How to save on infrastructure projects
By Philip Gotthelf, Ultra-Tech™ Lighting, LLC
It’s not easy to build on a mountainside. Challenges can
include extreme slope angle, altitude, rock ledges, soil
inconsistency, high winds and extreme weather. Traditional
approaches include excavating, pouring concrete
piles or foundations, moving materials to and from the
site, and meeting deadlines. From chairlift towers and light
poles to snowmaking platforms and building foundations,
the ski industry has seen very few innovations and changes
in installation methodology over the decades. Thus, challenges
and horror stories tend to follow the same patterns
With capital constraints and sustainability as priorities,
the question arises: How can ski resorts and areas save money
on infrastructure projects? One method is to change the
“how it’s done” methodology and open up to new and innovative
Introducing the helical pile foundation as a less expensive,
easier, safer and faster track for anything “foundational.” Simply
put, a helical pile is a large screw that is specifically designed
for a particular application. It literally screws into the
ground, acting as an anchor. Such piles are not new and have
been used to build anything from bridges to skyscrapers, all
without pouring concrete.
The advantages of helical piles include:
• Fast installation – no need to wait for concrete to cure.
• Easy handling – no challenges moving and pouring concrete
on a slope.
• No curing variables – unaffected by weather or temperature.
• Strong and reliable.
• Easy to remove and reusable – can be unscrewed.
• Versatile – can be used for chair lift towers, light poles, barriers
and building foundations.
• No cement trucks or pouring from a helicopter.
• No concrete spalling.
• Economical installation.
Steamboat Springs case study
Helical piles were used for lighting installation at Steamboat
Springs Ski Resort in Steamboat, Colo. This was a large project
encompassing black diamond expert slopes, intermediate
terrain, a freestyle park and beginner area. In planning
the project, the first inclination was to pour concrete piles to
support the 30-foot light poles. As it turned out, some areas
were too steep to accommodate a cement truck, leaving a helicopter
as the only alternative. Cost and scheduling would
be a nightmare.
Coincidentally, Steamboat’s vice president of operations,
Doug Allen, was familiar with helical piles. The Steamboat
project was on a tight schedule and all involved were concerned
about cost and timing. As it turned out, using helical
piles was the correct approach.
In fact, almost 200 poles were mounted in under three
weeks without a glitch. The cost was substantially less than
excavating and pouring concrete. Although the crew did not
intend to move poles, the resort teamed up with the local ski
club and designed a new private slope for race training and
events called “All Out.” This project called for moving some of
the lighting, which was easily done.
snowopsmag.com | SnowOps 31