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Aspen Signs With Skidata, RTP for Integrated RFID/POS System

The operator of four Colorado ski resorts will install RFID-enabled chairlift access gates linked to a new point-of-sale system in time for its 2008-09 ski season.
By Michelle V. Rafter
Oregon's Mt. Bachelor resort installed Axess' RFID-enabled gates and RTP's POS system in 2004, though 2006-07 was the first season Mt. Bachelor's gate and POS systems were entirely integrated, according to John McLeod, the resort's director of finance. Alta (see Alta Opts for RFID Lift Tickets), Solitude and Park City in Utah, Copper Mountain in Colorado and Tamarack in Idaho are also employing Axess systems.

In Colorado, Vail began testing a passive UHF EPC Gen 2 RFID system from SkyeTek in its five resorts last year (see Vail Resorts Sees RFID in the Forecast). In addition, Steamboat resort has utilized a dual-frequency (134.2 kHz and 303.8 MHz) passive and active tag-location tracking system from SafeTzone since 2005 (see U.S. Ski Area Completes First Season Using RFID).

Urs Grimm
Aspen Skiing officials are still deciding which Skidata hands-free RFID gates and RFID-tagged lift tickets to use. Skidata's Freemotion gates come with two or four long-range antennas, both of which can detect tags from up to 80 centimeters (31.5 inches) away. The company also sells disposable or reusable RFID-tagged lift tickets, priced, respectively, at 80 cents or $2 to $3.50 apiece, says Skidata's senior VP, Urs Grimm.

According to Hanle, Aspen plans to wait until the 2009-2010 season to introduce a lift ticket or season pass that customers can load from their charge cards via the resort's Web site to make purchases in restaurants and retail shops. He declines, however, to discuss the amount the company expects to spend in total.

Previously, Aspen operated three or four RFID-enabled gates for VIP customers to get through lift lines faster, with handheld bar-code scanners for the remainder of its lift lines. After several of Aspen's managers skied in Europe last year and noted how effectively RFID-based gates moved crowds, they were sold on the concept, Hanle says, adding, "We decided to move ahead full speed."

Stevens Pass, a 10-lift ski resort in the Cascade Mountains, 78 miles east of Seattle, is also installing an RFID-based ticketing and gate system for the 2008-09 season. The company has purchased RTP's resort management system, but is still choosing between gates from Skidata or Axess.

Either way, Stevens Pass' general manager, John Gifford, says he expects to spend "hundreds of thousands" of dollars on the upgrade, which will replace the resort's current practice of having attendants visually scan customers' tickets. It's a big investment, Gifford says—one that will take skiers time to get used to—but it's worth it. "Once they see the faster lift line access and understand what the technology offers," he states, they'll realize it can make their trip easier.

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