Vail Resorts’ EpicMix leaves users wanting more
December 31, 2010
VAIL, Colo. – 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.
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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.”