“When I first started here, the resort had just begun, and
I think they had four chairlifts and virtually no snowmaking.
They were attempting it, but it took so long to get any
snow down at all. Now, with the new automated systems that
everybody’s putting in, you can hit a button and start making
snow on the trails right away.”
A decade ago, Windham’s snowmaking equipment consisted
of high-pressure water snow guns, comparatively expensive
diesel compressors and what Davis calls “very inefficient”
electrical compressors. After analysing the cost, “we decided
to eliminate all of those – nine compressors in total – to bring
in four very efficient electrical systems,” he said. Windham
Mountain is now operating Ingersoll Rand compressors.
“The pump stayed the same; we just made sure it was
pumping as efficiently as it could, to increase the pressure.
We also put in a booster pump about halfway up the mountain
because with the older one we were using, we were getting
pounds per square inch readings that were in the 40 to
50 range. The new guns require 300 psi.”
In all, nearly 100 automated snow guns are being installed
on the resort’s Whistler, What Terrain Park (previously called
Assembly Line), Lower Wipeout and Upper Wraparound ski
runs, along with more than two miles of new snowmaking
pipe on Whiteway, Wraparound, Wilbur and Way To Go runs.
To date, said Seamans, “we have replaced all of our air
compressors. We continue to replace metal pipe that’s in the
ground and our biggest push now is to go towards automation.
We had to have people at every hydrant to turn them
on; now somebody can sit in the control room and push
Grooming protocols have also been stepped up. “Ten years
ago, we had machines that were 10 to 12 years old; they were
used every night on steep, icy terrain. With these machines,
Mountain ops administrator, Alex “Tank” Rodas in the
snowmaking control room
as soon as you hit the five-year mark, they start to need a lot
of maintenance,” Davis said.
“Now, when they reach five years old, we trade them in.
It’s really made a difference because now we have all of our
equipment out all the time. We have more snowcats on the
mountain for more time and it’s consistent,” he said. Windham
employs a fleet of energy-efficient PistenBully 400s that
comply with the United States Environmental Protection
Agency’s Tier 4 Emissions Standards.
Increasing lift capacity
The biggest of the recent improvements, says Seamans, was
the addition of a new six-passenger lift to replace two older
lifts out of the base area: a detachable quad and a fixed-grip
triple, which both served the same location on the mountain.
“We got rid of the 30-year-old triple and replaced it with
a detachable six-pack, which obviously has a lot greater lift
capacity and is a quicker ride to the summit,” he said. “It was
exciting for us; it was our first six-passenger lift.”
Windham celebrated the opening of the “Westside Six”
with a ribbon-cutting ceremony last December. The highspeed
Doppelmayr lift can now transport 3,000 skiers and
snowboarders per hour. The 5,105-foot trip to the summit of
the resort’s west peak takes less than 5.5 minutes.
Most recently, the detachable quad, which has been made
redundant by the new six-pack, is being moved to a new location,
where it will replace another triple lift. “This will bring
our total uphill capacity to just over 19,000, and just the year
before last we were bringing up 17,000,” said Davis. “We’ve increased
our capacity by 2,000 an hour.”
There are further developments off the slopes. Windham has
a close relationship with the Adaptive Sports Foundation
(ASF), a non-profit organization based in nearby Windham,
N.Y., that provides life-changing experiences for children and
adults living with disabilities and chronic illnesses. When
PHOTOS COURTESY OF AARON WARKOV
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