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Vail Resorts Links RFID With Social Media

Visitors to the company's ski mountains this season can use their RFID-enabled lift tickets to connect with each other via social-media tools, and also track their ski or snowboard metrics over the Internet.
By Mary Catherine O'Connor
Sep 02, 2010This coming ski season, Vail Resorts will debut EpicMix, a platform by which visitors can use social-media tools to connect with each other, as well as track their ski or snowboard metrics online—and it's all made possible by radio frequency identification.

"We've always had bigger plans for our RFID system," says Robert Urwiler, Vail Resorts' CIO. "Last year, we started talking about how to take it to next level and do something extraordinary, especially using social media, and this is the perfect extension of our business."

An RF symbol is printed on the lower corner of Vail Resorts' RFID-enabled season passes.
In 2008, Vail Resorts began incorporating RFID technology into its ticketing system in order to make it easier for the company to check lift tickets at base-area chairlifts across its five resorts (see Vail Picks New Line With UHF RFID-Powered Passes and Benefits Up and Down the Ski Slope). The firm chose ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) Gen 2 RFID technology, rather than the high-frequency (HF) tags widely used in European resorts, because it expected to eventually leverage the long read range of UHF tags for other applications.

Every season pass issued at the five resorts—Colorado's Vail, Breckenridge, Keystone and Beaver Creek, and California's Heavenly—contains an RFID inlay encoded with only a unique ID number, which is linked in a database to the season pass number printed on the card. All "Peaks" single or multi-day passes also contain RFID inlays, with encoded, unique ID numbers linked to a unique number printed on the pass. As with season passes, Peaks tickets come in a rugged, plastic form factor (visitors must request a Peaks pass at the time of purchase; otherwise, they will receive a paper ticket).

After purchasing a Peaks or season pass, visitors can reuse the same card during the following season, by reactivating pass or buying additional single or multi-day tickets from the issuing resort.

Each season pass and Peaks card contains an RFID inlay manufactured by KSW Microtec, using G2XM RFID chips from NXP Semiconductors and an antenna designed by Zebra Technologies to optimize both near- and far-field tag reads.

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