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Vail Resorts Sees RFID in the Forecast

SkyeTek says it is working with the ski resort operator to develop RFID-enabled mountain services and applications.
By Mary Catherine O'Connor
Sep 11, 2007Vail Resorts, an operator of ski resorts in Colorado, Wyoming and California, is working with Colorado-based RFID hardware and systems developer SkyeTek to incorporate RFID into its operations at points where it believes the technology could be useful in improving customer service and business processes.

"Vail is looking at a variety of different forms of RFID technology," says Sayan Chakraborty, SkyeTek's chief technology officer, "but SkyeTek is contributing in terms of passive RFID applications." Chakraborty says Vail Resorts began working with SkyeTek on an initial RFID pilot a year ago, and is set to launch additional pilots soon. While he says he can not reveal specifics of the tests at this time, Chakraborty reports that the resort operator is most interested in using RFID to replace bar codes as a means of authenticating lift passes, to enable cashless payments and to help visitors more easily locate friends or family members on the ski slopes.

Last ski season, Colorado's Steamboat Ski Area began using semi-active RFID tags and readers provided by SafeTzone Technologies to help skiers and snowboarders stay connected on the hill (see U.S. Ski Area Completes First Season Using RFID).

In European ski areas, high-frequency RFID tags are widely used in lift tickets, embedded either in day or season passes. Patrons present the tags at turnstiles that open when a valid ID is read, allowing skiers or snowboarders to join a queue for a chairlift or gondola. But Chakraborty says a passive tag with a longer read range could be used to generate estimations of wait times for lifts. This information could then be broadcast, via display screens or similar methods, at other lifts or on information kiosks around the resorts, providing skiers and snowboarders with real-time information regarding which lifts have the shortest wait times.

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