Craigleith Goes Full Auto
Craigleith Ski Club in The Blue Mountains, Ontario has the largest automated snowmaking system in Canada. Jeff Courtemanche, Craigleith’s General Manager started automating Craigleith’s system more than 20 years ago when Craigleith bought its first York (now TechnoAlpin) system. He later expanded it by acquiring used York YA hydrants abandoned in Quebec and rebuilding them. Of course he needs the Liberty software to run them but it is a tribute to the original hydrant design that many of these hydrants from 20 years ago are still in service today. From those humble beginnings, Jeff has grown the Craigleith system to 461 automated snowguns. The snowgun of choice is the Rubis EVO controlled by the latest 24 volt YB hydrants and the Liberty software. Three years ago Jeff wanted to automate his pumps and compressors but picked another supplier. It wasn’t the seamless integration with his trail automation he was looking for, so this summer TechnoAlpin put all his pumps, compressors, cooling towers and the 461 trail guns under the control of the Liberty software. Some refer to this as a “Single Seat of Control” but the reality is, a human needs only be in the seat long enough to direct and prioritize the resorts strategic snowmaking plan.
Pushing “Run” for the first time required a leap of faith for all the staff at Craigleith. Although TechnoAlpin does this kind of totally integrated automation all the time, all over the world.
Though there are some fully automated systems in North America including Sun Valley, Snowbasin, and Blue Mountain PA each system is unique so to ensure a seamless start up TechnoAlpin’s “Yoda” of automation, Jean Petit, was on site for the startup and to work with Craigleith staff to make sure everyone was comfortable with the Liberty software program and the ease of operation. When temperatures finally cooperated and the “run” button was pushed the Liberty software started the compressors, the cooling tower started its custom routine cooling down warm water from Georgian Bay, and multiple pumps filled the line quickly but gently. The guns had their instructions from the Liberty software and they in turn communicated the resource requirements to the machine room. As you would come to expect from TechnoAlpin all equipment both on the hill and in the machine room functioned as expected.
Craigleith only has two runs that are still operated in manual mode and they are planning on automating these next year. Though the Rubis Evo has been the gun of choice to date with its -2deg.cel. start up and using only 18cfm Craigleith will also be testing the new TL6 snow gun from TechnoAlpin this season. The TL6 has even better marginal performance and will produce more snow in colder temperatures The roll out of guns that use 1/10th of the compressed air of their predecessors has already had ramifications in the compressor building. Craigleith has two large 5000 cfm Joy compressors. Jeff’s new system will not use that much air and so they are looking for smaller capacity units to supplement their system. We see this “AIR” downsizing at many of the resorts who adopt the Rubis Evo snowguns; Aspen being a classic example who has gone from using 4 centrifugals to just one and wished it were smaller.
Craigleith is a private club and members take great pride in the fact that their resort is among the first to go white on the Collingwood Escarpment, but controlling costs are very important also. With final implementation of his Rubis Evo roll out Jeff will have reduced Craigleith’s air consumption by more than 70% and energy cost along with it. The automated system of 100% fixed location guns also gives Craigleith an enviable labor cost for snowmaking and allows them to take good care of their elite snowmaking staff.
If ever you want a tour of the Craigleith system, TechnoAlpin can help make it happen. The resort is located less than two hours north of Toronto’s International airport and several ski arears located on the Niagara Escarpment are in close proximity.