New mapping at Keystone shows bigger resort
KEYSTONE – Keystone Resort just got bigger. The ski area hasn’t added terrain to its mountains since the opening of snowcat skiing in the Erickson and Bergman bowls last season, but new geographic information systems (GIS) technology used to measure skiable acres showed this summer that Keystone’s acres total 2,870 – not 2,722, as published on the area’s ski maps.This summer, ski patroller Brian Brill walked the terrain on Keystone’s three mountains, plugging global positioning system (GPS) coordinates into a hand-held device. Once all the terrain was mapped, he discovered more skiable terrain than resort officials originally thought existed.”We’re using the best tools available and the technology has increased so much that everything is more accurate,” Brill said.
The equipment is from Trimble, a company known for its personal GPS devices commonly used for backcountry navigation. GPS references points on Earth from satellites in space. The information Brill collected on the mountain is downloaded into a computer and can be used for various mountain operations like snowmaking, race crews and utility line work. The computer provides maps that show lift tower locations, elevations, ski-run length and more.Brill said he thinks Keystone is leading the industry with the mapping technology and predicts other companies will follow because the system saves time, money and provides valuable statistics.The system costs about $10,000 and includes an antenna Brill wears on his back in a pack, plus the hand-held device.
The equipment draws curiosity from guests who see Brill snowplowing down the ski runs with the 3-foot antenna sticking up over his head.”Can you use that thing to read my mind?” Brill said he was once asked. The equipment saves money because it negates the need for traditional survey work. For example, when the River Run parking lot was paved this summer, Brill was able to provide accurate measurements for cost estimates in less than an hour. Another example is the Colorado Skier Safety Act changes put in place this season, which require that resorts mark steep terrain with new signs. Brill was able to identify the slopes greater than 50 degrees that drop for more than 100 feet, enabling the resort to mark the terrain and comply with new regulations.
Brill spent about 20 hours a week July through October logging data to map the mountains. Now he is adding to the database by mapping the villages.The system pinpoints objects within 40 centimeters.Brill earned a degree in computer science from Oneonta University in New York. He has always been interested in computers and is excited for the new system’s potential that goes beyond mountain operations, such as online virtual tours that could take internet browsers through the halfpipe, for example, or down a mountain bike trail.Kim Marquis can be contacted at (970) 668-3998, ext. 249, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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