One of America's largest ski resort companies is hoping to make the sport even more social this season, with a location-based gaming app it's calling Epic Mix
, owners of Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, Keystone and Heavenly resorts in Colorado and California debuted the mobile and web-based application today at a press event at the Ace Hotel
When the mountains open in November, Epic Mix will allow visitors to the resorts to track the runs they completed, log their vertical feet as a score, unlock achievement 'Pins' and access several utilities, both in iPhone and Android apps and at epicmix.com
The project combines lots of location-based service
elements; rewards for varied experience, social sharing of vertical feet in a leaderboard
Perhaps the most interesting feature of the Epic Mix tracking system is it works on the RFID
chips in skiiers' passes. There's no fumbling with your phone on the lift to check in to a run. When your pass is scanned at the lift, you're checked in, and no constant GPS contact and battery drain is required, like North Face
's Trailhead iPhone app
The effort began several years ago when RFID chips came into the mix, and made their way into the reloadable hard plastic passes customers could load their lift tickets into, say Mike Sloane, Vail's director of marketing, online marketing and sales.
'It's like Nike+
, but bringing in elements of traditional ski history', Sloane says. '[Skiing has] always been a social experience, its a natural thing. Soda brands have to come up with something social that's interesting, but we've always been social, this is something that's grown out of that'.
Sloane's team worked with agency Crispin Porter + Bogusky
in Boulder which developed the external web design elements, and Odin Technologies
, which developed the robust RFID capabilities the mountains will need for the extreme weather shifts.
The passive tracking system is the crux of the offering. Vail Resorts CEO Rob Katz
says that's what's keeping the effort in line with the leisure branding of the company.
Where the often fatiguing points race of the game economy
may put a cramp on your downtime, here Vail is tabulating it all for you so you only have to log in after-hours and brag about your accomplishments or relive the memories.
'We didn't want people to have to do any check-ins, to pull the phone out of their pocket when they're skiing', Katz says.
Katz points to data from millennial
skiers as evidence
'getting away from it all' no longer means leaving the phone at home. 'We really feel lke this is going to give people a whole new experience and extends their connection with our mountain because they're going to be able to relive their time with us'.
Linking your Facebook
accounts lets you compare the pins, like 'Pow Hound', you've won with your friends, see who's logged the most days or vertical feet, even see where on the mountain your friends were and message them to see snow conditions or set a meetup point. Kids 13 and under get their own site, where parents can monitor their location on the mountain. At the moment, though, despite unlocking achievements and earning pins, Vail isn't offering coupons for activity on the Epic Mix platform.
'This is more about recognition', Katz says. 'This isn't an advertising model for us. It's coming from our IT and mountain operations teams, like if we were opening a new lift or restaurant'. The cross-department collaboration ensures this isn't entirely a marketing effort, Katz says, but rather an investment in the company's infrastructure.
Katz fielded questions about potentials like licensing the technology to other resorts, developing off-mountain scanning to check-in at area businesses or apres ski
hot spots and using the data as a CRM platform as possible future options.
Additionally he mentioned promoting the platform by tracking ski celebrities like Lindsey Vonn
or athletes from promotional tours like Mountain Dew
's Winter Dew Tour
, much like Nike
's Ellie Runs
As for the impact on Vail's traditional marketing efforts, well, 'We don't do as much traditional anything anymore'.Vail Resorts