It is September, snow has fallen in the Northern Rockies in BC and yet I am at the beach but we all know winter is on its way, we hope with plenty of snow for all regions of Canada and the United States. The laid back atmosphere of the summer month’s changes into high gear as final prep work for winter 2015-2016 pushes forward.
As I say this, I wonder is the summer so laid back for those of you in the trenches doing the mechanical work relating to the machinery of winter, which may have been running almost all summer for the new revenue streams ski resorts are smartly chasing, or those who have been providing safety surveillance for those careening down mountains on two wheels, or through forests at 70 feet high, and sliding down water slides? Does this new use allow you the time you need to be done by the time snow flies? This maybe the new paradigm for lift maintenance departments and ski patrols. It would be interesting to poll you all, to see how it is playing out. Are you given more staff, increased budgets, or new tools to manage the work?
For those with larger staffs and in-house NDT capability, the utilization of lifts may not be as much of a strain, I don’t know. Depending on line profile, location in relation to early snow fall and length of summer season, getting line work done is going to be somewhat of a challenge, and if you have a load test or new rope splice in the mix, it must get really tight. Don’t misunderstand, better utilization of our assets is a good thing, but it is a shift and maintenance schedules need to be altered and planned to get the job done.
One thing that always baffled me from my first year in the ski business, is how so much lift work got pushed to just prior to season openings, especially with new lift construction. Although in reflection, I can think of some yachts in my pre ski life, which I over saw construction of, and the end push always was jam packed with activity prior to delivery. Nature of the beast, unexpected interruptions or not taking planning deep enough? I’ll opt for the first, nature of the beast.
Having said that, it still doesn’t excuse us from doing the planning and scheduling in a proper manner. There are lots of tools for this, Steep Management sells one, MountainOffice, but the real key is starting the process early enough to get all the questions answered and planned before starting. With new lift construction, terrain expansion and/or alteration and snowmaking expansion, permits are required. Of course, these can be the source of delays and added requirements to an already lengthy schedule but typically the permit process requires good engineering and planning.
With this shift in asset utilization, the need for master planning and asset assessment really needs to be taken to a higher level. This maybe new territory for some but for most it means adjusting the planning cycle by a year plus such that you can keep the bullwheels turning for most of the year on those lifts that are vital for winter and summer operations.
Good luck wrapping things up before the snowfall and the turning of the lifts!