Vail Resort’s CEO Rob Katz talks about their EpicMix social media application

Posted By: The Ski Channel on March 18, 2011 3:00 pm

Vail Resorts’ EpicMix is the revolutionary new online and mobile application that allows skiers and snowboarders to digitally capture and share their ski and ride experience at Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, Keystone, Northstar-at-Tahoe and Heavenly.  All you need to do is Get a pass, hit the slopes, capture your experience then connect and share with your friends.

Now that the program has been running all winter, we decided it was time to ask Vail Resorts CEO, Rob Katz, why they chose to do it and how he feels about the results.

“Social media channels like Facebook and Twitter have become the new way for people to communicate, share information and connectwith friends and family,” said Katz. “Skiing and snowboarding have always been about sharing your experiences on the mountain and talking with friends and family about the great runs you took or remembering a powder day. We wanted to develop an application for our guests that marries the very real “social” experience of skiing and riding with the fun and sense of sharing created by location-based social media, making it accessible to everyone.”

“We’re thrilled with the results and the positive feedback we’ve received from our guests about EpicMix. People are really excited to log onto at the end of the day or check their stats on their phones to see what level they are at and what pins they’ve earned.”

So how has the response been?

“We’ve been pleasantly surprised that we’ve had nearly a 20 percent activation rate for our guests creating EpicMix accounts to our Colorado resorts – across all age levels when the technology industry standard for a new application activation rate is roughly one to three percent. We’re looking forward to offering EpicMix at Northstar-at-Tahoe next season and continuing to elevate the user experience with EpicMix for our guests.”

So how does it work you ask?  EpicMix automatically captures the activity of guests throughout each of its resorts by leveraging Vail Resorts’ state-of-the-art radio frequency (RF) scanners that have been installed at each of its 89 lifts across all five mountain resorts. An RF-enabled chip embedded in Vail Resorts’ season passes and PEAKS lift tickets will automatically track guests’ lift rides, calculating vertical feet skied and days on the mountain, and will recognize special achievements and accomplishments by granting guests commemorative, collectible digital pins. EpicMix will have hundreds of available digital pins for a multitude of unique experiences available at each resort.  EpicMix is about exploration and interaction and there is no full list of pins posted anywhere.  They give hints from time to time on their blog –  Check out the FAQ page for answers to other questions you may have.

EpicMix will allow guests the choice to “opt in” and share their statistics and accomplishments through updates on Twitter and Facebook and guests can create special EpicMix leader boards with their Facebook friends. The free EpicMix mobile application, which guests can download to their iPhone, Android or other smart phone, will alert guests when any of their Facebook friends are skiing and where they are on the mountain. The application will also allow guests to send messages to their private groups of Facebook friends on the mountain. The mobile application will also provide trail and grooming information, snow and weather reports, as well as resort news and traffic updates. EpicMix will also have a special website for kids under the age of 14, which will allow them to connect with their parents’ accounts, but will have content designed specifically for them and unique pins only kids can earn. The kids’ site also will have special privacy restrictions. Parents will also be able to use EpicMix to track the lift rides of their kids in real time.

This season you would have been automatically entered into the EpicMix Holiday contest  where $100,000 was up for grabs just for activating your EpicMix account. Marcus DeBergh, a 27 year old New York resident on spring break from physician’s assisstant school, won the prize and didn’t even respond to emails and phone calls because he thought it was a prank.  

“I found out with an email yesterday but I didn’t quite believe it or three other emails until this morning,” DeBergh said.  ”I pulled into the Vail parking garage and I figured I’d make a phone call before getting out into the beautiful blue sky day.  Yeah, it’s for real. I’m so just taken aback.”

He logged 15 days at Vail Resorts and skied 213,924 vertical feet acquiring 27 pins and 2,732 points along the way.  When asked how he would spend the money he said, “I’ve been told I should invest it, which country I should invest it in, what new gear to buy, and even that I should purchase a barrel of oil,” he said. “My mom also said she wanted a new Mercedes.”

Watch a video of DeBergh celebrating at Vail.

The last few years have been banner for Vail Resorts as they have been acquiring resorts, ancillary resort businesses and digital businesses.