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Snö Mountain Skiers Use RFID to Play and Pay

At the Pennsylvania resort, employees, visitors and rental equipment all wear RFID tags, which visitors can use to make purchases and access the lifts
By Claire Swedberg
Jan 30, 2007Snö Mountain, an alpine ski resort and summer water park located in Pennsylvania's Pocono Mountains, has implemented an RFID system allowing visitors to use RFID-enabled plastic bracelets to rent equipment, pay for food and other items, and access lifts. In the fall of 2006, a privately held consortium purchased the former Montage Mountain resort, renovating it and then reopening it as Snö Mountain on Jan. 12. One new feature is the addition of a Precision Dynamics (PDC) Smart Band RFID system for automated ski lift passes and cashless point-of-sale. In the summer, visitors to the resort's Snö Cove water park will be able to access the same system to gain entrance to the park, and to pay for food and other purchases.

Upon arrival at the resort, skiers can buy either a season's pass (in the form of a photo ID card allowing seasonal access to ski lifts), or a day pass they can attach to a wrist or ankle. Both the season pass and the day pass contain a 13.56 MHz RFID tag compliant with ISO standard 15693, and made with a Texas Instruments chip. When visitors buy a day pass, they pay with cash, credit or debit card for lift access (either for the entire day or for four hours), as well as ski rentals and other options. They can also prepay money onto the bracelet for food or other items they might want to purchase later. That payment is then written onto the bracelet's tag, allowing them to keep their wallets in their pockets the rest of the day.

Inside the park are 35 point-of-sales locations, where visitors can present season passes and bracelets to buy items, food or services. Micros Systems designed and provided the RFID hardware and software used for those 35 locations. Employees at the six ski lifts utilize handheld read-only readers designed by Northern Apex, which attach to Motorola (formerly Symbol Technologies) handhelds running software provided by Databrokers.

At each of the resort's ski lifts, says Jim Held, Snö Mountain's IT director, operators bring an RFID reader within 3 inches of each bracelet or season pass to determine that every skier has paid for a lift ticket for that specific time. Skiers simply point out the band's location to the operator, who waves the reader close to the band, whether it is on a wrist or an ankle. Once the skier's lift time has expired, that person is sent back to the ticket office to purchase more lift time, if desired.

According to Irwin Thall, RFID manager for PDC, the system design work began a year ago but was installed in the two-month period the resort was closed before reopening in January at the prime of ski season. Since Jan. 12, visitors have been using the bracelets to access ski lifts. By next week, Thall predicts, visitors will use them for food and concession payments. In the meantime, the company is working on adding ski school lessons to the system.

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