Vail Resorts to launch location-based technology
August 30, 2010
VAIL, Colorado – Vail Resorts wants its skiing and snowboarding guests to get “in the mix” with a new technology that will track passholders all over the mountain.
The technology, EpicMix, debuts this winter at all 89 chairlifts throughout the company’s five resorts. Radio frequency scanners installed at all of the chairlifts will communicate with the radio frequency chips already located in season passes, allowing skiers and snowboarders to know exactly where they’ve been during the ski day and also track their friends and family members.
Vail Resorts has been heavily involved in social media, especially within the last year. Chief Executive Officer Rob Katz said social media is a way for people to communicate, and it fits in perfectly with skiing and snowboarding.
People love talking about how many runs they did, what the weather was like, which runs had the best powder and just about the ski day in general, Katz said.
“Talking about the day becomes a big part of the ski vacation and the ski experience,” Katz said. “We’ve been trying to find ways to let people engage in that dialogue, but not interfere with the experience.”
The technology doesn’t require any new gadgets or digging through your pockets, Katz said. Vail Resorts is describing the technology as a cross between Nike + and Gowalla because it tracks physical activity and has a social gaming aspect with reward pins for milestones and location-based accomplishments.
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Skiers and snowboarders can choose to be as involved in the technology as they want. Passholders can choose to use the technology by signing onto their online EpicMix accounts via the Internet or smartphone application, which will show daily statistics like how many vertical feet each person has skied or which lifts they rode that day.
Those who choose to link the technology to Twitter or Facebook can receive reward pins such as the High Five pin, given for riding the High Noon Express lift at Vail five times, or the Bachelor pin for two rides on the Bachelor Gulch lift.
The technology also tracks how many days a person skis or rides, and it can link Facebook friends or Twitter followers to each other so friends can find each other on the mountain or communicate about on-mountain experiences like lift lines or powder runs.
EpicMix will also allow people to send messages to all of their Facebook friends or Twitter followers who are also on the mountain that day, Katz said.
“If you choose, you can have status updates automatically generated,” Katz said.
As for privacy concerns, Katz said the information belongs to each individual and they don’t have to choose to share it via social media sites like Facebook or Twitter. Vail Resorts already knew when skiers and snowboarders were riding the mountain in previous seasons because that information is recorded when passes are scanned, he said.
Those who don’t want to be tracked via the technology have to disable the radio frequency chip in their passes. Katz said people don’t have to access the online account, either, although those folks will still be tracked via the chips in their passes unless they disable the technology.
“We’re going to know you’re there anyway if we scan you, so does it really matter how many lifts you went on? Is that a privacy issue? We don’t think that it is,” Katz said.
The company will not share the information with third parties, and Katz said it’s up to individuals to choose how much or how little they want to use the technology.
Katz said the beauty of it is that the ski experience for those who aren’t interested in using the technology won’t be impeded. Those people can still ski just as they’ve always done, and they won’t notice any changes, he said.
He sees EpicMix as a way to extend the ski experience beyond the ski day, and also beyond the ski vacation. People can now look at the runs they did weeks later, just like looking at photographs, Katz said.
“It increases the connection between the resort and our guests,” Katz said.
EpicMix is also a way for Vail Resorts to connect with a new generation of skiers and snowboarders – Generation Y and the Millenials.
“Social media is not just about kids anymore,” Katz said.
Community Editor Lauren Glendenning can be reached at 970-748-2983 or firstname.lastname@example.org.