Téléverbier: better ski slopes and improved fleet management thanks to satellite navigation
Téléverbier SA is a ski lift and cable-car company located in the French speaking part of Switzerland. It operates over four ski areas: Verbier, La Tzoumaz, Bruson and the Mont-Fort.
The ski season there lasts for five months, one of the longest in Switzerland. During this period, Téléverbier’s staff can go from 135 up to 500 people.
Every year, before the beginning of the ski season, Téléverbier adds manmade snow on the slopes to compensate for any bare or thin patches. However, the company lacked an efficient solution to assess the snow level so as to know where more snow was needed, and how much. Additionally, it was impossible to know where and how many times the snow groomers had already been on the slopes.
The satellite solution
In 2007, Téléverbier approached Geosat, a surveying firm. Together, they developed a satellite-navigation based service, called Geosnow.
First of all, this service enables Téléverbier to improve the management of its fleet of snow groomers. Each vehicle is equipped with a satellite navigation device so it can easily be traced throughout the ski area. This way, Téléverbier avoids sending a snow groomer to the same location twice.
Moreover, while driving, the vehicles measure the snow level at a given location thanks to a combination of sonar and satellite navigation. The information is then geo-referenced on a model map of the slopes. A colour is attached to the snow level: the bluer a spot, the more snow there is, while red indicates gaps which need artificial snow at that precise position.
Being the first service of its kind, Geosnow turned profitable in just three years. Before its implementation, it took Téléverbier a week to build a ski slope. Now it only takes four nights, hence diminishing the operational costs of the snow groomers. Overall, Geosnow enabled Téléverbier to save up to 40% in water and electricity since they can now produce only the necessary amount needed for snowmaking. Thanks to Geosnow, the ski slopes are more sustainable and the season can even start in advance. Téléverbier has both improved its finances and the quality of its ski slopes.
In 2008, Téléverbier received the Swiss Mountain Award, which acknowledges innovative ski lift companies.
Geosnow also became an eponymous company, selling the service to other ski resorts. More than 20 companies have now implemented Geosnow, mostly in Switzerland and France.
Téléverbier and Geosat are now looking into developing a new version of the service, based on a software fully developed in-house.
Geosnow is a revolution in snowmaking. We can now produce only the snow we actually need! Eric Balet, Téléverbier CEO