Utah Ski Resort Races Toward Next-Gen IT

By Samuel Greengard Print this article Print
virtualization and VDI

Park City Mountain Resort adopted advanced technology solutions to improve efficiency, enhance customer satisfaction, cut costs and drive business results.

Over the years, skiing has evolved into a high-tech sport that incorporates increasingly sophisticated and aerodynamic gear. Now, some resorts are racing toward next-generation IT capabilities to automate operations and take the business to a level of peak performance.

One standout is Park City Mountain Resort. The 50-year-old facility operates 16 lifts and 116 trails across 3,300 acres in the Wasatch Mountains of Utah. In 2011, the company underwent a major IT infrastructure upgrade that ushered in a fiber network, RFID, iPads, zero client computing and a more robust SAN architecture. "We have moved very heavily into technology to create new efficiencies," says Ryan Hayes, IT manager for the firm. "We have significantly changed the business—and the guest experience."

During the winter, as many as 31,000 skiers per hour hit the slopes, and mountain bikers and miniature golf enthusiasts descend on the resort during the summer.

To handle all this, Park City Mountain Resort relies on seven virtualized Dell PowerEdge M710 and M620 blade servers and a Dell Compellent SAN. About 95 percent of the infrastructure is virtualized using VMware. Among other things, this has helped the firm boost availability and eliminate downtime during patches and upgrades.

In addition, the resort relies on approximately 70 Dell Wyse zero clients running VMware View to provide employees and guests with instant access to applications via virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI). In fact, guests can quickly rent equipment from terminals in the resort's main building. Employees use iPads equipped with VDI at gates to verify and track guests, who wear an RFID tag on their pass.

The initiative has already paid significant dividends. For example, by migrating from barcode scanners to RFID, the resort was able to increase the number of skiers passing through the gates on an hourly basis by about 27 percent, while reducing the number of employees required to oversee the gates by up to 50 percent.

Meanwhile, VDI, along with automated data tiering on the SAN, has enabled faster and more secure connectivity, while reducing administrative overhead. The fiber network, solid-state drives (SSD) and SAN have also reduced latency. Craig Casey, the firm's network engineer, says that the network now typically operates at sub-3 milliseconds compared to 10-to 20-milliseconds in the past.

The technology upgrades have also resulted in financial savings, including a $50,000 reduction in server costs and annual energy savings of approximately $25,000. In addition, Hayes estimates that VoIP saves the company another $1,800 per month.

The IT team is now aiming for 100 percent virtual desktops and expanded use of iPads on the slopes. In fact, Hayes hopes to eventually build the capability to track skiers on the runs. "It would allow us to find people who are lost or injured," he explains.

The technology is ushering in a new era of efficiency in the data center and on the slopes. "The focus here is on skiing, Hayes points out."We don't offer lodging, and we're not involved in a lot of other businesses. Technology allows us to do some really cool things and serve our customers well."

This article was originally published on 2014-02-25

Samuel Greengard is a contributing writer for Baseline.

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