Protect your RFID ski pass.

The Ski Pass Defender protects your RFID ski pass from being scanned, read or skimmed, until you want to get on the lift.

New ski passes and lift tickets contain tiny two way radios called RFID chips. RFID Readers can access your personal information and track your movements.

  • Protect your personal information
  • Prevent card readers from tracking you
  • Patented easy to use Squeeze to Read Technology

In April 2008, I had heard some of the industry rumblings with regard to RFID for guest tracking and speed control.  Steamboat Springs had offered family tracking for families for a fee. There have been on-mountain speed control tests done at several other resorts.

 Easy Squeeze to Read technology. Allows the pass to read through clothing

Easy Squeeze to Read technology. Allows the pass to read through clothing

Ski Pass Defender - Phantom Model

Then, two years later in April 2010, I figured it would just me a matter of time before our lift passes could be used for the same thing.  I came up with the idea for SkiPassDefender.  On August 30, 2010 Vail Resorts announced EpicMix.  My business was deemed to have been standing in the way of the Vail Resorts initiative.  I was given a choice: End my business, continue to work as a ski instructor, and abide by “certain rules”;  Or after 17 years of service for Breckenridge, and an trainer of instructors for 11 years, I would not be hired back to teach skiing for Breckenridge or Vail Resorts.  I searched my conscience, and chose to offer people the easiest way to control which information is shared and cataloged while on the mountain.  RFID technology is not a fad.  It will be adopted by a majority of ski areas around the world.  Ironically, I don’t see the SkiPassDefender as competition to the Vail Resorts EpicMix initiative.  It is simply a way to give the skier or rider the freedom to choose to be tracked or untracked from day to day or run to run.  And we now know where Vail Resorts stands on that point.  “You can have any color you want, as long as it’s black”.

Hundreds of ski areas around the world are using RFID technology for lift ticket or guest service tracking strategies.   Several ski areas including Aspen have mentioned the use of RFID assisted speed control zones in their slow skiing areas. Using this technology your ticket can be “hot passed” if you’re exceeding the “speed limit”; you would arrive at the base lift and you would be stopped, warned, and/or documented.  This information can now be cataloged for the season or multiple seasons.

EpicMix is Vail Resorts’ latest initiative.  It is a tour de force product which integrates the best of RFID Lift ticket UHF RFID chip technology (longer range/tracking potential), excellent social media integration (opt-in marketing through, and “smooth” adoption.  Your data is shared with YOU, and your friends only if you opt-in.  And it can be accessed by a mobile application. However, it is collected by Vail Resorts for future targeted marketing and Profit/Loss considerations, regardless of your consent.  A publicly traded company does not launch a multi-year initiative such as this without forecasting significant Return on Investment.  There are incredible opportunities to leverage this technology to influence the bottom line.  I will discuss those in future posts (subscribe to our RSS feeds). e.g. Let’s hope that Vail Resorts or other ski areas do not partner with insurance companies and have the opportunity to “share” data.

In addition to working in the Ski industry for 21 years, I have worked with companies across the US advising Identity Theft mitigation, FACTA, HIPPA, & Gramm Leach Bliley compliance. The more data collected, the more complex the task of securing it becomes.  What is private, public, discoverable, etc?  It is quite a maze.

RFID is great for certain things, good for others, and ill-equipped for others.  These distinctions are determined by the side of the RFID fence on which you sit.  If I want to collect movement data (people, produce, merchandise) it is fantastic.  If you don’t want to have your movements cataloged, you need a RFID blocker.

I don’t have anything against Ski Corporations using these technologies, and their “initiatives” to grow revenues and decrease expenses.  But I think there are enough people who prefer NOT to be watched and cataloged by a big brother to warrant $16 of protection.

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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, it has now morphed into  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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