SNOWsat is a professional slope and fleet management system with snow depth measurement, which is based on satellite-guided positioning.
Snow depth measurement
The current position of the snow groomer is continually plotted to an accuracy of a few centimeters. The value that results after deducting the vehicle height is then compared with the depth value of a digital terrain model (reference depth) stored in the system. The snow depth at the current vehicle position is the difference between these two heights.
Precise positioning is essential for high-accuracy snow depth measurement. This requires correction signals, which eliminate system-related inaccuracies, increasing positioning accuracy still further. The SNOWsat base station calculates these figures using GPS, GLONASS and GALILEO satellite signals. The correction signals are sent to the snow groomers directly or with the help of repeaters. These may be required to guarantee optimum reception in ski resorts with complex topography.
In the snow groomer the GNSS receiver and the on-board computer continually calculate position, snow depth and other vehicle data, record it and present it on the touchscreen in the driver's cab. When the vehicle is within range of a SNOWsat WiFi access point the data is automatically transmitted to the SNOWsat server and stored there.
Slope and fleet management
The analysis software being used with SNOWsat enables the slope and fleet managers to access diverse information and perform additional analysis processes. This results in diverse effects: optimized workflows and vehicle routes, for example, increase efficiency and also reduce fuel consumption. Vehicle data and snow depths are displayed easily and clearly on a map of the ski resort.
The production of man-made snow is one of the biggest cost factors in a ski resort. SNOWsat delivers detailed information on which snow guns need to be activated and when. This enables the resort to optimize use of the snow groomers and produce snow only as needed. An enormous financial advantage, which covers the investment costs in a surprisingly short time.
Orientation and safety
SNOWsat also provides the driver with an overview of all important information. It actively supports orientation around the site - regardless of the weather or visibility conditions. In addition to displaying snow depths, slope edges, snowmaking facilities, roads and paths, the system also warns drivers of danger zones and alerts them to the presence of other snow groomers and their winch ropes, if these vehicles are equipped with SNOWsat systems.
Your PistenBully or even a third-party vehicle are equipped with the chosen SNOWsat vehicle system. This can be done either ex works or locally in the ski resort. There are various systems to choose from, individually tailored for slope management and/or complete fleet management.
Hand in Hand. Completely equipping a whole ski resort with SNOWsat requires comprehensive preparation and a considerable amount of knowledge. We accompanied our customer service engineer, Tobias Kirsamer, during the installation in Poland and the Czech Republic.
Being involved from the very beginning
Tobias Kirsamer works in technical customer service and is responsible for, among others, Eastern European countries. He established initial contacts as early as June because he was brought on board during the sales negotiations to provide professional support to the decision makers - in Kotelnica - Białka Tatrzańska, Poland and Jasna, Slovakia - and to remove possible concerns. At that time, he already clarified details such as individual requirements as well as data and infrastructure that the ski resorts needed to provide on their own. Together with plant and workshop managers, IT specialists and the external surveyor, he inspected the ski resort and the possible locations for the base station and the repeater, to guarantee optimum reception. In the summer of 2016, both ski resorts decided to completely equip their fleets with SNOWsat. In Jasna, they ordered three new PistenBully 600 SCR including SNOWsat, which were delivered in the fall. In Kotelnica, one new vehicle and eight existing ones, from which two were third-party vehicles, had to be equipped with SNOWsat on-site.
Good preparation is everything!
After the initial planning and communication takes place, a lot of emails and phone calls follow. Tobias discusses the circumstances with his local contacts. A terrain model has to be contracted out and the server of the ski resort's IT department has to be prepared. Tobias identifies the best location for the base station and the repeater using a simulation program. A location with a good view is, based on experience, also the perfect location for the station, but control is everything!
At the same time, the ski resorts apply for a license at the frequency authority. A good thing because later on Tobias will have to deal with a serious frequency disturbance...
Let's go! Installation!
"The most important part of such a project is careful preparation," says Tobias Kirsamer. "The ski resorts in Poland and the Czech Republic are more than 1,000 km away. Therefore, it is not only inconvenient, but also extremely expensive when something goes wrong or is missing." That being said, Tobias is well prepared. Some of the necessary components and his tools travel with him in his car. The rest is delivered by truck at the same time. On site, he works together with the technicians of the respective PistenBully representation. "This makes communication easier because Polish and Czech languages are over my head!" Together with the ski resort's staff, they start installing the base station and the repeater. "Here, you have to be able to improvise. Try soldering an antenna cable at minus 10 degrees! In Jasna, we prepared the cables and the base station box inside and installed it later on outside on the weather station's mast." However, there is always something: In this particular installation, the requested frequency showed disturbances, which can cause difficulties in measuring the snow depth.
Clarification with the frequency authority is done by the ski resort and fortunately, they quickly receive an interference-free frequency. Back in Laupheim, Tobias remotely installs the programs on the server - as soon as the terrain model is available - clarifies last details and prepares everything for the next visit.
Finally! All set for the winter!
Now everything should work. The ski-resort-specific software is automatically installed in the client's vehicle systems. Tobias puts each one in operation and makes sure that everything runs smoothly. Now, his night shift starts and he takes extra time for that. He spends two nights riding along with everyone in Kotelnica, switches from vehicle to vehicle and explains the system, operation and the many application possibilities to each driver on the screen. "That is always a very intense time. The drivers learn the most here. And so do I!" Because driving the vehicles is the easiest way to find out if everything is running smoothly. Tobias tests small adjustments right in the vehicle and imports them into the system the following morning. "In the beginning, it can happen that the accuracy varies by a few centimetres. But that is quickly corrected and afterwards I can be sure that it is right." However, in Kotelnica that was not necessary. "It was a showcase installation and everything ran like clockwork," says Jose Marek, our representative in Poland for more than 30 years.
Intensive training so everybody knows what to do
The following day, Tobias is back behind his computer again and installs the SNOWsat programs on the customer's workstations. From now on, every employee can work with SNOWsat on their PC. However, before that, Tobias will have to run an in-depth training for everyone involved. Everybody who is interested and especially those who have to work with it on a daily basis participate and learn everything about SNOWsat Web (CAN and Fleet) and SNOWsat Z.
Then they are ready to start. Tobias and his colleagues are always available for questions. However, the better the training, the fewer the questions...
Val Thorens is one of the leading French ski resorts to have been equipped with SNOWsat. Denis Chapuis, Deputy Technical Manager and Head of Purchasing at lift operator SETAM, has learned to value the advantages of SNOWsat for the snow park and slopes of Val Thorens.
Val Thorens regularly hosts international competitions. There will be two men's Skicross World Cups and the Snowboard Cross World Cup this winter. Denis Chapuis explains: "Competitions like this need huge volumes of snow and, thus, many machine hours. Of course that is just as true for general maintenance of skicross slopes and the snow park.We work systematically with SNOWsat, which enables us to rationalise the production and deployment of snow, machine use and slope maintenance. We no longer have to measure snow depth on foot and always know how the snow needs to be distributed for optimumuse of resources. Because the system is linked with our snow guns, snow management overall becomes more precise and saves time. SNOWsat can also create digital models of our snow park and skicross modules, which we then use as the base for replicas across the resort."
Building and remodelling the course in record time
For the World Cup the skicross slope has to be converted to a snowboard crossslope in less than two days - a challenge in terms of widely different features. Yet Chapuis knows: "With SNOWsat we can do it". Thomas Girlando has completed special training for drivers. The FIS regularly entrusts him with building the features. So he knows what he's talking about: "Construction is difficult if temperatures are actually too high for good snow. The machines are fitted with SNOWsat for snow depth measurement. This means we cover the entire site and locate even the smallest snow reserves, which we can reallocate. We have set ourselves the goal of creating a perfect course. But for an event like the World Cup, which needs good images for TV, it is also important that the peripheral areas, i.e. the entire skiresort, have an even snow cover of a few centimetres."