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Improving Ski Slope Management

A Single Solution for Slope Management

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It’s the anticipation of layering up and making the trek to the mountain. The feeling of stepping into ski bindings or strapping on a board. The excitement of the first chairlift ride from the base to the top. And the rush of flying down the mountain over freshly groomed snow.

Whether it’s vacationers who take one trip a year or locals who hit the powder several times in the season, ski hills and mountain resorts are the preferred destination of many adventure-seekers.

For those tasked with managing and maintaining these resorts, every day may seem like just another day in paradise. However, the planning and precision that goes into opening a resort for the first time each year and keeping it in prime condition throughout the season is no small task. Providing the best ski experience ensures repeat lift ticket sales and growth for years to come. Among the best ways to provide that is with GPS technology.

In recent years, ski resorts have experienced lower and lower volumes of snow and, each season, are opening later and closing earlier. The days of relying on Mother Nature to supply endless amounts of snow are no longer the norm and, now more than ever, this precious resource must be managed with the best technology available. When it comes to snowmaking, simply guessing how much snow is needed is no longer an option to stay competitive.

The newest offering from RDO Integrated Controls is for those professionals who own, operate, and maintain ski resorts. As a dealer of Topcon GPS technology and the new, exclusive dealer of ARENA SlopeManagement software, RDO Integrated Controls is pairing the two to provide a solution to enhance quality, improve efficiency, and lead to more cost-effective operation and maintenance of hills and mountains.

How it Works
A proven technology used in the Alps and Scandinavia for years, the ARENA SlopeManagement system is a cloud-based software that works with Topcon GPS on any snowcat snow mover or groomer, including Bombardier, PistenBully, Prinoth and Tucker machines, making it ideal for ski areas with mixed fleets. Using real-time GPS position data, the system tracks and displays snow depths relative to a map of the ski area.

The benefits of the ARENA and Topcon solution are primarily realized in three key aspects of ski hill and mountain management – snowmaking, grooming, and terrain parks.

Grooming and Snow Height
Every day, long before the first skier or rider hits the mountain, the runs are prepped to ensure all enjoy the best experience.

Using Topcon GPS technology that sends data to the ARENA software, snowcat operators can see exactly where they are relative to the entire mountain map. A special feature in the software tracks the operator’s path with color to see where he or she has been, as well as positions of other snowcats across the mountain. Not only does this ensure coverage of all trails, it eliminates the wasted time, effort, and cost of grooming the same area twice. The maps also show snow depths allowing operators to precisely fill any low areas or groom down areas that are too high.

An added benefit of the system is operator safety. Maps include trees, towers, and other infrastructure on the mountain, obstacles that, depending on the amount of daylight and current weather conditions, the operator may not be able to see until it’s too late. By seeing their position on the map, relative to the entire mountain and all obstacles, operators can safely avoid crashes, damage, and personal injury.

Whether it’s gearing up to open a resort for the year, filling in for lack of snowfall during the year, or stretching out the season a few extra days, nearly all resorts make snow. Operating costs include water and electricity to make snow, as well as fuel and labor costs for operators to move it. Without precise data-driven info detailing how much and exactly where snow is needed, there’s potential for wasted materials and cost.

The same maps that show snowcat operators where they’ve been on the mountain during the day can be used to accurately plan for the next day’s snow needs. As the snowcat moves across the mountain, it’s continuously sending data to the ARENA software about snow depth and location. Color-coding can be preset to a resort’s desired depths, giving a clear visual of precise snow depths across the mountain, including high and low areas.

Managers can take this data to see exactly where and how much snow is needed for the next day, and plan for each snow gun to create an optimum amount. The software can even generate a prescription, as detailed as how many gallons of water are needed to achieve the gun’s desired amount of snow and send it directly to the unit.

Terrain Parks
A feature enjoyed by more advanced skiers and riders, terrain parks have become a staple at nearly every resort, from the smallest Midwest hills to the largest mountain region getaways. In fact, many resorts feature numerous terrain parks scattered across the mountains, offering both beginners and advanced participants an option to catch air and land tricks.

One of the challenges of offering terrain parks is their consistency – day to day and year over year. Those responsible for building them often start from scratch every year with designing and creating, what should be the same park as the previous year.

By using the ARENA and Topcon solution, an exact replica of the previous year’s park can be created for the next year, with less time and effort to design and build. On a daily basis, the operator is able to record and calculate snow volume in the park while grooming, ensuring consistency every day.

By offering the ARENA SlopeManagement software paired with Topcon GPS, RDO Integrated Controls is bringing this proven technology to the U.S. for the first time. On top of the primary benefits, the functionality of the system also offers a natural opportunity for fleet tracking and management. As owners collect data from the snowcats, better optimize snowmaking equipment, and have a clearer overall picture of the process every day, they can make data-driven decisions on everything from preventative maintenance schedules to adding more snowcat machines to the fleet.

In addition to the sale of the system, RDO Integrated Controls offers complete after-sale support through its team of service technicians and Solutions Center. Service technicians are available for onsite troubleshooting and repairs, while the Solutions Center is a team of experts, based in Billings, MT, offering world-class phone support on everything from software activation to historical database support issues.

Interested in seeing how the ARENA SlopeManagement and Topcon GPS solution can improve your ski hill or mountain resort? Contact the team at RDO Integrated Controls.