Ski Industry events and milestones Archives

Ski resorts are turning on their snow guns and will soon turn on their RF guns.  We will be ski and riding soon. When looking at these gantries, I don’t think I would refer to the RFID scanners as “Gun Cases”, but I would assume the marketing departments know what they are doing.  Right?  You can be the judge.

Snow.com states, "Epicmix Fact: did you know that each pod on the gantry structure is a gun case?"

Snow.com states, "Epicmix Fact: did you know that each pod on the gantry structure is a gun case?"

I wonder if anyone in the marketing meetings voiced their opinions regarding potential security concerns or the desire to not have their movements cataloged.  And if so, was the statement given back to the dissenter something like this, “Our terms of use restricting access go beyond Federal Law and current industry standards”.  Did they think the people who knew about this data collection care about industry standards or federal law?  There is not even a state law which prohibits the tracking of individuals without their consent (although the State Government in California is in the process of passing one).  Did they think the issue of privacy and personal tracking would just go away?  And as importantly, didn’t just one person in that meeting say, “Hey we are people with identities too.  Let’s do the right thing and make it easy for people to truly opt-out of corporate data gathering whenever they want to do so.”  Well, I did.  And this was my story as reported by Bob Berwyn of the Summit County Citizen’s Voice.  The story is also being picked up in Europe by PlanetSki

A Ski Pass Defender for every mood (Phantom model pictured)

A Ski Pass Defender for every mood (Phantom model pictured)

As more ski areas from around the world move to RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) they will start to store more information on that chip.  Sometimes it is benign lift pass information.  Other companies will use it to track your usage data and categorize you in a group or groups.  Some resorts may choose to store critical information or a key which can unlock a database of information at a POS (Point-of-Sale) terminal.  As Ski resorts and corporations grow their usage of RFID the individual is at the mercy of a CIO (Chief Information Officer) and CMO (Chief Marketing Officer).

I prefer to to have tighter controls on what information I expose.

Hacking of RFID is not that tough.  And cloning of your ski pass information isn’t either.  A few bucks, and a little desire can snag your RFIDentification.

I use Ski Pass Defender, and I prefer to ski and ride UNTRACKED.

EpicMix by Vail Resorts is a game changer

On August 30th, 2010 Vail Resorts announced EpicMix. This feature, which comes included in all RFID enabled passes, will link you with your virtual persona. This shall collect data and store it in Vail’s servers, soon to be a server farm I imagine.  With the acceptance and adoption of Social Gaming (Farmville, Bejeweled), and the advent of Geolocation/Geotagging offerings such as Foursquare and Facebook Places, Vail Resorts has developed a fantastic integrated product, and one which will be compelling to use.  It shall be social networking “candy” to the active person.  Skiers and riders shall be advertising their accomplishments, while Vail gets to advertise across social media platforms.  The guest shall be able to register themselves with the click of an “Allow” button.

In 1995, I spoke with the marketing heads of Breckenridge, Squaw Valley, and Vail. The topic regarded a company in which I started and how they could use it.  It was a web-based company which enabled prospective students to find the right Ski and Ride instructor for them.  My company was called SkiPros.com, it has now morphed into MySnowPro.com.  At that time, and several years after they said, “No” they don’t see a commercial use for the internet, nor did they see how they could generate ROI.  Oh, boy how things have changed.

Vail Resorts has come with a tour de force of social media, skier/rider statistics, friend logistics/locations, etc. within this platform.  It has been a long time coming, but it is here and will be developed.

The EpicMix features to the guest are vast:

  • Automatically tracking data of vertical feet, days on the mountain
  • Digital pins for special achievements
  • Mobile phone integration
  • Social Media platform integration
  • Coordinating with friends on the slope
  • Weather Reports & Traffic updates
  • Integrated EpicMix website for adults and juniors
  • Keeping track of lost children and members of a group

The EpicMix  has a phone app for iPhone and Android phones.  Are you ready for lunch special alerts being sent to your phone?  Would you like to have alerts sent to you based on your ski terrain preferences? I have little doubt that these shall come too. Many people may.

In short, it will be a fun product for many guests.

As for privacy concerns, resort spokesmen say that the information belongs to each individual and they don’t have to choose to share it via social media sites like Facebook or Twitter. The resort already knew when skiers and snowboarders were riding the mountain in previous seasons because that information is recorded when passes are scanned.

As for my general industry-wide privacy concerns, there are MANY and I will address just a few here.

  1. RFiD allows a resort to know if you are riding on the mountain on a given day,  but they don’t know where you ski during the course of your day.  There used to be scanners only on the base mountain lifts.
  2. A resort using a resort charge type system has the ability to know where you eat and what you eat. Now it can be easily linked.
  3. The information is your own…. And the resort’s as well!
  4. With several scanners linked, speed of skier can be determined.
  5. Which secret run did you ski? If there is a sensor, you can be tracked.
  6. Where and how much did a person ski/ride? Now this information is cataloged and archived for later retrieval.
  7. Playing hooky from work, or taking a break from your work day… if you are linked to Social Media,  everybody knows.
  8. Autonomy on the mountain.
  9. The more scanners placed around the mountain, the more you will be tracked.

The list goes on for me.

I like skiing with friends, and if they can find me easily that would be great.

Squeezed to read, release to ride technology

Squeezed to read, release to ride technology

And if they are my friends they probably have my cell phone number and they can text or call.  But on many days I don’t want to be found or tracked.  I would like to have an easy way to use the RFID enabled Lift Ticket, as a lift ticket only.

Push a button (even through clothing) and let it be scanned.  Release the button and have the RFID blocked.  I just want to enjoy a day on the mountain to relax and get away from it all. With the new system, that is impossible without completely disabling the RFID chip in the pass.

The SkiPassDefender Classic allows me to place my pass in the defender and use the pass as I intend it to be used.  As a lift ticket.  If I have the option to ski “Tracked” or “Untracked”, I prefer to ski untracked!

Jonathan Lawson has been an expert in the field of Identity Theft Risk Management since 2005.  Mr. Lawson has held dozens of education seminars for minors, adults, and seniors regarding identity theft and risk mitigation.

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