Ski Lift Lubrication: How to Fight the Cold

Snow, frost and freezing temperatures plunging well below 0°F impact ski lifts, grooming equipment, and snow cannons used by ski resorts. This harsh environment contributes to failures due to:

  • Excessive wear: On cold winter mornings, lubricants can thicken, leading to premature wear in pivoting bearings, rocker pins and suspension bearings.
  • Corrosion: Water from condensation and precipitation (snow, ice and rain) can penetrate housings, promoting corrosion.

For example: A large Swiss ski resort comprising 87 miles of trails inspected their cableways and lifts. Premature wear and corrosion were discovered in pivoting bearings, rocker pins and suspension bearings. Many were replaced at an immense cost of time and materials.

Following the overhaul, Klüber Lubrication was commissioned to recommend a sustainable solution: MICROLUBE GBU-Y 131 grease. Instead of a mineral oil base that has poor cold-weather performance, the MICROLUBE GBU-Y 131 formulation features:

  • Semi-synthetic base oil and metal complex soap thickener with a low service temperature of -15°F
  • Stable consistency and viscosity at sub 0°F temperatures
  • Formulated for plain and rolling bearings operating under medium to high loads, and subjected to humidity and water
  • Easy to apply by brush, spatula, grease gun or grease cartridge

Today, many end users are not aware of what specialty lubricants can do.  In this specific case, the challenge lies in the low temperatures, moisture and high loads present in these applications. With a grease specifically made for this purpose, neither its basic consistency nor its viscosity must change at temperatures below zero. As for the additives, for example, those for corrosion, it must be made sure their full performance capability comes to bear under the prevailing environmental and tribological conditions.

Switching to MICROLUBE GBU-Y 131 reduced wear and corrosion-related damage significantly. Compared to the previous grease, it reduced lubricant consumption by about a third.

In the end, increasing machine reliability and reducing operating costs is always a vital objective when developing modern specialty lubricants. Technology progresses not only in the digital world – even a seemingly simple component such as the lubricant can make a major contribution to higher efficiency.

Got cold weather challenges? Let us know in the comments below.

Stephen Mazzola

Director - Engineering & Technical Services

Steve has been with Klüber Lubrication since 1995 and currently leads the Application Engineering & Services team. He received his Bachelor of Science degree in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Lowell in Massachusetts (now UMass Lowell).

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