Buttermilk Mountain – Valve Station 2008

Earthwork through large sections of the base area made it necessary to relocate several sections of existing pipe in this region, serving many trails. Because of wet and corrosive soils through much of this region, Buttermilk replaced all existing pipe in this region with VRS®-T DI materials.   Because of these unusual soil conditions, it was decided to replace all interior pipe and fittings inside a main Valve Station with the VRS®-T DI materials.

Project Background:

As part of the Master Plan Development for Buttermilk Mountain a new lift was installed in 2008, requiring extensive earthwork through the base area, and replacement of sections of snowmaking pipe in this region.   Soil conditions were unusually wet and corrosive through this region.   Because of these unusual soil conditions, all steel pipe in this region would be replaced with the VRS®-T DI materials.   Also because of this earthwork, and these unusual soil conditions, a major new valve station would have to be constructed in this region, as part of the pipe replacement program.  And to deal with the wet corrosive conditions in the existing valve station, all pipe and fittings inside this new valve station would be DI materials.   Finally, because heavy construction equipment would be required to complete lift construction throughout the entire project, Buttermilk decided to replace steel snowmaking pipe on lower sections of the Columbine trail and the Midway trail with DI materials.  VRS®-T DI materials was selected for several reasons:

  • Previous in-house technical research of other materials with superior longevity;
  • Hands-on field experience assembling/installing these materials in the Midway system (2006) and Spruce system (2007); and,
  • A wide choice of different fittings, very critical for tight constraints inside the Valve Station.

Project Challenges:

Find a piping system that: would improve the longevity of the pipe system in soil conditions with unusually high corrosivity, would provide flexibility, with joint design and with a wide selection of fittings in all pipe sizes, to deal with system constraints, especially in the Valve Station; could be installed easily and quickly, to deal with short timelines needed to coordinate with other projects occurring in the same region at the same time; and, would minimize environmental damage throughout the project region.   More specifically:

LONGEVITY:   Corrosion of any material is based on the corrosivity of the environment surrounding the material. Steel snowmaking pipe in normal alpine environments has a longevity ranging from 20 to 35 years, depending on soil corrosivity.   Other materials are available that will provide longevity that is superior to steel.

FLEXIBILITY:  The VRS®-T joint provides angular deflection at every joint along the pipeline and at every joint of every fitting, providing unique capabilities to deal with tight constraints.

CONSTRAINTS:   In addition to Flexibility, the VRS®-T system provides a wide selection of many fittings, in all pipe sizes; a major benefit when dealing with tight physical constraints.

SHORT TIMELINES:   Most pipe construction in this region had to be coordinated with other work by other contractors, to optimize smooth seamless project completion.   This made it necessary to find a pipe system that could be assembled/installed easily, safely and quickly. Previous field experience assembling/installing  this system was a major factor in selection of this system.

ENVIRONMENTAL SUSTAINABILITY:  A primary goal with all pipe installations in all alpine regions is to select/use materials which protect ecosystems, and maximize the integrity and sustainability of the natural resources.   DI materials from TRM have unique characteristics in these areas, not available with other pipeline materials, including:

  • DI pipe is produced using +98% recyclable materials.
  • Joint design requires no welding or open flames at any time during assembly/installation.
  • Joint design requires much less force to assemble; and, smaller/lighter construction equipment for installation.
  • Easier assembly and smaller/lighter construction equipment makes it possible to: complete installation using a much smaller construction footprint, satisfying site constraints and reducing cleanup requirements; and, to complete the assembly/installation in much shorter timelines, which will be very important providing longer periods for terrain clean-up and restoration.

Project Solution:

Buttermilk already had completed product research to study, review and evaluate other pipe systems, and had selected the VRS®-T system from TRM.   Also, Buttermilk had extensive hands-on field experience with this VRS®-T system on previous projects.   Based on these studies and this hands-on experience, Buttermilk again selected the VRS®-T DI system for several reasons:

Advantages of the VRS®-T System:

  • The corrosion rate of steel is +3 times faster than the rate for DI; making the longevity of the VRS®-T pipe +3 times greater than the longevity of steel pipe.  Through this region unusually wet and corrosive soils will reduce pipe longevity to lower than normal levels.
  • The DUPLEX coating on all VRS®-T pipe provides active and passive corrosion protection, and a unique sacrificial repair mechanism for any pipe damage exposing bare metal.   These characteristics extend the longevity of this pipe even more.
  • The joint design of the VRS®-T system, provides angular deflection at every joint along the pipe and every joint of every fitting; providing optimum flexibility to assemble complex piping systems in the tight physical constraints of valve stations.   Refer to the photos below.
  • CONSTRAINTS:   In addition to Flexibility, the VRS®-T system provides a wide selection of many fittings, in all pipe sizes; providing unique capabilities to assemble complex piping systems in the tight physical constraints of any valve station.  Refer to the photo below.
  • The VRS®-T joint requires ±38% less force to assemble each joint; and, with the soft flexible gasket used in this joint, alignment of the pipe is not as critical.   Both issues make it easier/faster to install pipe in short timelines; an important benefit in coordination of pipe work with other construction work being completed in this region.
  • Easier installation made it possible to use smaller lighter excavation and hand compaction equipment to complete the entire installation.   The smaller lighter construction equipment also required a smaller construction footprint, making it possible to install two (2) pipes in a single trench ±10 ft wide.    See photo below.
  • Because of the smaller construction footprint, it was possible to complete backfilling, tamping, fine grading and seeding/mulching before Labor Day.  See photo Above.

Project Team Members:

CLIENT: Buttermilk Resort
DESIGN ENGINEER: Alford Design Group LLC Master Plan
GENERAL CONTRACTOR: In-house Personnel


Buttermilk Valve Station Piping

DN250 High Press MDR DI Water
DN200 High Press MDR DI Water
DN150 High Press MDR DI Water

Buttermilk Resort, Aspen, CO

6800 ft of pipe

Snowmaking Pipeline


Environmental Sustainability
Short Timeline
Unstable Soils