Does Epic Mix = Epic Added Value…Revenue?

September 8, 2010

EpicMix could certainly result in a better user experience while skiing at a Vail Resort.  The inclusion of game mechanics (leaderboard for difficult runs, amount of vertical skied, number of runs, etc) was a no brainer. The ability to create and shareUser Generated Content (videos, pictures) via the app was obvious as well. This initiative is undoubtedly in the early stages, however this is a big launch and the potential is huge.  I can’t wait to see where they go from here.

Currently the functionality seems a bit limited, which is not surprising as cell phone coverage to GPS phones can be spotty at best on the slopes.  Hence Vail opted out of partnering with a Gowalla or Foursquare and instead are going it alone.  From what I have read, your “Peaks” or season pass is scanned at the bottom of each chair.  Vail has been “passively” doing this for some time now.  What the new Epic Mix app does is record this information and make it accessible and interactive.

According to Chris Dannen of BNet, “In Two Years, Facebook Places Will Look Like This App,” and this offers “a preview of what bigger real-life social networks will look like soon.”

Granted, Vail might not have an exact monetization strategy, as Mike Slone, Interactive Director at Vail Resorts recently tweeted, “The list is long for future functionality and integrations, enhancements will be based on user needs, focus groups.”  The opinions I’ve seen online seem to be that it will be a while until Vail sees an ROI.

There is no doubt Epic Mix will add tremendous value to the user experience at Vail Resorts.  My question is, what incremental value will this app add in terms of revenue?  How many season pass renewals will be a result of using this app?  How many increased skier days will result because of this app.  How many new visitors will be a result of shared UGC from this app? R-O-I.

I believe the real bread and butter will come from skiers sharing their experience.  Many folks visit ski resorts to get away from the Internet, social networks, their computer, and  maybe even their phone.  Make it easy to share, incentivize them to do so, and you could create a powerful sales tool.  One of the cheapest marketing avenues out there is word of mouth and creating an effective virus on the social graph.

Vail Resort Marketing folks have said themselves that video is the most effective tool to sell their product.  How about a video of someone you know having an experience you would like to have?  Or a wipe-out video that goes viral? OR a Dumb and Dumber-ish tongue stuck to cold chairlift video?

The new social networkers and gamers will come to expect, and enjoy some of the same online Social Network attributes in an offline environment. Think of all the travel/resort/lodging companies that will follow in order to drive engagement and loyalty.  The new tools are awesome- Loyalty Programs, Leaderboards, Upsells, UGC, etc.  How about combining those with major brand sponsorship (K2, Burton, NorthFace, etc)??

I do find it suprising no one has mentioned the ski apps that currently exist.  Is that because not many can touch the distribution/download volume that Vail Resorts will be able to have?  Here’s an idea- put up one cell tower so everyone has GPS coverage and then buy Phresheez, which (gasp) actually tells you which runs you were on!

As I said, with EpicMix the potential is huge. To realize that potential the ease of sharing and incentive to do so will ultimately lead to successful social marketing.  If successful that social marketing drives skier days and lodging bookings.

Eric Hoffman has a good blog post about the App.

There has also been a good amount of press and reviews from:

Mashable

CNET

Switch.com

RFID Journal

BNET

Snowfeeds.com briefly touches upon the privacy of “being tracked.”  (Honestly a big part of me hitting the slopes is to escape technology, screens, and the internet.)

I like how Aspen: Skollie Magazine wrote:

“…consider the emotional effects. If a visitor has a positive experience with EpicMix, it translates to brand loyalty. The app sits on your mobile desktop all year, and that may be enough to make a person book a trip to the same destination next winter. The more visits, stats, and pins that you acquire, the more devoted you become to that resort. Terrain, amenities, and culture will remain the key factors, but this is an extra amenity that some people may require.”

Have an opinion about Purgatory (@SkiPurg) and voice it to a newspaper, lose pass!

December 9, 2009

Now this is just silly.  How can a ski resort be so sensitive?  On a call to the resort’s general manager, Lauren Slaff of Durango (as reported in a Durango Herald article on Oct 2), “expressed concern that DMR’s new operating schedule” reduced the amount of ski days for locals.

In my humble opinion the resort could have taken the (much) higher road and simply acknowledged her concerns, possibly taken them into account, thank her for expressing them, and move on!  Ahhem, someone needs some lessons in customer service.  Also a lack of communication, revoking the pass (refunding the cost) and notifying her via a letter sent via mail.  Weak.

….Funny I didn’t see any tweets from @skipurg on this one.

You can find the whole article here, and here is all you need to read:

talk trash, lose pass

Jackson Hole steps up to the plate with a new iPhone app

October 8, 2009

A new iPhone application has hit the street from Jackson Hole Mtn resort and Resort Tapped LLC called “JH Tapped”.  According to the press release, the app “uses the iPhone’s built-in GPS to locate the user and their friends on the official Jackson Hole trail map and log the user’s runs and vertical feet travelled.”

It is incredibly exciting to see a resort take a leap to have their own app developed, versus attempting to integrate into an existing application that includes all ski resorts (like REI’s).  Those applications can not possibly offer the customization and localized content that having an app for your specific resort can have.  Every other ski resort out there should take note, and my money is on Park City or Aspen/Snowmass to have the next resort-specific apps released.  JH Tapped is customized and also “provides current weather and snow conditions, resort webcam views, and real-time lift status information, as well as a built-in directory for Teton Village services and amenities.”  Chuh-ching,  I can hear the cash register ringing!

Additional planned features include “an interface for uploading logs to Facebook and enhanced location capabilities that use the iPhone’s built-in compass to display the direction the user is facing or travelling.”  What the f%^&??  My buddy is skiing uphill?!

Making this social with the ability to quickly upload info to the social networks is fantastic, and will only add to the success of this app.

What I find very interesting is how this app enhances an “offline” experience.  If you use a restaurant finding app, for example, it doesn’t necessarily mean you will have a good experience at the restaurant.  What type of apps exist for Disneyworld, Great America, etc?  Again, ski resorts take note.

The apps that simply offer resort conditions (REI or the NorthFace) won’t quite cut it.  How many locations exist where a skier decides (amongst numerous resorts) where they will ski that day based on conditions?  Only two come to mind immediately- Tahoe or Summit County.

Conditions alone won’t make for a good app.  Apps with detailed, customized, localized content, plus the ability to share via networks show a lot of promise.

Price Check! early-bird discounted 09/10 pass prices

August 27, 2009

What are season pass rates looking like for the ’09/10 season?

Take a look, these are all unlimited no blackouts

Whistler Blackcomb $1,099 to Oct 12 (incentive: 2 winter olympic medal ceremony tixs)

Aspen Snowmass $1499 to Sept 18

Vail (+5 other hills, and a sh*teload of traffic on I-70) $599 *can upload pic online

Squaw $1299 to Oct 15th

Alpine Meadows $1099 to Sept 30th (incentivized with a pair of Moment Ruby or Tahoe skis)

Alta $999 to Sept 30th

Park City $1250 to Oct. 15th

the FreshPOW iphone App

August 19, 2009

The FreshPOW application for your mobile phone is used like this:

You arrive at your favorite resort and from a dropdown select the resort you are about to ski.
US>CO>ASPEN-HIGHLANDS

And in return you get something like this:

1. real time chairlift status: is the lift running full speed, slow, or stopped? Green, Yellow and Red have worked for a while now….
2. at the selected chairlist, a list of other (selected?) skiers that are close to or on that lift
3. whether certain terrain is open (gates lowered?!)
4. a grooming report (for those bombing days when you seek freshcord)
5. weather (satellite?) is a storm with FreshPOW on the way in?!
6. apres hot spots, deals, live tunes, hot tub locations

Perhaps #3 is not a good idea, I’ve always found 1) the journey to get there can be fun, and if you’re on the way to good terrain, and happen to sniff out (the Dumps in ATown) some open terrain then you should be rewarded.

Might only be useful at huge mega-resorts like…….vail, snowmass?  Maybe being on the slopes should be an “off the grid” experience, however I would love to be making laps on 3 hour break from the workday, and know just where I want to go.

Who’s got my APP?

Resorts on twitter

August 13, 2009

Found an interesting blog today written by Eric Hoffman, who is the Interactive Marketing Manager at Park City Mountain Resort.  It is interesting to hear how he is leveraging some of the new online marketing channels to market the resort.

Of particular interest (at least right now while it is incredibly prevalent) are the resorts on twitter.  What are they doing on there, what is their strategy, what are they tweeting about?

I’m following many of them, and will have more to say once the tweets pick up in the Winter months.  How about tweeting chairlift status so guests know when to go where?  This could be very helpful with “backbowls” and other areas that take a couple chair rides to get to….however this also might bite resorts in the ass if a certain chair is down often.

image is from @bwoodsdesign who has a self described "Geek Pass"

image is from @bwoodsdesign who has a self described "Geek Pass"

Here is a completely biased, filtered list. Not surprised to find my ex-employer Mt. Hood Meadows not taking advantage of twitter)

CA
@skialpine Alpine Meadows
@MammothMountain Mammoth Mountain
@skisugarbowl Sugar Bowl
@tskifeed Lake Tahoe Ski Feed (thanks @Smash)
@SquawValley1960 Squaw Valley
@kirkwoodmtn Kirkwood (thanks @freshpow)

CO
@arapahoe_basin
Arapahoe Basin (updated 6/23/09, thanks @martin001)
@WinterPark Winter Park
@steamboatinfo Steamboat (snow report feed)
@skisteamboat Steamboat (more of a ‘town’ account)
@aspensnowmass Aspen Snowmass (thanks @martin001)
@SilvertonMtn Silverton Mountain (1 update)
@ColoradoSkiUSA Colorado Ski Country
@vailmtn Vail
@keystonemtn Keystone
@beavercreekmtn
Beaver Creek
@breckenridgemtn Breckenridge
@monarchmountain Monarch Mountain
@Telluride Telluride Ski Resort
@CopperMtn Copper Mountain
@LovelandSkiArea Loveland Ski Area
@skicrestedbutte Crested Butte Mountain Resort (thanks @Ryan Jordi)
@vailresortsnews Vail Resorts’ PR news account (thanks @Kelly)

ID
@visitsunvalley Sun Valley CVB
@jhupdates Jackson Hole
@SunValleyResort Sun Valley Resort
@Grand_Targhee Grand Targhee Resort

OR
@mtbachelor
Mt Bachelor
@timberlinelodge
Timberline (thanks @chaserules)
@skior
Ski Oregon

UT
@pcski Park City Mountain Resort
@thecanyons The Canyons
@skisolitude Solitude
@brightonresort @brightonparks Brighton (thanks @grant for @brightonparks)
@skiutahyeti SkiUtah
@SundanceUT Sundance Resort
@PowMow Powder Mountain
@SnowbirdSki Snowbird Ski & Summer Resort

WA
@mtspokane Mt Spokane
@mtbakerski Mt Baker Ski Area

WY
@jhski Jackson Hole Mountain Resort

Canada

BC
@grousemountain Grouse Mountain
@redresort Red Mountain (thanks @martin001)
@WhistlerBlckcmb Whistler Blackcomb
@skifernie Fernie Alpine Resort
@MountWashington Mount Washington Alpine Resort
@SunPeaksResort Sun Peaks Resort

AB
@Reality_in_Banf Banff/Lake Louise Tourism (thanks @Jenn)
@SkiLouise Lake Louise Ski Area

QC
@MontTremblant Mont Tremblant (Tweeting in English and French!)

Shaun White does Marketing well

August 2, 2009

Shaun White is an exceptional athlete, a great brand ambassador, and spokesman at the same time. Not only that, but he has Event Marketing down using twitter all in one tweet.

@Shaun_White: Tomorrow at 3pm I’ll tweet a question. First 3 people to get to the X Games Oakley Lab at Depot Center with answer will win my sunglasses! 6:32 PM Jul 31st from web

He effectively promotes his personal brand, incentivizing his twitter followers (tweeps) to stay engaged with the @Shaun_White brand.  On top of that, he is getting attendees to show up at a specific place and time, a sponsors booth (where engagement really happens with a physical product).

Of course he follows it up with this tweet

@Shaun_White: Congratulations to the guys that won my new Jupiter sunglasses at Xgames today!
about 13 hours ago from TwitterBerry

From a SportsBusiness Daily article, “his  ‘instinct for pushing sponsors into new ideas and new territory is becoming part of White’s value.'”

Now that is a great boost to the Oakley booth at the espn XGames

yes I know he’s a snowboarder, but…….Tanner Hall is not the Marketing force Shaun is simply because skiing doesn’t have the mainstream popularity as snowboarding and skateboarding?

FreshPow is falling…..into the blogosphere

July 29, 2009

Gonna get my FreshPOW on here, we’ll see how long this lasts…….