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The Future of Ski Hill Vehicle Maintenance

SNOWsat delivers the right tools

SNOWsat Maintain is the latest digital tool developed by Kässbohrer All Terrain Vehicles, Inc., designed to assist in the efficient maintenance management of ski area vehicle fleets.

It all started in 2011, when the company launched SNOWsat, a proprietary digital slope and fleet management system for its PistenBully family of ski slope, cross-country ski and snowmobile trail maintenance equipment.

“The main driver of SNOWsat was when we were able to figure out and implement snow depth measurement – an important advantage when a ski area has low snow conditions,” said John Glockhamer, marketing manager for Kässbohrer All Terrain Vehicles, North America. “Consulting with an operating ski area, Kässbohrer designed a GPS satellite system that maps an area when there is no snow, and later compares this original baseline with current snow levels to calculate snow depths. Using a PistenBully snow groomer equipped with SNOWsat, the operator knows exactly how and where to groom to even out the snow depth to make for a much better ski experience.

“At Kässbohrer we pride ourselves in our engineering and technology and have had electronics in our PistenBully since the late 1970s, so after the success of SNOWsat, we decided to find other ways to use digitization to make ski area operations more efficient. Through collaboration with our customers, our software staff at SNOWsat has been developing code, writing programs and advancing in snow resort technology ever since.”

SNOWsat Maintain

This new technology delivers a clear and immediate view of everything to do with a ski area’s fleet – from administration to maintenance. Accessed via an on-screen dashboard, the program makes it easy to record costs specific to each piece of equipment, keep track of what needs to be done at each maintenance interval and communicate between the shop, management and operators to identify tasks and potential problem areas.

Emil Madden, SNOWsat and PRO ACADEMY manager, said, “Maintenance programs have been around in other industries for a long time, but SNOWsat Maintain is the first ski resort-specific program. Everything is laid out on a couple of different dashboards and easily navigated sites. Pro Academy, our manufacturer-neutral snowcat training platform, includes online offerings with training for SNOWsat Maintain. There are specific courses for mechanics, operators, managers and administrators to help any new or current Maintain user sharpen their user skills and increase the resort’s application of SNOWsat Maintain.”

Two program levels

As of October 2020, PistenBully customers can upload Maintain Basic, a free version of the original digital maintenance management software. Glockhamer said, “It’s a lower-end maintenance program specific to PistenBully that allows our customers to get used to the program at no charge. Some of the smaller hills are just beginning to use wifi and computers in the shop. They still live by paper, but it’s a changing dynamic out there. This free version of Basic is an opportunity for them to ease into digitization. They can learn the advantages of having easy access to a machine’s digital service records, maintenance plans, vehicle-specific documents and a spare parts online store.”

Efficiency and economies in every level of operations

The digital service record documents all processes in the history of each piece of equipment. Having detailed information such as work completed, operating hours and spare parts usage immediately at hand allows tracking of specific costs and how those costs were incurred. Service bulletins and equipment manuals are also available, and the system will send notifications if there is new information or updates on PistenBully vehicles.


Most equipment needs certain maintenance performed at specific intervals of hours or mileage. With Maintain Basic these maintenance points and checklists are provided only for PistenBully equipment. With Maintain Professional, any piece of machinery at the ski area can be loaded into the program – pickup trucks, snowmobiles, loaders, heavy equipment, chairlifts and snowmaking systems – no matter the manufacturer. Madden says that with the Professional version, the user does not have to stay with preloaded forms, but can include any type of equipment/system, edit individual checklists and customize maintenance intervals and any other tracking processes the ski hill might want to run.


In both Basic and Professional, PistenBully vehicle-specific documents are automatically recorded and archived: operating manuals, maintenance instructions and checklists and spare-parts information. This system increases planning security, guarantees vehicle availability when needed and cuts out a great deal of paperwork and filing.

The search function rolls up individual data for any vehicle in the fleet, making it easy to analyze servicing records – how they break down into repair and maintenance costs, frequency of repairs, the number of days each piece of equipment was out of service and the servicing costs per operating hour.

Task management

Along with the repair and service status of each vehicle, SNOWsat Maintain records completed and outstanding tasks, creates further tasks and assigns new tasks to individuals. Employees can quickly access all available information on every vehicle in the system, making for clear and efficient communication and completion of work assignments.

With the Professional version, an app can be downloaded free of charge onto smartphones and tablets, and then anywhere on the mountain, each mechanic, technician and operator can access individual task assignments and pre- and post-operational checks as customized by the manager.

Madden said, “Our primary users are snowcat technicians and operators as they need to communicate with management and with each other. Any information they record in the app – for example, a vehicle pre-operational check or repair order – is stored and shared for viewing by other user groups, such as mechanics or management, potentially saving a lot of money by getting ahead of maintenance issues.”


“Both levels of [the] SNOWsat Maintain interface [come] with an online PistenBully parts-ordering system,” said Glockhamer. “Management can quickly order what’s needed or be aware of what’s coming up.” As well, the store offers an optimized search function by individual vehicles, on-hand parts availability and order tracking. Multiple shops can maintain their own inventories, saving ordering time through the use of pre-defined parts lists and maintenance checklists while keeping track of what’s in the warehouse.

Moving into the digital world

“We have nine offices across North America,” Madden said. “Anyone interested in giving the system a try only has to reach out to their local PistenBully representative. SNOWsat Maintain is cloud-based and highly integrable, so users need to be able to connect to the internet, preferably using a computer or tablet, in conjunction with the SNOWsat Maintain app.”

SNOWsat Maintain Basic is completely free of charge, while the more extensive Professional version carries an initial activation fee. After that, the annual fee is based on the amount of equipment in the program.

In the Kässbohrer tradition, progress doesn’t stop there. “Right now, we are working on two central development themes,” Glockhamer said.

“One is sustainability, which entails electrification of our PistenBully; right now, we have a battery-operated study vehicle in testing phase. Secondly, we are moving forward with digitization, which is what SNOWsat falls under. Our vision is to digitize all the processes that affect our side of the business, push into more aspects of the ski area and make digitization even more seamless. This way our customers will save money, increase efficiency and we all will make overall progress in sustainability.”