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Does the Ski Industry & Resort Marketing Need EpicMix? (pt 2)

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Yesterday I tried to answer two basic, yet tricky questions about the EpicMix phenomenon: what is it for a marketer and what is it for a skier? Today, with an idea of what EpicMix is, it’s now time to solve the rest of the riddle:

Is EpicMix something resorts should be desperate to duplicate at their mountains to “keep up” and “compete” or is this nothing more than a nifty novelty?

To answer that, let’s take a look at what it would take for you to put together such a system so we have some cost to weigh against the benefit.

Piece #1: Not a Run Tracker, but Needs Tracking
Run tracking is not the central goal, but a necessary step in order to break down the skiing experience into, as I described it yesterday, “bits of quantified story that can then be easily shared with skiers and non-skiers alike.” What EpicMix does to get this data is remarkably simple as a concept: they track when you get on a lift. That’s it.

Vert is calculated by the vertical drop of each lift you ride (what goes up must come down, right?). Points are calculated by the number of vertical feet you ski (1 point for every 200 feet + points from pins). Pins, typically, are based on combinations of days, lifts, and mountains, etc.

So, what are my options?
Let me reiterate my point: to duplicate EpicMix, the only thing you need to do is identify which lifts your skiers ride. From there you can calculate everything else. This, however, is easier said than done. Here are a few possibilities:

  • Manual: Skier takes some manual action to identify which lifts they board (through a mobile website, scanning a QR code, etc.)
  • Semi-Auto: Use the GPS in a smartphone to track location and identify where the skier goes
  • Fully-Auto: If you already scan passes and your system stores data for each pass scan, tap into that (see Express Pass below)
  • Fully-Auto: Install RFID readers at each lift to automatically scan passes (EpicMix)

The interesting thing is that many resorts are already tracking this data and are providing these stats. Mountain High, California for example has the Express Pass:

But again, EpicMix is not a run tracker. Run tracking is like crude oil. As is, it’s not that interesting. If you refine it, however, you’ve got a powerful marketing fuel.

Piece #2 – The User Interface / Game
This is the part the skiers will see. For EpicMix, access is available through both a web interface as well as a mobile app. The keys to this interface, in my opinion, are:

  1. Multiple types of statistics: so there are many ways to compete, move up the charts, be motivated to ski, and feel like you are winning
  2. Leaderboards: because skiers aren’t so concerned about their own data as much as how that data stacks up against others
  3. Fast, Easy Social Sharing: so every skier on your mountain turns into a content generating machine and brand “evangelist”

Now, the real-time data tracking is likely the biggest cost or hurdle, but another big step is deciding how your system will break down the skiing experience (pins, points, levels, etc.), how the users will earn and interact with these elements (leaderboards, pin requirements, etc.), and most importantly, how your system will share those pieces all over the web.

How hard is it to duplicate one visible part?
I hate to just talk about how “hard it is”, so I spent a few hours one weekend coding up a quick EpicMix clone. All I tried to do was recreate the stat / pins elements. Every time I got on a lift I clicked “Check In” and chose the lift I was boarding. This then stored the data, time, and lift in a database. Here’s the quick mobile site I put together for it (the bottom of the images shows my actual EpicMix dashboard):

I wrote up some rules for pins, did a little math and ended up with the exact same stats, levels, etc. on my EpicMix account. EpicMix missed a couple scans (EpicMix doesn’t give you the points after manually add those lift rides), so there is a slight discrepancy on points, but three days on the mountain later, everything else is identical. My setup above is extremely simple, but if a blogger can jimmy rig part of the system while sitting by the fire in his pajamas one Saturday morning, the actual building of this piece should be something to worry too much about.

While this is the most common part users (and the media) see, this is a small and fairly easy element to create. Try not to get too ahead of yourself by worring about this element when other parts aren’t figured out yet.

Will an App Platform Work?
I think the natural inclination when it comes to creating an EpicMix type system at your resort is to look for an app. While I love the apps that exist for tracking a skiers day on the mountains (options are everywhere: Alpine Replay (Big Sky & Sugarloaf), RTP LivePass (Park City & Whistler), or Resorts Tapped (Jackson Hole, Smugglers Notch, & Mammoth)), they aren’t really EpicMix competitors from the marketer’s point of view. These apps are awesome for skiers, very popoular, and many have some of the game mechanics, but the data never enters the assembly line that can package and share it all over the web. In other words, it doesn’t benefit the resort as a marketing tool like EpicMix.

That’s not to say these apps can’t do it. Just realize that they’ll need some tweaking.

The Grand Finale: Should You “EpicMix”-ify Your Resort?
So, the big question: should you consider EpicMix-ifying your resort? My answer would be, without hesitation, YES. Do you need to? Probably not. Just like many resorts that still run old, slow lifts, instead of high speed quads, I’m sure that resorts that don’t jump on board this concept will be okay, especially smaller mountains. However, it is clear that an EpicMix-like system can be a powerful tool for both marketing and the guest experience.

While I personally believe that RFID was chosen for a lot more than just lift scans (in my usually wrong prophetic mind, on-mountain photos are just the tip of the iceberg for what a Vail Resorts pass will allow you to do in the coming years), don’t feel you need to install RFID readers at every lift to give something like this a try. Keep it simple and be creative with the data and technology you have.

Create a system that shares the skiing, motivates them to ski, and improves the experience. Let the skiing drive the sharing. That’s what EpicMix does. Good luck.

About Gregg & SlopeFillers
I've had more first-time visitors lately, so adding a quick "about" section. I started SlopeFillers in 2010 with the simple goal of sharing great resort marketing strategies. Today I run marketing for resort ecommerce and CRM provider Inntopia, my home mountain is the lovely Nordic Valley, and my favorite marketing campaign remains the Ski Utah TV show that sold me on skiing as a kid in the 90s.

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