Winter presents significant challenges in regions with moderate to heavy snowfall-- not only on roads and highways, but airports and rail lines are usually the most difficult for snow removal. In these areas, the operation of mega snowplows and other essential equipment is critical for the functioning of our transportation. Hydraulics, while often overlooked, play a pivotal role in powering these machines and enable them to operate effectively in harsh environments.
Mega snowplows play a vital role in winter road maintenance, effectively clearing snow from roads. Through the utilization of hydraulics, these colossal machines can raise, lower and adjust the blade's position for optimal snow removal. They are versatile and can be easily attached to a range of vehicles.
However, these mega snowplows aren't exclusive to roadways; airports also rely on them to ensure clear pathways for both vehicles and planes. Consider that the maximum legal blade width of a plow on Minnesota highways is just over 8 feet, yet airport plows can have blade widths of up to 30 feet that push as much as 57 yards of snow. Moreover, the skiing industry is another sector that frequently employs mega snow equipment, such as snow groomers with hydraulically-operated front mount blades that rely on rotary tillers to shape ski slopes and build half pipes.
As the day winds down and the snow has been thoroughly enjoyed, it tends to gather at the bottom of the hills, creating a somewhat muddied appearance. To address this, resorts use snowplows to push the snow uphill, effectively resurfacing the slopes. This not only revitalizes the scenery, but also helps prevent the formation of ice, which can result in very dangerous conditions for the next day's skiers.
Chairlifts and gondolas
Another type of hydraulic equipment that can be found at ski resorts are chairlifts and gondolas. Skiers and snowboarders use this equipment to make the trip up the mountain while relaxing on seats, benches or in enclosed shelters that carry them to the top of the hill, all under the power of hydraulics.
Chairlifts and gondolas use hydraulics to make the traffic of skiers more consistent and comfortable. Hydraulics push the chairs at a safe speed to keep the traffic moving, while moving the skiers towards the top of the hill.
Most residential snow blowers operate from gas or electric power. However, larger skid steer type snow blowers incorporate high flow hydraulics which power the blower attachment by increasing the velocity of the hydraulic fluid. The attachment works very much like a standard residential snow blower by using a rotating auger to break up snow and force it through an adjustable discharge chute.
Another form of machinery that is oftentimes found in winter is salt spreaders. This machine uses hydraulics to control the amount and displacement of salt that is discharged during the process. Without hydraulics, the salt would not be able to separate or be sprayed in the intended direction, resulting in an ineffective ice removal.
On the other hand, when you want to produce snow, hydraulic machinery can be of assistance. A snow gun, commonly known as a snow making machine, is a device designed to generate snow, rather than relying on natural snowfall. Given its size, it requires a hydraulic arm for lifting and lowering the structure. This enables the operator to control the precise location where the snow is dispersed. In many regions where there is little snowfall and/or temperatures that frequently fluctuate around freezing depend on snow guns to keep resorts in business.
A wide range of machinery is employed for snow management, including removal and snow production. What's noteworthy is that all the equipment covered in this blog harnesses the power of hydraulics. Most equipment listed above is similar in the use of hydraulic power as construction, agricultural or other heavy equipment. Snow, especially compact snow, is heavy and requires tremendous hydraulic power to move it and to power the machinery used to navigate or make it.
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