You could keep your pass in your pocket |

You could keep your pass in your pocket

Dominique Taylor/Vail DailyVail Resorts is testing new pass sensors at the base of the Vista Bahn in Vail Village that would scan ski passes through clothes.

VAIL ” Starting next year, you might not have to dig your pass out of your jacket at the start of your ski day anymore.

Vail Mountain is testing new technology that could allow passes to be scanned through clothes, whether it’s in a pocket or around your neck.

The RFID, or radio frequency identification, technology senses a chip that would be embedded in ski passes.

Vail’s ski instructors and ski patrollers are already testing the technology in a pilot program this year, said Robert Urwiler, chief technology officer for Broomfield-based Vail Resorts.

Urwiler said the goal is to make things easier for skiers.

“Anything we can do to help enhance the guest experience is a good thing,” he said.

The most conspicuous element of the pilot program at Vail is the RFID antennae that are mounted on several ski lifts this year. The speaker-looking devices hang over the spot where skiers get onto the lifts on the Vista Bahn, Chair 3 and Chair 4.

Those antennae, which detect passes but wouldn’t be used to check them, could ultimately be mounted on all of Vail’s lifts. They would give the resort information about skier patterns on the mountain ” where skiers go when.

“We would know how crowds move across the mountain,” Urwiler said. “How to groom and when to groom. Where we want Yellow Jackets. Where we need ski patrollers.”

Urwiler said the company isn’t interested in tracking individuals with the technology.

Vail Resorts hopes to expand the technology to all of its resorts, Urwiler said.

Other ski resorts, both in North America and Europe, already use radio frequency identification.

Alta in Utah went to RFID technology this year, using gates at the lifts that open when the antennae sense an approaching skier who has a valid pass.

“It’s been very well received by the skiing public,” said Connie Marshall, spokeswoman for Alta.

Skiers were getting frustrated that they had to have their passes checked every time they got on a lift, Marshall said. Skiers wanted lifties to recognize them without checking the passes, but regulations dictated that everyone get checked every time, she said.

“At times, it became just a problem, confrontational,” Marshall said.

Marshall said the new technology hasn’t seemed out of place at Alta, a resort known for putting the “skiing experience” above all amenities ” including technology.

“Ultimately it’s the ski experience that our core skiers are after, and that hasn’t changed,” she said.

Urwiler said Vail wouldn’t use the automatic gates, and will continue to have people scanning tickets.

“It’s part of that personal touch,” he said.

Staff Writer Edward Stoner can be reached at 748-2929 or

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