Winter Park Resort’s technological pedigree
At times, Winter Park Resort can appear to be a living, pulsating thing. The multitudes pulsating through its many thoroughfares and alleyways on a snowy Saturday morning conjure scenes of a hectic midtown borough, but with clumsily wielded skis and garish technical fabrics replacing designer shopping bags and exotic furs.
Graciously extending this metaphor, one can imagine a hidden network of infrastructure below the gritty hustle and bustle – a circulatory system of bundles of fibers and wires silently relaying innumerable data below the clanging steel catwalks and ice-clotted pathways that ferry plastic clad visitors from the Village to Moffat Station to destinations beyond.
Standing in a non-descript room abuzz with the whirr of tiny fans that cool the resort’s servers, Resort Director of Information Technology Jay Hurt proudly examines the resorts IBM Bladecenter, a high-tech server system that allows the resort to implement virtualization technology.
The resort started playing with the technology in 2004 Hurt said.
“These days virtualization is pretty common, but back in 2004 we had people at the time telling us, ‘you are crazy to virtualize a database server,’” Hurt said
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To the tech challenged, the system allows the Resort’s IT team to move virtual servers effortlessly between blades, meaning if one part of the system stops working, there’s no downtime for maintenance – the virtualization software simply moves the server to another blade.
Certainly in the old days, if you wanted a new server, it could be many days or weeks to get a new server up – days or weeks,” Hurt said. “With this virtualization server technology, we can spin up an new server in 20 minutes.”
While this may not seem immediately important, consider this infrastructure is the backbone for all technology at the resort. The resorts 115 servers monitor everything from the point-of-sale system to the lodging system to ski lift power consumption. “Anything you can imagine, we’ve got,” Hurt said.
They even drive the resort’s new radio-frequency identification technology, or RFID, which allows you to swipe through the lift gate without taking your pass out of pocket.
The resort’s technology infrastructure has enabled it to create some things that every-day guests may not be aware of. For one, it has a custom GIS, or geographic information system, that shows a screen-based map of the entire resort and uses the Motorola radios carried by all ski patrollers.
Built using off the shelf hardware and software, control dispatchers can look at a screen and see where all patrollers are at any given time.
In the case of a rescue, the Resort can gather cell-phone data from law enforcement to pinpoint a lost guest and guide rescuers to their location, Hurt said.
The resort also uses the system to tell what terrain has been groomed and allows the resort to gather extensive grooming data.
“The resort definitely has some visionary things in mind around this GIS system but that’s something we probably can’t talk about,” Hurt said.
Apps are another technological horizon that the resort is keeping tight-lipped on, though in the past it has worked with TRACER Snow to let guests track runs and vertical.
The resort also worked with AT&T recently to improve guest service on the mountain,
“We’ll be looking to be doing more stuff like that in the future,” Hurt said. “We’re looking at expanding guest Wi-Fi and things like that.”
The fail-safe system
Sitting inside an unnamed command center behind Balcony House, surrounded by an array of computer screens, both dark and covered in indecipherable data, Hurt surveys what appears to be a schematic of the resort’s lift system on a screen suspended above his head.
“”We have a system that monitors all our key systems, all our servers, all our key network infrastructure and stuff, and if anything goes down or whatever, it sends emails, text messages – we can even configure it to call somebody – to alert the team,” Hurt said.
“If something big goes down it will send alerts to our on-call phone.”
A few nights ago, a technician came in around 12:30 a.m. to fix a broken switch, Hurt said.
“That way if something goes wrong in the middle of the night, it doesn’t wait until people get here in the morning and go, ‘hey, nothing is working,’” Hurt said. “We know about it and get in there and fix it right away.”
So if you’re ever on the Panoramic Lift on an especially cold and windy morning when suddenly it loses power, you can rest assured that somewhere in the labrynthe of Winter Park’s Base Area, one of Hurt’s able-bodied technicians is getting a text, email or frantic phone call to fix it.
Hank Shell can be reached at 970-557-6010.
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