EpicMix leader Vahid Vahedi accomplishes one goal, sets another | VailDaily.com

EpicMix leader Vahid Vahedi accomplishes one goal, sets another

BRECKENRIDGE — On April 27, Colorado snowboarder Vahid Vahedi solidified his position atop this season's EpicMix leaderboard with his 178th consecutive day on a Vail Resorts mountain. EpicMix tracks skiers and snowboarders progress across Vail Resorts' eight mountains, counting the number of lifts riders load, measuring vertical feet skied and awarding points and online "pin" badges for on-mountain accomplishments. At the beginning of the season, Vahedi set a goal to be the first skier or snowboarder in EpicMix's four-year history to earn more than 300 pins; he ended the year on April 27 with 321. Some of those pins were easy to earn. Simply riding Vail's Gondola One on Opening Day garners a guest three pins — "Mountain Division" is earned for your first visit to Vail of the season, "Vail Opening Day" is earned for attending Vail's Opening Day and "Gondola One" is earned for riding Gondola One the first time in a season. But before Vahedi arrived at Vail for his Opening-Day pin haul, the Keystone local had already earned "Orange Slices" for covering 500,000 vertical feet, "The Venti" for 20 days in one season and nearly 50 other pins from Keystone, where he has lived the past few winters. 'WHAT ARE YOU DOING?' As the season progressed, Vahedi realized some of the pins he had set out to obtain would be especially difficult. To earn "Centenary," Vahedi had to ride Beaver Creek's Centennial lift 100 times during the course of the season. To earn "Day Tripper," he had to ride Beaver Creek, Vail, Keystone and Breckenridge all in the same day. And to earn "Steve Austin," arguably the hardest pin possible to obtain this season, he had to ride more than 6 million vertical feet from November to April. "At the beginning of the year, I didn't expect I would be able to get the Steve Austin pin," he said. "But by the end of the season, I realized I was going to make it with room to spare." Earning certain pins, for Vahedi, would prove to be more daunting than they would seem. To earn "Snow Jack Rabbit," Vahedi had to ride Beaver Creek's Buckaroo Gondola five times in a row. For an expert rider, all that time spent on the Beav's bunny hill was a painful endeavor. "My only goal going into the season was to get to 300 pins," he said. "It had never been done before and I wanted to be the first person to do it. At one point, while I was riding the Buckaroo Gondola, I thought to myself, 'What are you doing?'" RIDER ON THE ROAD Of course, with EpicMix offering pins at all of Vail Resorts' mountains, getting to that 300 mark would take some travel. To get "Tour de Force," Vahedi had to visit Keystone, Breckenridge, Vail, Beaver Creek, Canyons, Heavenly, Northstar and Kirkwood all in a 100-day span. Vahedi hit the road, visiting Canyons in Utah and Vail Resorts' three California mountains in February, and with fortune on his side, he happened to be in California for one of the only true powder days the Lake Tahoe-area resorts would see this year. "The locals were saying it was the first powder day of the year, and it was February!" Vahedi said. "I guess I got lucky." While he was there, he rode Northstar's Martis Camp Express lift 100 times in just three days, earning the Centurion pin. "That was definitely one of the most difficult to get," he said. 'FAVORITE OF THEM ALL' While traveling, Vahedi says he really got a feel for the local culture of each of the eight mountains on EpicMix. "People were approaching me saying, 'Hey, I know you from EpicMix,'" he said. Of all of the mountains, one in particular has made a deep impression on him. "The hardcore skiing and riding culture at Vail was most impressive to me of all the mountains," he said. "Meeting guys like Cesar Hermosillo at Vail was really inspiring, the passion and dedication these guys have for skiing is really impressive." Hermosillo, famous around Vail for catching the first gondola up the mountain every day, says being introduced to guys like Vahedi is one of the main reasons he follows EpicMix. "It's really brought together the people who most enjoy the sport," said Hermosillo, who's currently third on EpicMix's all-time leaderboard (spanning the four seasons EpicMix has been in operation), one spot in front of Vahedi. "Meeting a guy like Vahid, who's just as passionate as we are about the sport, for me, probably wouldn't have happened without EpicMix." Vahedi says he sets a new goal for himself every year — this year was to obtain 300 pins, this past year was to ride every single lift at all of Vail Resorts' mountains. He accomplished both of those goals. For next year, "My only goal is to move to Vail and become a true Vail local," said Vahedi. "It's definitely my favorite mountain of them all."

Vail Resorts releases EpicMix stats

BROOMFIELD, Colorado – Vail Resorts announced results and usage statistics forEpicMix on Thursday. Nearly 100,000 Vail Resorts guests activated EpicMix accounts this season, generating over 35 million “social impressions” and racking up over 55 billion vertical feet of skiing and snowboarding at Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, Keystone and Heavenly. EpicMix is a first-of-its-kind online and mobile application launched for the 2010-2011 ski and snowboard season which allows Vail Resorts guests, at five of its ski resorts, to utilize technology to capture their ski and ride experience and share it with friends and family. Nearly 100,000 Vail Resorts guests activated EpicMix accounts this season which roughly accounts for an almost 15 percent adoption rate by eligible guests. Also, almost 40,000 guests downloaded the EpicMix application to their mobile phone. Additionally 45 percent of EpicMix accounts are “public,” meaning that guests opted to share their ski day statistics with friends and family on social media sites like Twitter and Facebook. “We are hard at work on EpicMix 2.0 for the 2011-2012 ski and snowboard season that will offer some new groundbreaking functionality and user engagement,” said Vail Resorts CEO Rob Katz.

Vonn celebration will be next Saturday on Vail Mountain

VAIL, Colorado – Following another successful season on the World Cup circuit, three-time World Cup overall champion and Olympic gold and bronze medalist Lindsey Vonn will return home to Vail for a community gathering to celebrate another incredible season of achievements, as well as those of EpicMix kids, on Saturday, April 9 from 12 – 2 p.m. at Eagle’s Nest on Vail Mountain.The winningest U.S. female skier of all time, Vonn recently won the 2011 World Cup Combined, Downhill and Super G titles, and raised her total World Cup wins in all four disciplines (downhill, Super G, slalom and super combined) to 41.The festivities will kick off at noon at Eagle’s Nest, located at the top of the Eagle Bahn Gondola (No. 19) on Vail Mountain. Free foot passenger tickets will be available at the Lionshead Ticket Office beginning at 11 a.m. for those without a season pass or lift ticket. Supporters will be greeted with Lindsey Vonn memorabilia, commemorative pins, a live DJ, free cookies and hot cocoa as well as food and drink specials at Talon’s Deck.Skiers who are using their season passes or PEAKS cards and multi-day tickets can also earn the digital “Luck for Lindsey” pin through Vail Resorts’ revolutionary technological advancement for the ski industry, EpicMix. Kids who sign up to track their skiing and snowboarding stats on EpicMix by next Saturday will be entered into a contest to receive an autographed poster from Vonn. Visit http://www.epicmix.com for details.For more information about Vail Mountain, visit http://www.vail.com or contact the Mountain Activities & Information Center at 970-SKI-VAIL. For more information about EpicMix and the new EpicMix kids site, visit http://www.epicmix.com.

Vail Resorts debuts EpicMix Guide, which offers customized itineraries for your day on the slopes

VAIL — Have you ever visited a mountain town and wished you could ski it like a local? That's the idea behind Vail Resorts' newest app, EpicMix Guide. The fifth generation of the popular EpicMix program takes user input to generate a customized, step-by-step navigational guide and ski itinerary for Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge or Keystone in Colorado, Canyons in Park City, Utah, or Heavenly, Northstar or Kirkwood at Lake Tahoe. The new app will debut this coming ski season in early December, officials said. Here's how it works — users log into EpicMix via app, mobile web or desktop and answer a variety of questions, including desired resort, starting location at the resort, terrain difficulty desired and length of time available. EpicMix Guide then pours over 350 possible itineraries to automatically generate the optimal route for that guest on that day. "EpicMix Guide will enhance the way many of our destination guests experience our resorts," said Kirsten Lynch, executive vice president and chief marketing officer of Vail Resorts. "Skiers and riders can input what kind of skiing they like to do, what kind of terrain they want to explore and how much time they have available, and EpicMix Guide provides a custom itinerary to help them navigate the mountain in a care-free way, maximizing the fun they'll have that day." Insider knowledge The Guide adds to various EpicMix programs that were industry firsts at the time of debut. EpicMix was introduced in 2010 as an RFID-based system that allows skiers and riders to track their days on the slopes and share their accomplishments via social media. The RFID chip in season passes and day tickets tracks vertical feet, number of lift rides and other data. In subsequent years, Vail Resorts also added EpicMix Photo, EpicMix Racing and EpicMix Academy, a ski-school app. The hundreds of itineraries on EpicMix Guide were created from insider knowledge from each resorts' most experience ski and snowboard instructors and are designed to be appropriate for different skill levels. "EpicMix Guide is like handing you 20 years of experience at that resort on your first visit there," Lynch said. "We're putting this power at the fingertips of every one of our guests." Once an itinerary is completed, skiers and riders can share their itinerary, along with photos and other stats about their day, on social media through Facebook and Twitter. "EpicMix was the first RFID-enabled ski application to combine physical performance tracking with social media sharing," said Robert Urwiler, Vail Resorts' executive vice president and chief information officer. "EpicMix Guide is pushing skiing and riding to new technological frontiers by making the transition from passive tracking to active recommendations." Users can activate their free EpicMix accounts at http://www.epicmix.com. ResortApp debuts While EpicMix Guide takes care of on-mountain plans, another new app developed by self-professed ski bum Joe Cleary aims to guide visitors around town. ResortApp, which was introduced in March, takes the user's location and directs them to the nearest restaurants, ski shops, ski school or babysitting services. You can look up specials (contributed to the app daily by participating restaurants) for dinner, call to make a reservation and get directions to the restaurant, all through the app. "When we started developing this, we wanted it to be a complete focus on the best service," Cleary said. "We put ourselves in the shoes of people who have never been here before and thought about what they'd need to know about our valley." You can also find your friends on the mountain through the app. If you're friends with your ski buddies through ResortApp, then you can pinpoint their location as close as 5 feet on the mountain. The GPS data updates every 60 seconds, so according to Cleary, gone are the days of unsuccessfully wandering the mountain to meet up with your friends. So far, ResortApp has only been for Vail visitors, but in November it will be introduced for Summit County and Aspen. As soon as those are off the ground, Steamboat Springs and Park City will be next. Cleary said ResortApp was born after he found that other skiing apps were plentiful, but not comprehensive. "A lot of what we saw others did was regurgitate different info that was already on other websites. Often it would pull up something that would take you to a different browser to look at on your phone," he said. "That's fine, but why download the app if you can look it up on the Internet? For ResortApp, we consider it a boutique product — all the information is contained within the app." Assistant Managing Editor Melanie Wong can be reached at 970-748-2927 and at mwong@vail daily.com. Follow her on Twitter @mwongvail.

Vail Resorts touts success of EpicMix

BROOMFIELD, Colorado – The second generation of Vail Resorts’ EpicMix program has already resulted in more than 280,000 posts on Facebook and Twitter, exceeding the total number of social posts from all of last season ,with more than half of this year’s posts including photos. Based on Facebook’s estimate of 130 friends per account holder, EpicMix has already generated more than 36 million social impressions this season. Additionally, guest activations are already up by just under 40 percent only 5 percent of the way through the season. On Tuesday, Vail Resorts announced three new additions to EpicMix. More enhancements are expected to be added later this season. • The Mountain Remix collage is launching today on the EpicMix online site allowing guests to combine their on-mountain EpicMix professional photos with their stats, such as days skied and vertical feet with their favorite digital pins they’ve earned, along with other selected information like snow totals, into a single picture file or “jpeg” creating a collage. • EpicMix photographers will be able to capture action photos of guests at select locations on the slopes at all six mountains – Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, Keystone, Heavenly and Northstar. Guests will ski or ride in marked areas to an EpicMix photographer, who will capture the action and then scan the guests’ RF-enabled lift ticket or pass. The photos will then be automatically delivered to their EpicMix account to share with friends and family or can be incorporated into a Remix collage. • All EpicMix photos are available to guests for free to share on Facebook and Twitter. Guests can also purchase a high-resolution image for download for $19.95. Vail Resorts will be limiting the availability of high-resolution images for guest download to 30 days from the date the photo is taken. Low resolution images for sharing on social sites will not be subject to the 30-day expiration. The app and online site allow guests to share stories, achievements and photos without interrupting their on-mountain skiing and snowboarding experience. Instead of manual check-ins, the RF-enabled pass or ticket allows for automatic check-ins at each lift at all six resorts, which then tracks the vertical feet and rewards guests for accomplishments like riding every lift in one day to earn the Conqueror pin. The RF-enabled pass or lift ticket is also scanned by EpicMix photographers for immediate delivery of on-mountain photos for sharing with friends and family. “We’ve been overwhelmed by our guests’ enthusiasm and engagement with EpicMix so far this season. We knew that photos were one of the most powerful ways that people remember and share their special moments and vacations and we’re seeing that translated into our guests’ adoption rate and engagement with EpicMix Photo. We’re giving people a way to tell their own story in their own words, with their own stats and now with their own professional photos,” said Rob Katz, chairman and chief executive officer of Vail Resorts. “In many ways, this is the ‘holy grail’ of social media. We have provided our guests a tool they love that allows them to easily share the amazing experiences they have at our resorts with friends and family. EpicMix isn’t just another ski or travel app, it’s become an integration of your ski day and vacation experience that enhances your on-mountain enjoyment by providing an additional digital layer that’s easy, convenient and fun.” EpicMix is available to all Vail Resorts guests who purchase any lift ticket or season pass this year. Almost every ticket and pass will be enabled with RF technology and allow guests to participate in EpicMix and the new photo functionality. Once guests get their RF-enabled pass or lift ticket, they can simply log on to http://www.epicmixphoto.comand activate their EpicMix accounts. They can then download the free EpicMix mobile app for the iPhone, Android or other smart phone. For more information and to watch a video of EpicMix, visit http://www.epicmixphoto.com.

Vail, Beaver Creek — what’s new at the resorts this season?

VAIL — Skiers have been making turns at Vail for more than 50 years now, and Vail Resorts continues to improve and upgrade its mountain infrastructure for the next generation of enthusiasts. The company is investing $110 million-$115 million in resort improvements for the 2015-16 ski season, bringing its five-year investment total to $500 million. While a large chunk of this year's investment money is going toward linking Park City and Canyons resorts in Utah, Vail Resorts continues to make upgrades and debut technology first at Vail and Beaver Creek. VAIL Debuting at Vail this season is a new and improved Chair 2, the EpicMix Time app, programs specifically for women and a Mardi Gras event with a Rocky Mountain twist. • Avanti Express Lift (Chair No. 2) at Vail was replaced for the first time since it was installed 1989. The chair is a primary lift on the front side of the mountain that is in between Vail Village and Lionshead. The new, six-person chair uses a conveyor belt to load, similar to Mountain Top Express Lift (Chair. No. 4). The new Avanti lift will improve efficiency and increase capacity by 30 percent, reducing wait times and improving circulation. Vail Resorts also announced plans to replace Sun Up Lift (Chair No. 17) in the Back Bowls for the 2016-17 season. Awaiting approval from the U.S. Forest Service, the new Sun Up Lift would be the ninth chair replacement in the past 10 years at Vail Mountain. It would also make all of the major lifts on the mountain high-speed. • Also enhancing the on-mountain experience, Vail Resorts is introducing EpicMix Time this season at both Vail and Beaver Creek. The new technology is part of the award-winning EpicMix application. EpicMix Time calculates and displays up-to-the-minute chairlift and gondola wait times. EpicMix Time is the newest addition to the app that also tracks your vertical feet, mountain conditions and provides access to EpicMix photos. After the debut of EpicMix Time this season, Vail Resorts plans to expand the technology to its other destinations, as well as add updates for on-mountain restaurants and retail stores. • Catering to the female community of skiers and snowboarders, Vail Resorts has added a new Women and Wine Friday Afternoon Club program that includes a half-day lesson ending with a glass of wine during apres; Skadi Vail Women's Ski Fest, a new event Jan. 20-22 featuring clinics, demos and VIP experiences for women only; and a new women's specific shop in Lionshead. • Bourbon Street meets Bridge Street on Feb. 6-9 with the revival of CarniVail, a Mardi Gras tribute with a Rocky Mountain twist including an on-mountain crawfish boil, a Fat Tuesday parade and more. • Vail Resorts, once again leading the ski industry, is the first to submit and develop a comprehensive summer activities plan in partnership with the U.S. Forest Service and Nature Conservancy. Epic Discovery will promote environmental education and forest stewardship through outdoor activities and interpretative programs. The primary components of Epic Discovery, set to debut in 2016, include trails and activities around the mountain, a zipline tour, Forest Flyer and an expanded trail system. The existing Adventure Ridge will be incorporated into Epic Discovery, which already provides summer tubing, challenge courses and a zipline. BEAVER CREEK The Beav' this year is boasting an expanded snowmaking refresh project, an exclusive White Carpet Club as well as a Terrain Based Learning program for new skiers and snowboarders. • Vail Resorts continues its commitment to providing world-class snow surfaces for skiers and snowboarders at Beaver Creek with the addition of fan guns on certain trails. The snowmaking refresh project began last year with 24 fully automated fan guns on the Gold Dust trail. This year, Beaver Creek has added 23 fan guns to Redtail and Centennial trails to provide luxurious snow conditions throughout the season. Three mobile carriage fan guns have also been added to the snowmaking refresh fleet at Beaver Creek. The snowmaking systems at the Beav' now cover 650 acres of terrain across the resort. • The White Carpet Club provides an exclusive on-mountain experience and is located steps away from the escalator up to Centennial Express Lift. The White Carpet Club offers a VIP experience to guests and includes lockers for storage, a boot-drying room, continental service island offering hot drinks and decadent snacks, private restrooms and an intimate lounge with cozy seating. Reservations are required. • The Beaver Creek Ski & Snowboard School is introducing Terrain Based Learning to beginners this season. This program aims to provide a seamless, natural transition while developing confidence and skills. The Terrain Based Learning program is for both children and adults looking to improve their skills. Reporter Ross Leonhart can be reached at 970-748-2915 and rleonhart@vaildaily.com. Follow him on Instagram at colorado_livin_on_the_hill.

Vail Resorts launches EpicMix Time for lift-line wait-time data

VAIL — Heading to Vail Mountain's Back Bowls is even more enticing when you know High Noon Express has a one-minute wait. Now, skiers and snowboarders can pull out their phones to check their EpicMix for even more mountain information. Tapping on the app's new EpicMix Time icon gives real-time lift-line wait-time data at the company's four Colorado resorts — Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge and Keystone. "EpicMix Time provides transparency for lift-line wait times, which helps our skiers and riders get the most out of their day on the mountain at our Colorado resorts," said Kirsten Lynch, executive vice president and chief marketing officer of Vail Resorts. The feature is easy to use, as is the whole app. It offers on-mountain conditions, challenges to try, pins to earn and a guide to follow, and keeps track of a pass holder's photos, season statistics, earned challenges, ski school accolades, race times and contact with other EpicMix participants. 'First for the ski industry' The application does put those long-looking lift lines in perspective. With many of today's high-speed chairlifts, the back-up can move through more quickly than expected. EpicMix Time takes away the guess-timating game, so skiers and riders know what wait times to really anticipate. "Providing real-time lift line wait times is a first for the ski industry," said Robert Urwiler, Vail Resorts' executive vice president and chief information officer. "We're applying unique and sophisticated analytics to calculate reliable wait time information for our guests. As the season goes on, we'll continue to fine tune the system to become more and more accurate." GPS-enabled trail maps are also paired with the lift-line wait times, designed to help skiers and riders know where they are on the map and to navigate terrain and lift lines. Stacey Pool, director of digital experience for Vail Resorts, has worked on EpicMix since it was launched in 2010. She said the intent of the app technology from the start was to really focus on "capturing those special moments on the mountain that you can share with your friends and family." Helping you have an epic time EpicMix Time is an addition to the app that is more about enjoying the day to its fullest, rather than competing with other users, and sharing the on-mountain experience with social media networks — which the pins, stats, photos, challenges and racing elements of the app are designed to encourage. Pool said in places like Vail, where there is a "massive amount of terrain," the app update helps to improve guest experience. "We really wanted to focus on reducing anxiety, and allowing people to maximize their time," she said, "and to give them transparency to know what lifts to go on, which is why we launched EpicMix Time." Update or download the free EpicMix app from the iTunes Store for Apple products, or Google Play for the Android Market.

Vail Resorts’ EpicMix website goes live

BEAVER CREEK, Colorado – Vail Resorts has announced that the EpicMix website at http://www.epicmix.com is now live in beta form and available for people to view their ski and ride experience at Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, Keystone and Heavenly mountain resorts. Also, Vail Resorts is extending the deadline to Feb. 22 for guests to activate their accounts and automatically be entered to win a prize of $100,000. Anyone with a radio frequency-enabled season pass or Peaks Lift Ticket can go to http://www.epicmix.com to register their account and view their information. Guests can call the Vail Resorts customer service line at 800-743-0242 to receive answers to their questions or report any issues. EpicMix captures the on-mountain activity of guests using the RF scanners installed at the entrance of lifts. An RF-enabled chip embedded in Vail Resorts’ season passes and PEAKS lift tickets will track guests’ lift rides, calculating vertical feet skied and days on the mountain and will recognize special achievements and accomplishments by granting guests digital pins. In early 2011, the free EpicMix mobile application, which guests can download to their iPhone, Android or other smart phone, will be available. No information collected through EpicMix will be shared unless a guest “opts in” and specifically chooses to share their information. Guests can choose to disable the RF chip in their pass to prevent any scanning. Children under 14 participating in EpicMix will have limited features and a connection only to their parents’ account.

EpicMix Racing at Beaver Creek puts your time against Lindsey Vonn’s

BEAVER CREEK — There's the heart of a champion in us all, and EpicMix Racing at Beaver Creek allows skiers and snowboarders to speed down the course and put their times against Olympian Lindsey Vonn, as well as friends and family. For skiers and boarders cruising the mountain, the racecourse provides a change of pace and a fun way to earn bragging rights with friends. "Guests have been racing the EpicMix course here at Beaver Creek for four years now," said Joe Santalla, EpicMix supervisor. "We find people love to challenge themselves on the EpicMix Race course. EpicMix Racing welcomes beginners, intermediates and experts. The course is challenging enough for experts, yet not so intimidating for an entry-level racing experience — all World Cup champions started somewhere!" It's official, so there's no excuses. A start gate triggers your time, and sensors at the finish gate end it, as announcers at the top count you down and the speakers at the bottom project your name, time and how close the racer is to a medal. "[The key is] keeping your speed on the flats up top and then carrying it through to transition," said Ryan Erts, of New York, sounding like a real pro, "and just building speed down to the bottom — and not hitting those gates on your boot." Erts, who normally skis in Vermont, finished with a time just over 32 seconds, about two seconds behind Vonn's time. "Not bad for a pair of twin tips that haven't been waxed in over a month," he said. The course is located off the Centennial Express Lift and allows for head-to-head races, and times are automatically compared to Vonn with gold, silver and bronze medals awarded based on times. Jeremy Gillman-Wells and Joanna Priest, of Canberra, Australia, are enjoying their first ski trip to Colorado with their children, Reuben, 8, and Lilla, 6. The family had already hit the Breckenridge and Keystone EpicMix Racing courses before coming to Beaver Creek on Wednesday, Feb. 15. They're collecting the different EpicMix medals as they go. "I got a silver," Reuben said. So did Lilla. Mom, on the other hand, had some trouble with the last few gates as the rest of the family waited in the finish area. "I missed it because I was filming the finish!" Jeremy said of the wipeout. EpicMix Finals EpicMix Racing costs $7 per run, or $50 for 10 runs, but don't put a price on bragging rights amongst friends. Also, the EpicMix Finals continue this season, in which all skiers and riders will be ranked on their best 10 races of the season, and the top racers from across nine resorts will be invited to a grand finale event at the end of the season. Vonn normally attends that event, and sometimes races the course. Race times, digital medals, overall leaderboards and leaderboards with just family and friends is available on the EpicMix website and app, which also tracks days on mountain, vertical feet as well as provides maps and other useful information. "It's something different," Joanna said. "The guys at the top are great. They were really friendly and nice." EpicMix Racing is open from 10:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. daily, depending on conditions. For more information, call 970-754-6229 or visit http://www.beavercreek.com. "Last season, we opened the EpicMix Racing 2 course, which allows us to keep a course open even when there are groups or special development teams using the main course," Santalla said. Reporter Ross Leonhart can be reached at 970-748-2915 and rleonhart@vaildaily.com. Follow him on Instagram at colorado_livin_on_the_hill.

Vail Resorts’ EpicMix leaves users wanting more

VAIL, Colorado – The need to ask a ski lift attendant how many days you’ve been on the mountain so far this season is now a thing of the past. EpicMix tracks it all for you, and those who have opted to use the technology are liking what it offers so far. While EpicMix launched about a week ago, many skiers and snowboarders still have no idea what it is. One skier who passed under the Epic Mix signs at Chair 2 Thursday asked, “what is EpicMix?” Epic Mix is one thing for sure – an inexpensive marketing tool for Vail Resorts. Skiers and snowboarders with season or peak passes carry around with them a radio frequency chip that scanners at every chairlift on the mountain read. It’s different from global positioning system technology, or GPS, as it can’t specifically track a skier or rider’s tracks throughout the day, but only the general areas that skier or rider goes on the mountain as scanners at the chair lifts read the chips. The link to social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter is where the genius of the idea comes into play. Vail Resorts is confident the technology will help spread Vail’s brand and message throughout those networks, essentially providing free marketing and advertising for the resort. Adam Sutner, Vail Mountain’s marketing director, said EpicMix is very much geared toward the destination market. “It’s getting tens of thousands of people to engage with our brand, even when they’re not on the mountain or in Vail,” Sutner said. “It’s aimed at creating loyalty and traction and engagement with our brand.” For locals who have opted to use the technology, it’s leaving them hungry for more. About a week in, EpicMix still hasn’t launched its mobile phone applications. “I’m waiting for it to alert me a little more,” said Kevin Heinz, of Vail. “I instantly went on the app store to download it and it wasn’t there.” Vail Resorts announced last week that the applications should be available sometime in early January. Skiers and riders like Heinz expect the applications to help connect them with friends while on the mountain, not just check out friends’ statistics at the end of the day via the EpicMix website. “Right now I can tell who’s out there and if they skied today, but I’d like to try to use it more for connecting and seeing where people are,” Heinz said. That’s what Tony Herrera, of Vail, is also hoping to do once the apps go live. He wants to find his friends on the mountain and meet up with them or see what they’re doing. For now, he’s enjoying the automatic updates to his Facebook page via EpicMix, which tell his Facebook friends where he snowboards and which virtual “pins” – awarded for certain accomplishments on the mountain – he earns each day. “It’s pretty cool. It’s definitely neat to see the vertical feet,” Herrera said. Cesar Hermosillo, who has landed himself a spot in the top 10 on the Epic Mix leaderboard, is enjoying the bragging rights that he’s getting out of EpicMix. As of Thursday, Hermosillo, of Eagle-Vail, had logged 38 days on the mountain for a total of 668,103 vertical feet. “The vertical feet (tracking) is great – I think that’s really neat,” Hermosillo said. “The thing I like about it most is it tells you what time you got on which lift and you can tell how long your runs were.” Hermosillo is also waiting anxiously for the mobile phone applications so he can see his friends who have checked in at Vail and meet up with them. “I think (Vail Resorts) has a lot they can do with it,” Hermosillo said. The skeptics have argued that the technology is too much like “Big Brother.” A Breckenridge man, Jonathan Lawson, created a plastic case for ski passes that blocks them from being scanned. The product, called the Ski Pass Defender, helps skiers and riders choose when they want their movements tracked and personal information publicly available, according to skipassdefender.com. Fans of Epic Mix like Hermosillo aren’t worried about the tracking, however. “It’s not tracking you everywhere, just at the lift line,” Hermosillo said. For some, even that is too much. Heinz said he can understand why some people might be concerned and thinks there should be an easy way to turn the chip on or off for those days that skiers and rider might want to be under the radar. “There are some days I want to ski under the radar – I don’t want to meet with my friends or be tracked by Vail,” Heinz said. “And other days I think (EpicMix) is adding to the experience.” Community Editor Lauren Glendenning can be reached at 970-748-2983 or lglendenning@vaildaily.com.