Let it snow! Integrator, GE Fanuc help maintain ski slopes

While Old Man Winter is relatively reliable in delivering snow, businesses like Snowshoe Mountain, a four-season resort in Snowshoe, WV, can't always depend on his timely delivery to sustain the slopes during the skiing season. Boasting the largest snowmaking arsenal in the region, with over 400 snow guns aimed at its Snowshoe and Silver Creek areas, Snowshoe Mountain is equipped with a 100%-co...

09/01/2002


While Old Man Winter is relatively reliable in delivering snow, businesses like Snowshoe Mountain, a four-season resort in Snowshoe, WV, can't always depend on his timely delivery to sustain the slopes during the skiing season.

Boasting the largest snowmaking arsenal in the region, with over 400 snow guns aimed at its Snowshoe and Silver Creek areas, Snowshoe Mountain is equipped with a 100%-coverage snowmaking capability. However, it has taken automation technology to turn this weather-dependent business into a more stable enterprise. At the heart of Snowshoe's state-of-the-art snowmaking system, which maintains 57 slopes across 220 acres for skiing and snowboarding, is a GE Fanuc Automation (Charlottesville, VA) solution implemented by system integrator Advent Electric (York, PA). With the help of Advent and GE Fanuc, Snowshoe is successfully managing its most recent expansion.

Hitting the slopes

To oversee a snowmaking system of this size, Advent recently implemented a GE Fanuc Series 90-30 PLC in Snowshoe's compressor building with an Ethernet connection linking the PLC to a Cimplicity server in the operator control room. A Genius bus links the control room with the main pump building and interfaces with the pump system's dedicated Series 90-30 PLC. A dedicated, always-on phone line through RTU/Modbus slave and master modules connects to the remote pump and compressor buildings' PLCs, providing access to system data. GE Fanuc's Cimplicity monitor and control software provides flexible data logging, report generation, and remote access needed by the application. And, since weather plays such an integral role in snowmaking, Snowshoe also was able to enlist the system to perform "wet bulb" calculations necessary to determine if ambient temperature and humidity conditions are conducive to snow production. Reports, such as water and power usage, are implemented at the corporate level for resource planning.

"We're working with four remote areas, yet we're able to control everything from a single station," notes Jeff Tumblin, Snowshoe's compressor house supervisor. "In the past we'd have to travel eight miles or more—30 minutes each way—to troubleshoot something as basic as a loose wire or a power outage. Now, it's all at our fingertips. It's a lot easier, and we have better control." The new automated system allows operations personnel to monitor the snowmaking system from their offices, and make decisions about placement of snow guns and when to bring additional snow guns on line.

Uplifting experience

With the power to put snow on the mountain at will, Snowshoe began to evaluate other areas of the operation to ensure that skiers could get up the mountain to enjoy it. One way Snowshoe manages its crowds is with a lift-monitoring system using multiple PLCs polled by a Cimplicity server and third-party OPC server for dial-up communications. This system counts skiers entering the lift and chairs available, while monitoring lift starts, stops, and downtime. It also calculates lift and load efficiency. Then the information is broadcast to management in real time using Cimplicity WebView software. Armed with the data, managers can respond accordingly to the number of skiers using the lift. The goal is to maximize utilization and minimize downtime, so skiers are not left waiting for a ride.

For more information, visit www.gefanuc.com .


Author Information

Dick Johnson, senior editor djohnson@reedbusiness.com




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