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Technology opens new portal in the ski industry

Janice Kurbjun
summit daily news
At Vail Resort's EpicMix site, you can see who's earned what pins and plenty of other information about the mountains and their connected skiers.
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Well, it’s done. You can now find yours truly on EpicMix and track how many vertical feet my Misdemeanors log on Vail Resorts’ slopes.

The process was simple, really. What took me so long to get signed up was vanity – Vail Resorts uploads my pass photo automatically, but that picture is as flattering as a photo taken at the end of a long night at the Moose Jaw.

For those of you who aren’t tuned in by now, EpicMix is Vail Resorts” new, proprietary application that allows passholders to log their vertical feet at Breckenridge, Beaver Creek, Keystone, Heavenly and Vail, earn points and digital pins accordingly and share it all with their friends via Facebook and Twitter. Passes contain a radio-frequency chip that capture on-mountain activity using the RF scanners at lift entrances.



I know, I know. Three days of skiing at Keystone, one at Breckenridge, with just 22,933 vertical feet? I only have a handful of pins, too. As of the time of writing, that puts me at 13 percent of the all-mountain leaderboard. Shawn C. is the all-mountain leader, who visits Vail most often, has 52 pins and nearly 13,000 points (compared to my 623).

Apparently, I’m not as obsessed as some. Keystone public relations guy Ryan Whaley says he’s addicted.



“As soon as I get off the slopes, I come back to the computer to check my vertical feet,” he said.

He adds that smartphone users should stay tuned for the free EpicMix mobile application that complements the online version – to be released this month with platforms for the Android and the iPhone. It’s all accessible at http://www.epicmix.com.

Getting EpicMix set up has been part of a project of bringing myself up-to-date on ski industry technology – in which I’ve found all kinds of cool stuff to share. Like the Tag Reader. I’ve been paging through magazines all my life and never noticed those little boxes with the art deco-style designs on the advertising pages. Apparently, they’ve started to storm the market as a way to connect smartphone users to the product being promoted. Just scan the tag, load it in the free application, and the phone navigates to the appropriate page. Similar apps exist for many phone platforms.



The tags can be anywhere – magazines, brochures, product packaging, signs, storefronts. They access videos, promotions, exclusive offers, more information and more.

Killington used it in SKI magazine for a buy-one, get-one ticket offer. Ski Utah provided more information on its White Sale using the digital connection. In Outside Magazine, Aspen Snowmass wanted users to book lodging where kids stay free.

“If the user has to (type) a long URL into a phone, you lose them because they don’t want to do it,” said Dave Amirault, interactive marketing manager with Aspen Skiing Company. “If they can just snap and go and download, it’s a lot easier.”

And he’s taking it further, to create content-rich and on-mountain experiences for guests.

“It’s not just a photo. It’s a video. People can connect and share,” he said.

In this project, I came across various ski- and snowboard-related game applications. I came across spectacular-looking 3D trail maps that made me want to look beyond the phone’s screen and take in the actual scenery surrounding me. I came across resort-specific applications, such as the GPS applications at Vail, Alta, Snowbird and Aspen. I even came across a ski waxing how-to, OnTheSnow’s gear guide and the ski trip planner.

But I’m a fan of the oldie-but-goodie: the free ski and snow report from skireport.com, which gives you snowfall by favorite resort and by powder amounts as well as weather and webcam visuals for participating resorts. It’s been downloaded from Android-apps.com more than 50,000 times, to give you some measure of its popularity for skiers and riders. And that’s just Android users.

But a seeming synthesis of all of the sought-after features in ski applications was Navionics’. Released in late 2010, the application is a result of a partnership between Völkl, Marker and Navionics to release a ski application for the iPhone that’s akin to EpicMix but on a grander scale and with more marketing tie-ins.

It has 490 U.S. and Canada ski area maps, snow and weather conditions, and information on each area’s trails, lifts, ticket offices, rentals, lodges, ski schools and more. The application boasts searching for recommended trails (the location flashes on screen, showing you where to go relative to where you are) as well as the ability to track your speed, vertical feet and distance skied. It mimics EpicMix in making the connection to Facebook and Twitter to enable the ability to share your feats. However, it’s currently only available through the iTunes store and costs $2.99.


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