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Using light to disinfect surfaces is gaining ground at North American ski resorts

By Philip Gotthelf, Ultra-Tech Lighting LLC

 

Every snow sports venue faces the same challenges this season, and probably for many seasons to come. How can COVID-19 be comprehensively and cost effectively addressed?

To solve the problem, Mount Peter Ski Area management – including the area’s owners, general manager Rebecca Kullberg and executive manager Amy Cutler – evaluated dozens of sanitizing technologies to determine what would yield the best results at an affordable capital expenditure, and in time for the 2020-21 season. The objective was to protect indoor and outdoor gathering areas as well as sterilize chairlifts.

The first realization was that the solution should not be worse than the problem. Chemical foggers and sprays have many health issues that include allergic reactions, skin irritation like contact dermatitis and a propensity to freeze when
used outdoors.

After reviewing “How To” videos for foggers and chemicals, the processes appeared too time-consuming and difficult. Ultraviolet (UV) sanitizing stood out as the most practical, but industrial-strength units cost upwards of $100,000 and were primarily designed for hospital settings. Less expensive equipment did not have the power to effectively sterilize environments within a short enough timeframe.

Kullberg discovered that Ultra-Tech™ Lighting, which had already supplied Mt. Peter with Snow-Bright™ slope light fixtures, carries a full line of sanitizing UV fixtures called Sterile-Bright™. These were the most powerful full-spectrum UV units Kullberg could find and are capable of sanitizing Mt. Peter’s entire indoor venues in minutes rather than hours. Equally important, fixtures can be permanently mounted and activated with locked timer switches, eliminating the need for workers to spray chemicals using foggers.

UV sanitizing works just as well outdoors, too. Therefore, Sterile-Bright™ provided a complete and ideal solution. For lifts, mounted Sterile-Bright™ units can sanitize an unoccupied chair when it rounds the wheel at the top and bottom of a hill. The installation can be fast and inexpensive, only requiring standard 2 3/8-inch galvanized pipe at a sufficient height to clear the chair while providing the necessary amount of UV energy to deactivate any viruses or bacteria on the chair and safety bar. The one challenge is to ensure the UV light is not visible to avoid eye exposure. This issue is addressed with banners that are lifted on both sides of the chair path with sufficient room for clearance.

A single 400W Sterile-BrightTM model STRL-DD-400WUV was installed in the main 2,337 square foot cafeteria which can be sanitized with UV and ozone in about five to seven minutes. This leaves plenty of time for customary cleaning.

One objective was to be able to rapidly sanitize during the day by evacuating the room and deploying the UV light. Although the process is scheduled for pre-opening and post-closing, there could be a situation requiring midday treatment. This “chandelier” UV fixture is the same as is featured in the Orange County Choppers showroom, which sanitizies more than 5,200 square feet in a little over 10 minutes.

For their 2,840 square foot Sunrise Lounge, Mt. Peter chose two five- by two-feet 250W “troffer” ceiling units. Since the lounge does not have a suspended (grid) ceiling, these fixtures were directly mounted to ceiling beams. The troffers were placed equidistant from the entrances to provide uniform coverage, end-to-end. It takes 25 millijoules per square centimeter (mJ/cm2) of energy to deactivate a coronavirus strain like COVID-19.

Again, time was of the essence to ensure rapid turn-around with thorough sanitizing. All spaces were tested using UV dosimeter cards that measure the amount of energy received on surfaces at various distances from the units. Dosimeter cards are easy to use and inexpensive. Prior to exposure to UV light, the “control circle” in the center of the card is yellow. As UV exposure increases, the control circle will change to match the color segments of the outer ring, indicating that level of energy.

In only five minutes, the long walls registered 25 mJ/cm2 exposure, reducing the threat of COVID-19. The fixtures are attached to a locking single-pole switch in line with a standard rotational timer. Patrons cannot intentionally or accidentally activate the fixtures. An added advantage is the conspicuous appearance of these space age-looking UV lamps. Customers immediately notice them and are made aware that all Mt. Peter facilities are sanitized with UV technology. This gives skiers, riders and parents a sense of safety and comfort.

Tubing is addressed using a pop-up UV resistant tent that facilitates pushing tubes through UV exposure after each return. When customers are finished with their session, the tube is sanitized with a quick UV treatment. The tent shields eyes from exposure. The process is fast, effective and easy. Every procedure can be verified using dosimeter cards. A two- by two-foot troffer is mounted in the top of each tent. The same approach is used to sanitize returned rental equipment. The added advantage of ozone is its powerful deodorizing capability. Ozone is able to neutralize skunk musk.

For smaller spaces, bathrooms and kitchen facilities, Mt. Peter is using the Sterile-Bright™ model STRL-PU-250WUV hand-portable unit that can be moved from area to area. This is an extremely versatile device that is able to sanitize the outdoor picnic area by setting it on strategically located tables. This is one of the only practical ways to sterilize outdoor surfaces in cold temperatures because wet applications freeze.

Bathrooms can be maintained germ-free and fresh smelling with the dual modality of powerful UV plus germicidal ozone. Since the hand-portable units are lightweight (under 20 pounds) and easy to use, they can be deployed several times during the day and night.

COVID-19 has presented the snow sports industry with significant challenges. The good news is that Ultra-Tech™ Lighting is already well known in the industry for its unique induction light approach to slope illumination. That experience translates to tailored sanitizing solutions for winter venues.  

 

 

 

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