Patent application title: Snow transportation system
Joseph Leitner (Coldstream, CA)
Wilheim Leitner (Vernon, CA)
IPC8 Class: AE01H508FI
Class name: Hydraulic and earth engineering fluid control, treatment, or containment flow control
Publication date: 2010-08-12
Patent application number: 20100202834
Patent application title: Snow transportation system
Antony C. Edwards
Origin: WESTBANK, BC omitted
IPC8 Class: AE01H508FI
Publication date: 08/12/2010
Patent application number: 20100202834
A method for collecting and transporting snow includes the steps of
providing a snow blower mounted to an inclined alpine mountain-side and a
pipe cooperating with the snow blower to remove snow from the snow blower
to a downhill location remote from the snow blower, urging snow into the
snow blower and propelling snow from the snow blower into the pipe via a
diffuser, transporting the snow downhill in the pipe, and delivering the
snow from the pipe at a downhill location below the elevation of the snow
1. A method for transporting snow comprising the steps of:a) providing a
blower positioned on an inclined alpine mountain-side wherein said blower
had an inlet which is delivered snow and an outlet from which the
delivered snow is propelled, and wherein an intermediary and a main pipe
are provided, the intermediary pipe mounted to the outlet at one end and
mounted at its other end to the upper end of the main pipe, the main pipe
positioned to extend downhill from the blower, wherein the intermediary
pipe is of smaller diameter than said main pipe, and where the pipes
cooperate with said blower to transport snow as a snow mass in the pipes
to a downhill location at the lower end of the main pipe remote from said
blower,b) feeding snow in to said blower and propelling snow from said
snow blower into said pipes,c) transporting the snow mass downhill
through said pipes,d) spraying the snow mass from said lower end of said
main pipe at said downhill location.
2. The method of claim 1 wherein said pipes are adapted to provide an auxiliary airflow into the snow mass in the pipes.
3. The method of claim 2 wherein said intermediary pipe is adapted to allow said auxiliary airflow into said intermediary pipe.
4. The method of claim 1 wherein said pipe are sized so that the snow mass delivered from said intermediary pipe to said main pipe fills substantially between 40 and 60 of the volume of said main pipe.
5. The method of claim 4 wherein said main pipe is filled substantially 40 percent by said snow mass.
6. The method of claim 1 wherein a nozzle is mounted at said lower end of said main pipe and oriented to spray said snow mass as an airborne spray.
7. The method of claim 6 wherein said nozzle is rotatable relative to said main pipe, so that said spray is selectively oriented.
8. A system for transporting snow comprising:a blower adapted to be positioned on an inclined alpine mountain-side, wherein said blower has an inlet to which is delivered snow and an outlet from which the delivered snow is propelled, and wherein an intermediary and a main pipe are mounted sequentially in a linear, cooperating array to said outlet, said intermediary pipe mounted to said outlet at one end and mounted at its other end to an upper end of said main pipe, wherein said main pipe is positionable to extend in a downhill direction from said blower, wherein said intermediary pipe is of smaller diameter than said main pipe and connected in fluid communication to each other by a diffuser, whereby said pipes cooperate with said blower to transport snow as a snow mass through said pipes to a downhill location at a lower end of said main pipe remote from said blower,
9. The system of claim 8 wherein said pipes are adapted to provide an auxiliary airflow into the snow mass in said pipes.
10. The system of claim 9 wherein said intermediary pipe is adapted to allow said auxiliary airflow into said intermediary pipe.
11. The system of claim 8 wherein said pipes are sized so that the snow mass delivered from said intermediary pipe to said main pipe fills substantially between 40 and 60 percent of the volume of said main pipe.
12. The system of claim 11 wherein said main pipe is filled substantially 40 percent by said snow mass.
13. The system of claim 11 wherein a nozzle is mounted at said lower end of said main pipe and oriented to spray said snow mass as an airborne spray.
14. The system of claim 13 wherein said nozzle is rotatable relative to said main pipe, so that said spray is selectively oriented relative to said main pipe.
CROSS REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATION
This application is a continuation-in-part of U.S. patent application Ser. No. 11/654,502 filed Jan. 18, 2007 entitled Snow Collection and Transportation System.
FIELD OF THE INVENTION
This invention relates to the field of devices for increasing the useful amount of snow available on ski runs at ski resorts and in particular to a snow accumulation and transport mechanism for use in a mid-range altitude above the freezing level of any ski area.
BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION
It is a common problem for ski resorts that they have insufficient snow to form an adequate base for use by skiers so as to cover obstacles such as rocks, shrubs, and the like, especially when the ski resort or particular runs on a ski resort are very popular, the crowd of skiers typically then scraping off any fresh snow and reducing the base until obstacles are exposed. The problem is exacerbated by the locating of ski resorts at relatively low elevation so as to be easily accessible by the public and so as to keep the operating temperature during the winter at the resort in a range below freezing which does not get too cold so as to discourage use by the public. Past methods of recovering snow to depleted-snow areas involved mechanically moving snow from one area in the ski hill to another, essentially depleting snow in the area the snow is moved from. This new method will involve transporting snow from higher elevations, where the snow-pack has accumulated much more, and is less active by skiers, to areas where the snow has been depleted. This will result in more snow being available for ski runs and high traffic areas over time.
In the past, snow-making equipment is known to employ so-called snow making machinery which essentially vaporizes water under pressure through a blower mechanism so as to create ice crystals as the vaporized water is sprayed over the ski slope. This method requires a large source of water, effectively reducing natural water resources in watersheds from mountain areas. Using this method water must be pumped through a system of pipes and often requires the actual blower mechanism to be systematically relocated so as to distribute the freshly made snow over what is typically quite a large ski run area on a resort.
This system also only works below zero degree temperatures, and is not capable at working at above zero degree temperatures.
In the prior art applicants are aware of U.S. Pat. No. 3,257,815 which issued to Brocoff et al on Jun. 28, 1966, for a Method and Apparatus for the Large Scale Production of Snow Fields for Sports Use. Brocoff et al disclose the use of artificial refrigeration to convert water into snow in a controlled atmosphere maintained below the freezing point of water, and using compressed chilled air or other suitable gas to immediately convey the snow through a duct and to distribute it over the desired area.
SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION
The present invention is a system for transporting snow from high elevations to areas of lower elevation. The system is intended to be used at an alpine or Nordic ski facility, to provide a supply of snow to an area which has received an inadequate amount. The system consists of an upper catch area. The upper catch area is advantageously in depression contours in the snow-pack, where natural snow-drifting occurs or can be created. Snow which gathers in the contours, is blown or propelled or pushed by mechanical means, for example a front end loader, a snowcat or like trail grooming machine, a snow blower (collectively herein a blower) etc. through a pipe-loading area and from there into piping such as PVC piping, and carried along the pipe, which is laid downhill, by gravity so as to arrive at the target distribution area. At the distribution area the snow may be directed with a nozzle tip on the end of the pipe. The nozzle may pivot for directing snow-spray. The spray may be directed so as to accumulate in a desired area where a man driven machine may such as a trail groomer further disperse the snow to required locations. Advantageously the pipe widens in diameter often leaving the pipe-loading area, which may in one preferred embodiment be a commercial or industrial size and grade of snow-blower. In that embodiment an outfeed pipe from the blower widens into a wider diameter main pipe. An airflow may be introduced to the outflow or main pipe at its upper end to facilitate forming an air/snow mix that nay decrease friction of the snow mass travelling down the pipe and may decrease incidents of plugging of the pipe.
In summary, the present invention may be characterized in one aspect as a system and in another aspect as a method for transporting snow comprising a blower which is positioned on an inclined alpine mountain-side, wherein the blower has an inlet to which is delivered snow and an outlet from which the delivered snow is propelled, and wherein an intermediary pipe, a diffuser, and a main pipe are mounted in fluid communication in series to the outlet; the intermediary pipe mounted to the outlet at one end and mounted at its other end to the upper end of the main pipe via the diffuser, wherein the main pipe is positioned to extend downhill from the blower, and wherein the intermediary pipe is of smaller diameter than the main pipe. The pipes cooperate with the blower to transport snow as a snow mass in the pipes to a downhill location at the lower end of the main pipe remote from the blower.
Snow is fed into the blower and propelled from the snow blower into the pipes. The snow mass is thereby transported downhill through the pipes. The snow mass is sprayed from the lower end of the main pipe at thed downhill location.
In one embodiment the pipes are adapted to provide an auxiliary airflow into the snow mass in the pipes, for example by use of a port in at least the intermediary pipe, or the diffuser, or upper end of the main pipe. For example, the intermediary pipe is thus adapted to allow the auxiliary airflow into the snow mass passing through the intermediary pipe.
In one embodiment the pipes are sized so that the snow mass delivered from the intermediary pipe to the main pipe fills substantially between 40 and 60 percent of the volume of the main pipe.
A nozzle may be mounted at the lower end of the main pipe and oriented to spray the snow mass as an airborne spray. The nozzle may be rotatable relative to the main pipe, so that the spray is selectively oriented.
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
FIG. 1 is, in perspective view, the snow transportation system according to one embodiment of the present invention mounted on a mountain-side.
FIG. 2 is a side-on perspective view of the snow propelling blower portion of the system of FIG. 1.
FIG. 3 is a front perspective view of the blower of FIG. 2.
DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF EMBODIMENTS OF THE INVENTION
Although pipe 10 is illustrated as a straight pipe, it is not intended that the scope of the present invention be so limited, it being understood that pipe 10 may be straight or curved so long as the snow is free to flow along the length of the pipe, advantageously without becoming plugged. The inclination of transportation pipe as it travels down hill in direction A from the high altitude position 12 of blower 14 mounted to the upper end 10a of pipe 10 to the relatively low altitude ski runs located at lower end 10b of pipe 10, and assisted again by the use of materials having a low coefficient of friction on the interior of pipe, assists snow entrained into upper end to quickly gather velocity. In addition, the mass of snow travelling through the pipe provides added momentum to the flowing snow mass, thereby making plugging of the pipe less likely.
Diameter of the pipe must be larger than the diameter of the outlet pipe 14a from blower 14, or intermediate joining piping 16. Y-fitting 18 is mounted along intermediate pipe 16 to allow airflow into and out of the pipe to prevent a vacuum effect in the pipe and to allow air into that part of the pipe volume not occupied by the snow mass. This allows more continuous movement of snow in the pipe. Moreover, this allows air movement in the descending pipe 10, so as to inhibit plugging. Preferably the diameter of the descending pipe is only filled with snow mass to a maximum of approximately 60% of its volume. The other 40% of the pipe volume allows for air transfer in the system.
Pipe 10 works best if the slope is a continuous slope and does not decrease in slope. If the slope decreases at the lower end of the pipe, applicant has encountered plugging at the lower end with some types of snow conditions. Pipe 10 may be more efficient if the slope increases as the pipe descends downhill along its length. Optionally, y-fittings may be placed at any point along pipe 10 in order to check the snow flow and velocity through the pipe. These y-fittings are capped when not being used for inspection.
By increasing the length of the pipe 10, for example by increasing the numbers of sections of pipe joined by conventional methods, the gravitational pull on the travelling snow mass in the pipe is given more time to increase the velocity of the snow being transported down the pipe. This is supported and enhanced by the action of the blower especially if the blower propels the snow mass initially, giving the snow a faster initial acceleration at the upper end-pipe. It is intended, but not limited to, being used in spring conditions or mild winter seasons. It is important to note that this transportation system is most effective in temperatures from -1 to +15 degrees Celsius, with snow in a granular state. This allows for very low friction and increases in velocity of the snow, while travelling down the pipe. The degree of the slope should be 25-30 degrees or greater for best effect. The increasing pipe diameter from outlet 14a to main pipe 10a (herein also referred to as diffuser 16a) allows introduction of air into the snow mass flow. Thus diffuser 16a assists in reducing blockages.
In operation, blower 14 should be placed at an elevation higher than the upper end 10a of the pipe 10, and securely fastened to the slope by conventional means. This will inhibit the blower from being pulled down the slope as the system operates. Pipe 10 is positioned to follow the descent of the hill, starting from blower 14 and ending at the desired target location 20 for snow dispersion. One method of connecting sections of pipe 10 together is conventionally called "deco" which allows the system to be transportable, or, in a larger scale usage, allows the use of larger diameter piping (e.g., using an industrial snow blower instead of a lower volume snow blower). Fasteners mounted to the sloped terrain are placed in areas where pipe is to be laid, allowing for tethering of the pipe sections to the fasteners. This inhibits pipe sections from dislodging and rolling down the hill. Tethering also allows for safer disconnect and reattachment of the blower from the-piping. As the system runs, snow mass 22 is sprayed from pivotable nozzle 24 in direction B, so as to land in a selectively controllable pattern and thickness. The accumulation of sprayed snow at location 20 may be dispersed by mechanical snow movers (e.g. snowcat trail groomers) to required areas and smoothed.
Nozzle 24 may be mounted for selective rotation about the longitudinal axis of the lower section of pipe 10. Nozzle 24 may be up-turned to loft the spray of snow to thereby lengthen the spray trajectory. In experiments, spray from approximately 100 feet of pipe 10 on an approximately 25-30 degree slope travelled approximately 41 feet using a 22 degree up-sloped nozzle 24. Nozzle 24 could be rotated 45 degrees on either side of vertical and the spray thus sprayed approximately 100 feet wide coverage. The blower 14 used was a 10 Hp, two-stage Husquavarna® snow blower having a vertically oriented outfeed pipe. Applicant believes a horizontally oriented outfeed pipe would increase snow mass velocity in pipe 16. The outfeed intermediary pipe 16 was 4 inches in diameter and two feet long, at the end of which diffuser 16a transitioned the snow mass into a 6 inch diameter main pipe 10. In an industrial embodiment applicant believes the outfeed pipe 16 could be a 12 inch discharge transitioning into a 24 inch diameter main pipe.
In preparation a user locates an area having a hill slope of preferably 25 degrees or greater at a continuous grade for the length of pipe, without obstruction. The blower system, PVC piping, and intake area base platform 26 (which may be an anchored rigid sheet such as of wood or metal) are set up. Platform 26 may be anchored for example by tethers or straps 28 or by other securing means.
The desired mount of snow is manoeuvred to the site and onto platform 26 for infeed in direction C into the intake 14b of blower 14. The pipe is positioned to a desired location for dispersion at the target 20 at the lower elevation. Snow mass 22a is fed into the intake 14b in amounts tolerable to the blower without causing plugging in the flow through the blower and out of outlet 14a. Preferably pipe 10 is white, as other colors cause temperature variation in the pipe due to heat absorption. The machine to feed blower 14 should be cooperative in relative size. That is, the machine feeding blower 14 should be no bigger, so as not to plug up the system.
If multiple sites on the ski run require snow, the outfeed from pipe can be established at the highest point on the hill requiring snow, and all requiring spots, subsequently can be filled by adding more lengths of pipe to the system, until all desired sites have been covered.
For general maintenance of the piping, a nylon brush with similar diameter to the pipe may be used (e.g., 6 inches, 12 inches, etc. for the corresponding inner diameter of the pipe). This cleaning method may be used in the setup of the pipe, especially if the pipe is contaminated with dirt, ice, etc. Pipe 10 should be set up, cleaned and free of general contaminants on inside of the pipe sections. Ideally, storage of pipe sections in a warm dry area allows the interior of the-pipes to be dry, and thus free of ice contaminants and water. If said-pipe sections are left inside for storage, then the pipe sections need to be conditioned to outside temperatures prior to use.
By using the system of blower 14 and diffusing (enlarging) the pipe diameter from the outlet 14a and intermediary pipe 16 to the main pipe 10 plugging is minimized allowing the transport of snow from higher elevations. The lower snow pack is provided with sufficient snow for insulation through sheer volume, allowing lower elevations to withstand mild (that is, above freezing) temperatures for a longer period of time. Thus, it is plausible, ski runs and therefore ski hills may remain open for longer periods and not have to close particular areas due to snow shortage.
At ski resorts, where hotels are located near the base of the ski lift, and accessed via skiing, snow shortage may result in less business due to poor snow conditions from mild weather. By providing snow to these specific trails, skiers may be able to ski up to the hotel and back to the skiing area rather than walk, providing a quicker and more efficient mode of transportation between hotels and ski lifts.
As may be seen, the system according to the present invention may efficiently deliver high volumes of snow from high altitude at relatively high velocity. For example, in the order of fifty to sixty kilometres per hour from the lower end of the transportation pipe by merely relying on the fluid-like qualities of the snow at high altitude and gravity to urge the snow into higher density mass and for transportation. Also, increases in the hill slope, and the length of the piping will also allow for greater speeds, by allowing for acceleration to continue for as long as the pipe runs, to a maximum or terminal velocity.
As will be apparent to those skilled in the art in the light of the foregoing disclosure, many alterations and modifications are possible in the practice of this invention without departing from the spirit or scope thereof. Accordingly, the scope of the invention is to be construed in accordance with the substance defined by the following claims.
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