Snow Valley Ski Club in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, operates seven days a week, from 9:30 a.m. to 9 p.m., during ski season, which typically runs from Nov. 1 through Mar. 31. That means lights on the club’s 12 light poles burn brightly between the hours of 4 and 10 p.m. every day, challenging Operations Manager Marlin Van Zandt to make sure bulbs that are as high as 45 feet off the ground are regularly replaced when they burn out.
Until recently, Van Zandt approached this challenge using either a small utility machine or a self-propelled lift and bucket that he rented in Edmonton. However, as Snow Valley continued to expand and add new light poles to its grounds, the lift no longer provided enough height to safely reach many of the bulbs.
“In addition, it was next to impossible to drive the lift up 150 vertical feet of ski slopes,” said Van Zandt. “So, rather than wait for warmer weather to replace burned-out light bulbs, I began looking for a piece of equipment that we could move into position in the snow and provide the reach we needed.”
Van Zandt’s search led him to JLG’s towable boom lift, which combines a hitch, an industry-leading towing speed, and hydraulic auto-leveling outriggers to address the challenges at Snow Valley. Working with Bill Moffatt, sales rep at the Edmonton location of JLG dealer A. R. William Materials Handling, with additional support from Devin Braumberger, sales manager at A.R. Williams and JLG District Sales Manager Tim Carroll, Van Zandt purchased a JLG T500J Tow-pro, a trailer-mounted boom lift that offers platform heights of 50 feet and a 500-pound platform capacity.
According to Braumberger, “The job that needed to be accomplished at Snow Valley was not at all unusual. But the terrain distinguished it from the average job site, because we’re talking about a ski hill. That’s where the portability – it’s easy to tow – along with leveling features and the long reach of the T500J made the machine a good choice for the club.”
Van Zandt agreed, adding versatility to the list of features that regularly contribute to the popularity of the T500J at Snow Valley. “It’s easy to tow around the club’s 12-acre property, and it lets us safely reach even the highest bulbs on our light poles and those in our digital clock.
“But what makes the machine even better is the variety of jobs that it enables us to complete. In fact, the first job where we used the towable boom lift was not to change light bulbs, but to paint the trim around our building. What used to take us one week to paint took us just two days using the new boom lift and eliminated the need to put up scaffolding, which is always a challenge on hilly terrain.”
The club is also using the T500J for chair maintenance. “We operate a quad chair, a triple chair, and two carpet lifts, with about 70 chairs running up and down the slopes at any given time,” said Van Zandt. “The chairs weigh about 225 pounds each and are very awkward to handle by hand. With this machine we’re able to pluck a chair off the ski lift cable, set it on the ground, service the chair, and put it back on the cable. Nobody gets a strained back or a pinched finger, which makes everyone happy, and the work gets done faster.”
Van Zandt adds that the T500J also could play an important role in the club’s emergency planning, providing a way of evacuating a mechanic suspended by fall arrest equipment due to a fall. And the uses don’t stop there. By standing in the bucket, employees at Snow Valley are able to use a snow rake to pull snow off the roof, reducing the time previously required to do so by an estimated 50 percent.
“We’re also looking forward to using the bucket as a platform for a photographer to take photos of skiers during the races we host here,” added Van Zandt. And, when the weather changes, Van Zandt anticipates he will continue to find uses for the boom lift. During summer months, the club operates a campground.
But perhaps most importantly to Van Zandt, the tow-behind boom lift is easy to transport. “No longer are we hampered by snow,” he explained. “We’re able to take it just about anywhere by attaching it to a skid steer and perform a variety of jobs with it – everything from changing lights and servicing chairs, to painting, removing snow, doing arborist work, and power washing. That’s what makes it great, and that’s why we keep finding new tasks for it.”