PHOTO COURTESY OF WISCONSIN LIGHTING LAB, INC. 44 April 2020 | snowopsmag.com
Yet, certain applications like slope
lighting and snowmaking require poles
and the choices have been between
traditional wooden telephone poles
and metal. Mountain operations man-agers
understand that the trade-off is
between cost and quality. Wood is less
expensive and usually easier to install
because it is “direct bury,” meaning it
does not require a reinforced founda-tion
such as a concrete casing. Steel
and aluminum are more expensive, but
offer longevity and greater durability.
Metal often looks nicer, too.
In the aftermath of Hurricane Ma-ria,
new composite poles have been
designed that are more durable than
both wood and metal, are not subject
to corrosion or rotting, and do not ac-tively
conduct electricity and are flex-ible
with combined tensile strength to
withstand substantial weight and wind
loads. Although modestly more expen-sive
than wood, composite poles are
significantly less expensive than steel
while having the added advantage of a
“direct bury” mounting option.
The direct bury method utilizes
ground depth as the support mecha-nism
rather than pouring cement to
create a concrete casing with anchor
bolts. Direct bury can even work on
rock ledges using drilling equipment
and a sand filler. Another installation
option uses helical piles and a ground-level
mounting plate. Now, moun-tain
operations managers have three
choices for light poles and other above-ground
mounting structures: wood,
metal or plastic.
Climate change will have a real and
immediate impact on local weather:
winds will be stronger, snow events
larger, rain storms more concentrated
and avalanches more prevalent for high
elevation resorts. Thus, when sustain-ability
is a goal, the initial installation
cost must be measured against durabil-ity,
flexibility and the specific environ-ment.
For a modest additional expense,
ski areas can gain easy and fast installa-tion,
longevity, low-to-no maintenance
and movable infrastructure. This is not
to say wood or metal should be ruled
out if the cost-benefit analysis favors
these materials over composite.
Consider the ability to easily and
rapidly move mountain infrastructure.
Ski resorts and areas on US Forest Ser-vice,
U.S. National Park Service or other
public lands are obligated to leave the
property as it was found. That means
chairlift towers, light poles and even
slopes would need to be remediated
if the land lease or use was ever aban-doned.
Direct bury poles are more eas-ily
removed than excavating or blasting
out concrete casings. If helical piles are
used, they can simply be unscrewed
from the soil or rock. This may not
seem like a present-day concern, but
the entire concept of sustainability is
about the future.
With regard to sustainability, new
composite materials are generally re-cyclable.
Hopefully, this is not a con-cern
for a long time after installation,
but it is a consideration. Wooden util-ity
poles are treated with preserva-tives
such as creosotes that cannot be
disposed of easily in landfills or other
disposal sites. Steel and aluminum are
recyclable, but concrete piles must be
removed and disposed of. Composite
will not rust or react with the atmo-sphere,
and it is impervious to insects.
It is UV resistant and has greater flex-ibility
than wood or metal. There is no
concern about compatibility with the
fixture that is mounted.
A consideration for off-slope lighting
such as parking lots and access roads
is the “breakaway” feature for some
composite designs. A major cause
of serious roadway injury and death
is impact with poles that offer too
much resistance to a moving vehicle.
Composite material allows for various
special designs including a shearing
zone that can withstand normal flex,
but will break away from a concentrated
impact point. Responsible modern
design should take such features
Depending on slope dimensions, poles
may need to accommodate one or mul-tiple
fixtures with various pointing an-gles.
There are two standard mounting
systems for most lighting: 1) U-bracket
and 2) slip-fitter bracket. U-brackets do
not offer the same range of motion, but
easily attach to the typical angle brack-ets
commonly used on wooden utility
poles and older metal poles. U-brackets
With extreme corrosion resistance, composite poles withstand the environmental
factors of ski and snowboard resorts