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RFID for Small Ski Resorts

Blue Hills Ski Area and Campgaw Mountain deployed an RFID ticketing and access-control solution to improve business operations.
By Laton McCartney
Apr 09, 2012Blue Hills Ski Area is a small resort with 12 trails in Canton, just outside of Boston, owned by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Since 2007, Blue Hills has been operated by Ski Blue Hills Management (SBHM), which launched a revitalization program when it was awarded a five-year lease. To that end, SBHM—which also operates the Campgaw Mountain ski area, located in Mahwah, N.J.—has spent more than $300,000 to improve both resorts. This includes adding new snowmaking machines and two "Magic Carpets"—300-foot lifts enabling beginners to simply stand on a conveyor belt and ride to the top of the slope—at each site.

In late summer 2011, Serge Munnia-Vincent, the president of DAG System, located in Woburn, Mass., began urging SBHM to install SnowDAG, the RFID ticketing and access-control solution it provides to ski resorts. Kristin Orozvitch, Blue Hills' general manager, and Corie Stone, SBHM's chief operating officer, were enthusiastic about implementing the technology. "We wanted to move the business forward," Stone says. "RFID ski passes would give more convenience to customers by reducing wait lines. Also, they could load money onto the RFID card, and use it to make purchases at our retail stations. But the owners were leery about spending any more money."

RFID gates such as these were installed at the Blue Hills Ski Area and Campgaw Mountain resorts.

RFID seemed beyond SBHM's fiscal reach. Blue Hills' managers perceived the technology as one designed for large ski operations, such as Vail Resorts, which draws 1.6 million skiers and snowboarders to its five mountains annually; Vail has been using RFID season passes since 2008 (see Benefits Up and Down the Ski Slope). Blue Hills only attracts 35,000 to 40,000 skiers per season, Orozvitch says.

But Munnia-Vincent explains that DAG had installed SnowDAG at more than a half-dozen smaller East Coast ski operations, including West Mountain Ski Resort, in Glens Falls, N.Y., and Maple Ski Ridge, in Schenectady, N.Y. He then made an offer that SBHM couldn't refuse—he would partner with the company to reduce upfront costs. Instead of having to pay for the RFID gates, which cost from $2,000 to $4,000 each, he would lease them as part of a three-year contract. SBHM purchased the reader-encoders to print the RFID ski passes, as well as RFID readers for use at retail counters. "The license for the software was a minimal yearly fee," Stone states.

The price was right for SBHM, Stone says, noting, "This approach made sense for DAG, because they make their money off the RFID cards." Blue Hills also felt confident that DAG was not just a fly-by-night startup chasing SBHM's business. With world headquarters in Lyon, France, DAG has supplied RFID capabilities to numerous European and Asian ski operations. The company also provides RFID timing solutions for sports organizations.
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