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Aspen Snowmass' Skiers Use RFID Lift Tickets to Pay for Food, Rentals

Visitors can now utilize their lift tickets to make purchases at restaurants, stores and rental offices, while ski instructors can use the technology to track class sizes.
By Claire Swedberg
Feb 09, 2015

When Colorado winter resort Aspen Snowmass launched a high-frequency (HF) RFID system provided by Skidata USA in 2008—which included HF RFID tags in all of its lift tickets, as well as RFID gates at its lifts—the lines were shortened and skiers were able to spend more time on the slopes and less time in queues. The solution was so beneficial that the resort, which includes hotels, restaurants and ski slopes on four different mountains, sought to expand its use of RFID to restaurants and stores as part of what it calls its Resort Charge program.

During the course of the past six years, the resort (owned and operated by Aspen Skiing Co.) has installed 165 RF IDeas pcProx readers, a type of low-cost USB-connected reader, at its restaurants and stores, as well as for use by its ski school and NASTAR race program. Since Nov. 1, at the start of the 2014-15 ski season, 4,048 guests have opted to use their lift tickets as a payment method onsite, according to Rob Blanchard, Aspen Skiing Co.'s director of IT support services.

The resort is using pcProx Plus readers to access the RFID tags embedded in its season passes, as well in its lift tickets.
Aspen Snowmass includes four separate ski and snowboarding areas on four adjacent mountains in the Aspen area. It also offers numerous stores and restaurants on its slopes, and in the neighboring Snowmass Village. Since 2008, skiers have been using lift tickets made with passive HF 13.56 MHz RFID tags—provided by Skidata—compliant with the ISO 15693 standard (see Aspen Signs With Skidata, RTP for Integrated RFID/POS System). The tickets can be read as skiers pass through one of the 48 gates for accessing lifts on the four different slopes. Each gate has four antennas (two on each side) that can read the tags from a distance of a foot or more. As such, skiers can ski right through the gate and have their lift tickets read and approved before they board a lift.

The skiing company next considered how the tickets could be used to enable hands-free payments. Blanchard notes that skiers typically carry cash or a credit card in a pocket—either of which can become lost on the slopes, and can be time-consuming to locate and remove from a pocket at the point of sale (POS).

The resort had considered using readers provided by its existing vendor, in order to read tags at the restaurants' POS stations. However, the readers came with a serial port and cost more than $400 each, which the resort deemed too expensive. Instead, Aspen Snowmass approached Illinois-based technology solutions provider iTech Automation Inc., which recommended the pcProx readers, according to Paul Lemieux, iTech's vice president. The readers cost about $150 apiece; once they were all installed, Blanchard says, the savings based on using the less expensive pcProx readers was approximately $54,000.

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