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Snowmaking from the other side of the world made possible with the ATASSplus mobile app
The ATASSplus intuitive control software developed by TechnoAlpin allows simple and automatic control of snowmaking systems. Thanks to the mobile app, ATASSplus can also be used on a smartphone and provides a full overview of the systems anytime and anywhere. The enormous benefits this can bring for snowmaking operations were underlined to Alan Eason, Snowsports & Snowmaking Manager at Lake Mountain Alpine Resort in Australia just a few weeks ago when short-term travel restrictions and border closures due to the coronavirus prevented him from returning from his London base to Australia in time for the upcoming winter season. So he controlled all the snowmaking machines in the area via mobile app from the other side of the world for many weeks.
Mr. Eason, you are currently controlling the snowmaking operations in Australia solely via the mobile app from Europe. What experiences have you had with this process?
It was a bit of a challenge to operate the snowmaking system from the other side of the world using the ATASSplus mobile app but it was surprisingly easy and relatively simple to do. The information from all the fan-based snow guns is nicely presented in a clear and easy-to-understand format, with all the necessary data. The alerts enable a rapid response to any problem, taking into account not only the fan guns but also the pumping stations and water storage facilities.
One small drawback is that Lake Mountain does not currently have any wind tracking installed on the snow guns, so sometimes a bit of luck is needed to predict wind conditions. But we are hoping to install wind tracking in the near future.
To what extent has the use of ATASSplus made your work easier?
Working with ATASSplus has made it possible to work remotely and to set up the fan guns and pumping stations. I can rely on ATASSplus to take care of all the monitoring processes and alerts for the system. This allows me and the other staff to do other things at the resort during the day and night. We are a small team with many different jobs to do. Even when we are grooming the ski slopes it is still possible to monitor the snowmaking operations with the ATASSplus mobile app.
How does snowmaking from a distance differ from snowmaking on site?
The main difference when working from a distance is that you cannot see the current weather conditions and identify the right direction for snow production, which can be rather challenging at times. Over time, however, we do hope to install a number of TechnoAlpin weather stations to monitor the wind conditions. The time difference is also a bit of a challenge sometimes, but nevertheless manageable.
Do you also have colleagues on site who are available for the snowmaking work? If so, what jobs do these colleagues do and how do you work with the snowmaking team?
Yes, at the beginning of the season we have a colleague on site who can set up the fan guns and monitor the operation of the SF220 Snowfactory before he goes to bed. The colleague is then alerted if necessary when there is a warning message. We usually communicate through Facebook Messenger, sharing information about progress with production over the last few days, identifying potential problems, and advising on possible adjustments.
How were you able to make decisions about the snowmaking operations from a distance?
With the amount of data available in ATASSplus and in the mobile app, you can easily predict how and when the snow can be generated and monitor the process as necessary. I have great confidence that the TechnoAlpin system is monitoring and controlling the equipment and will relay warnings and clear error messages when required so as to enable rapid corrective action to be taken. The system will then be ready for operation again quickly.
What is your conclusion after this extensive use of the mobile app?
The app has made the snowmaking process much easier in general and has reduced the need to be in the office. It also makes it possible to make adjustments to the fan-based snow guns when you are out on the slopes, without having to climb up the towers or return to the office. Australia has very changeable weather conditions and we have to exploit every opportunity which comes along to make snow.