so all it would take to run is the existing water and air mains. Getting comms and power out to the trail and then down the trail is damn inconvenient sometimes.
 

kbroderick

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@machski isn't the new tower fan at the base of Locke automated?

Automated stuff in high traffic areas seems like the most likely near-future scenario to me, especially when you can then take advantage of having a certain portion of the system already charged and have a little additional capacity for water movement. As someone else noted, it's hard to see it being enough ROI on improved product for trails that get hit once a year, but places that need regular refresh would seem a different story.
 

FBGM

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This opinion of yours is kind of surprising. Aren't you of the opinion that snowmaking pipe should be buried? That's obviously a massive expense compared to above ground both to install and maintain.
I’m a huge fan of auto guns. It’s the future for sure. And like mentioned below you can do it wireless now instead of running coms everywhere. It’s been like 6 years since my last big project and that was still running com wires along with power

West coast pipes get buried most of the time. East coast is rocky haha. You still can burry just hard.

My project this summer will be manual stick guns. Just makes more sense for my situation
 
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