Crisis Management at Ski Areas
Include Resort Power Generators to
Keep Guests Safe and Equipment Protected

Ski Areas are a unique business with a special dependency on their emergency power supply. The business is seasonal, to say the least, as most of a Ski Area’s business is carried on for only about one third or less of the year. Advances in snow making technology have not only made snow cover more dependable, it has also increased the quality and durability of the snow cover and has extended the ski season by allowing for an earlier and more dependable start of snow-sports activities and extended the season further into the spring. Most resorts are finding ways to become destinations in warmer weather incorporating golf, hiking and equestrian activities through the summer, but winter-sports are their bread-and-butter.

Ski Resort Snow Making

Photo courtesy Snow Machines, Inc.,
with permission

The advancements from early snow making equipment to today’s advanced technology have resulted in resorts not being as dependent on mother nature as in the past, although cold weather is still very much required. Snow making, likely the most important component of ski area operations today, has evolved from systems that depended on high pressure water and compressed air, both sourced from a central location and distributed to each snow making head, to current systems composed of fixed pole, lance mounted, or portable systems, sometimes called fan guns, that create their own air flow from a fan and on-board air compressor, and pull water requirements from a pressurized water distribution system operating at 300 to 600+ psi. These new systems create snow much faster with each fan gun consuming upwards of 110 gallons of water per minute. Water distribution between the pump house and dozens of fan guns located along each ski run can be extensive involving miles of pipelines.

The centralized pumping facility often is composed of multiple pumps, each feeding a separate main pipe spine that feeds water up onto a section of the mountain. The snow making operations of major ski areas could require upwards of 2,000 gallons of water per minute.

The best temperatures for making snow is between about 25 deg F (-4 deg. C) and -5 deg F (-20 deg. C), although air humidity is an important factor. The lower temperature limitation is directly related to the higher probability of equipment failures and it becomes just too cold for a dependable supply of water. At a mid-point temperature, snow making can be a 24/7 undertaking. The quicker snow can be produced during these ideal conditions the better snow cover can be created or maintained. Slope maintenance equipment becomes a two-shift undertaking to assure the best conditions for the ski areas guests.

Temperature fluctuations can require cessation of the snow making process, but the slopes that are in good condition will endure better before production begins again when more optimal temperatures return.

At the lower temperatures, freezing of system components and water occurs quickly. A probability of power failure at these lower temperatures is much higher and the consequence of a power failure is considerably more dire.

Ski Resort Snow Gun


Should failure of primary power occur, each fan gun must be disconnected from the water source and the water manifold and other components in each fan gun must be drained to prevent component damage in the fan gun from the freezing water. This is a major undertaking when dozens of fan guns may be in use at any given time, are spread across the mountain, and require transport of personnel from the base facilities to all of the fan guns while dealing individually with the extreme cold temperatures.

In addition, having chair lifts and other facilities, all powered by the same primary power source, also come to a halt. Everyone values publicity to bring more guests to their facility, but skiers stranded on chair lifts due to a power failure does not bring the type of attention most ski facilities desire.

ASTM Clean Fuel ComparisonSome facilities over-staff the operation during very cold temperatures so they are prepared to quickly address these problems that their guests may experience, but at the same time maintenance personnel need to quickly transverse the mountain, going from fan gun to fan gun to disconnect water and drain equipment to protect their equipment from damage.

Such dependence on primary power that is subject to interruptions or extended failures due to weather or other conditions beyond the control of system operators demands the inclusion of adequate emergency power generation capacity in a facility’s emergency response plan. A ski area, with its facilities distributed over a wide ranging area, may have a power failures that impacts only a portion of the facility. Typically multiple generators may be located at different key facilities, such as the lodge, a central point to service multiple chair lifts, equipment maintenance facilities, the water pump house, and the main power sub-panel for snow making equipment. Because of the distributed nature of each generator, each would require a separate fuel storage tank. As re-supplying fuel tanks mid-season at more remote areas without specialty equipment poses another entire set of complications, large fuel tanks are not uncommon.

The seasonal nature of the ski resort business often results in stored fuel from one season being carried over to the next season. Today’s Ultra Low Sulfur Diesel (ULSD) lacks the extended shelf life diesel fuel enjoyed in the past. According to Caterpillar, under normal storage conditions when today’s diesel fuel is stored at temperatures no higher than 68 deg. F (20 deg. C), diesel fuel can be expected to stay in usable condition for 12 months from the time the fuel leaves the refinery. Biodiesel, or diesel fuel stored at higher temperatures can deteriorate to unusable condition in as little as 6 months. Fuel stored between seasons can deteriorate quickly with the higher temperatures during this time.

Fuel ContaminationEquipment and generator fuel tanks, in most cases, may “appear to be clean”. However, a 4-micron filter element provided by the engine manufacturer may become clogged well before the next scheduled preventative maintenance cycle. Generator or maintenance equipment filter changes of 400 hours is in many instances standard operating procedure, while filters should easily last 1,000 hours or more. Unfortunately, many equipment operators and maintenance personnel do not recognize the degree to which the fuel has deteriorated, with filter life being a symptom of the much larger problem, until the filters are only lasting 40 or 50 hours.

Short filter life is quite remarkable realizing how “thin” diesel fuel actually is and knowing how clean the tanks on most equipment “appear” to be.

Short filter life is symptomatic of polymerization, an increase in the size of the fuel droplet, agglomeration of asphaltenes and the formation of acids and solids in fuel systems. The consequences are carbon build up in engines and exhaust systems, higher fuel consumption, excessive exhaust smoke and damage to injectors from corrosion.

The stuff that clogs your filters is actually fuel in some way, shape or form. In excess of 90% of this organic debris is fuel breakdown products. It is not sand, dust, stones, rust or in-organic matter that blocks your fuel filters and corrodes and shortens the life of fuel injectors.

Since 2007 when the production of on-road diesel fuel was changed to remove much of the sulfur and other components that impacted air quality, users of diesel fuel have suffered through these problems. In 2014, these same requirements were introduced to off-road diesel fuels, and you are now seeing the same problems in emergency power equipment.

It should be no surprise when there is a failure in engine components on equipment that is under a manufacturer’s warranty that the dealer representative would take a sample of the fuel in the supply tank. Although much of what has happened to your fuel occurred before you took possession of it and is out of your control, your investment is at risk if the engine component failure is the result of bad fuel.

The fuel you depend on should always be in optimal condition, and the ultimate costs paid for fuel degradation and contamination is paid for by the equipment owner. AXI Fuel Conditioning and Tank Cleaning Systems assure your fuel is in optimal condition at all times, and maintains your diesel fuel in storage in top condition, theoretically forever.

All major diesel engine manufacturers have set minimum fuel standards for the diesel fuel to be used in their engines, and failing to maintain the fuel that you use in a manner so that it meets those standards could lead to engine component failures and denied warranty claims. As an example, Caterpillar has published “Cat Commercial Diesel Engine Fluids Recommendations” (SEBU6251-17 September 2014 [a more recent version may be available]) that states “In order to meet expected fuel system component life, 4 micron(c) absolute or less secondary fuel filtration is required for all Cat diesel engines that are equipped with common-rail fuel systems.” (Page 34) You should not assume that fuel being delivered to you meets the manufacturers requirements, and certainly fuel that has been in your storage tank for an extended period of time may not meet requirements of diesel engine manufacturers. Additional cleanliness standards apply to diesel fuel. Caterpillar recommends that the fuel dispensed into the machine tank meets “ISO 18/16/13 cleanliness level.” (Page 49). For more information on fuel cleanliness specifications and requirements, see the article entitled “Diesel Fuel and Injector Failures” on the web site.

If you are depending solely on the engine manufacturer’s 4-micron filter to keep your diesel fuel in optimal condition and protect the warranty on the engines in your mobile equipment and generator units, you are looking to the manufacturer’s last line of defense as your only defense.

AXI International provides a variety of Fuel Conditioning and Tank Cleaning Systems that will fit the needs of a Fuel Management Program that may be instituted in any enterprise. With distributed generators and many sizable fuel tanks, a ski area may be best served with a Mobil Fuel Conditioning and Tank Cleaning Systems that is cart-mounted.

MTC Mobil Cart Mounted Fuel PolishingSTS Series 6000 and Series 7000 Automated Fuel Conditioning and Tank Cleaning Systems are dedicated for use on centralized fuel storage for generator facilities or fueling mobile equipment. These systems can be configured to maintain a single tank or up to four tanks side-by-side and are available for treating fuel tanks with total capacity up to 60,000 gallons.

AXI Fuel Conditioning and Tank Cleaning Systems provide all users of diesel fuel with protection, performance, fuel economy and lower maintenance costs, and fuel properly maintained can theoretically provide optimal performance forever. Whatever your mission, purpose or enterprise may be, if you depend on diesel fuel to power your equipment, you must have fuel that is as good as it was when it left the refinery.

If your fuel already is showing the symptoms of degradation, all is not lost. Clogged filters, dark and hazy fuel, floating debris in tanks, sludge build up in tanks, equipment that shows signs of lost power and RPM, excessive exhaust smoke, corroded and pitted fuel injectors, or foul odors coming from your fuel tank can all be reversed without the need to incur cost to dispose of the fuel. Treat the core problem, don’t just treat these symptoms. AXI Systems will Polish your fuel and return it to that clear and bright condition it had when it left the refinery, and the fuel tank will become a clean and reliable fuel storage asset.

AXI Fuel Conditioning and Tank Cleaning Systems are true Fuel Polishing systems. Don’t be mislead by claims that a system that merely circulates your diesel fuel through a set of filters, augmented by a heavy dose of a biocide fuel additive, will condition your fuel, clean your tank, and solve your problems.

The use of biocides are not recommended. These chemicals, often not 100% effective and not a long-term solution, shock organic materials in your fuel tanks and convert them to a grit that accumulates in the bottom of the fuel tank, to be stirred up whenever the tank takes on fuel. This grit clogs your filters and can cause a whole new set of problems for your fuel filters and engine’s fuel injectors.

Review the “Real Story of Bad Diesel Fuel” article on the web site to understand what is really happening in your fuel tank. AXI Fuel Conditioning and Tank Cleaning Systems, all of which incorporate the AXI patented Fuel Conditioner as the core component of each System, are designed and built in the USA to reverse these problems with degraded fuel and fuel contaminated by microbial or fungal growth. To understand the significance of this Fuel Conditioner in the process of restoring and maintaining diesel fuel and how it contributes to the most critical part of fuel polishing, review the “Technology Explained” article on the web site.

Pecuniary, Inc., is an authorized manufacturer’s representative for AXI International, Inc. The web site provides users of diesel fuel with comprehensive information on the use and maintenance of diesel fuel and offers an extensive line of Tank Cleaning and Diesel Fuel Conditioning equipment. Our own AFC tank cleaning fuel catalyst additives work hand-in-glove with our mobile and automated systems in the tank cleaning and fuel stabilization process. Other products offered are critical to preventing water from accumulating in your fuel tank, equipment for obtaining fuel samples from your fuel tank, products for testing your diesel fuel for microbial contaminants, products for removing water accumulation from fuel tanks and for preventing water from being drawn into tanks by way of breather vents. All products are available on-line and can be purchased utilizing the secure on-line shopping cart.

Contact us to discuss your diesel fuel maintenance requirements. Since 1996 we have helped individuals and companies identify and solve existing and potential fuel problems, removing that last weak link from enjoying uninterrupted peace of mind.