Tracking Vibration

Tracking Vibration

Does monitoring vibration make sense for your ski area?

After reading Neville Sachs, PE article Wear, Why and How in the September issue of SAM magazine, reading another article from, and seeing a blog on vibration sensors, I began to think about how much exposure there is to the effects of vibration within a ski lift and how little discussion there is about those effects. Neville mentions it as well as the article. Given my relationship with ski lifts via representing MountainOffice and managing ski areas, I thought that given today’s technology, is there a way to mitigate the effects that vibration can cause easily? In addition, my thinking is that if there is a way to mitigate these effects would it reduce the workload and skill needs of lift maintenance departments?

After some internet exploration on this subject, I concluded that some form of monitoring vibration on ski lifts could be a useful source of data. To evaluate my hypothesis, I reached out to someone I highly respect in the ski lift maintenance world and discussed the possibility. Although I caught him at a tough time, he was dealing with the impacts of a loss of skill over the past couple of years, he said yes to my general thinking. Under this person’s leadership the ski resort’s lift maintenance department had implemented the use of Ignition, a Scada, program, to read sensors on pieces of equipment on a lift such as temperature, speed, and other valued data points. The installation of Ignition has allowed the monitoring of most of the ski resorts lifts from the lift maintenance supervisor’s desk. Issues and stops can be diagnosed to some extent from the monitoring before the technicians are dispatched. With this background, I knew given this history there would be a good background to objectively consider the monitoring of vibration.

The question in the discussion, was where would you monitor vibration on a daily basis? In referring to Neville Sach’s article,  we know bearings suffer from vibration when out of alignment. Would it make sense to measure sheave vibration, setting a baseline with the sheave in alignment? Probably not. But it would make sense to measure the vibration on a gearbox, a motor and the bullwheels.

Fluke offers the most reasonable package to fit the task of monitoring vibration. It has a package  of four sensors, a gateway and 1 year of software usage for about $1,900. The only recurring cost would be the software license after the first year. Given this low entry cost, a ski area could implement a trial on a single lift without breaking the bank.

I realize this may seem a bit out the box; however, it is Steep’s mission to look for better ways to improve the productivity and work environment for mountain operations folks and given today’s shortage of staff and skill, it seems utilizing this technology should be explored.

Data and Information

Database of record: Centralized and organized data assists in recognizing and evaluating patterns, resulting in more thoughtful planning and informed predictions.

Rapid, intuitive retrieval of current and historical data (accessible on or offsite) improves decision making at all levels of management.

Simple report generation.

Reduces risk and potential lawsuits.

Supports visualization of current and future mountain infrastructure (e.g. Gazex explosives locations, forest thinning, designing new runs, parking, etc.).


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Ski Patrol

  • Ease of real-time data entry (no more logbooks or spreadsheets!).
  • Use of common language allows for consistent communication and information sharing.
  • Increases safety by minimizing accidents through pattern analysis of incidents.
  • Accident Investigation and Risk Management.
  • Snow Safety (Ski Patrol) Training.

The web and mobile application suite will provide editing and data collection tools for mapping incidents (wrecks, accidents) of any kind.

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Avalanche Module


Ability to document, track and analyze slope conditions with one tool.

Ease of real-time data entry (no more logbooks or spreadsheets!).

 Centralized and organized data assists in recognizing and evaluating patterns, resulting in more thoughtful planning and informed predictions.

Provides detailed current and historical weather patterns for visualizing/predicting.

Saves money through more precise use of explosives. 

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The dispatch and risk module leverage Esri’s Survey 123 for ArcGIS, providing an intuitive survey-form, data-driven workflow for point feature collection and reporting. Data collected with SmartMountain Survey apps, which are available for both web browsers and native desktop and mobile apps for standard operating systems, are integrated with one or more SmartMountain modules, providing real-time or disconnected and later synchronized workflows for data collection and integration.

Each ski resort decided what they wish to display on the Dispatch Dashboard including on-hill incidents, walk-in incidents, on-hill refusals,  missing persons, work details for different departments, ski patrol rosters for the day, clearances, and sweeps.

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  • Logs for Lift Maintenance, Lift Operations, and Groomer inspections, as well as building inspections.
  • Logs can record data and signatures, can record stops, station assignments.
  • Logs are tracked by calendar.


  • Management review made easy through the use of Excel – reviewing a major grouping of assets or a single component of an asset such as a drive or a gearbox.
  • All information related to a system(asset) is in one place whether it be a lift inspection report, a manual, oil analysis, a service bulletin, or a letter from a vendor.


  • Every user has a unique dashboard.
  • Dashboards can be customized to reflect a user’s specific needs.
  • Quick access to the status of work and cost .


  • The schedule function in MountainOffice provides for detailed instructions by task, recording of data such as the temperature of a gearbox, and service bulletins.
  • All schedules can have a time or counter trigger.