RFID Cards Offer a Slick Solution for Ski Resorts

Shawnee Peak Ski Area engages customers in an online survey. 

skierShawnee Peak Ski Area appears ready to join the growing number of ski resorts turning to RFID for a more efficient and up-to-date ski pass system.  The trend, which started in Europe, came to the US when Vail’s ski resorts implemented Zebra’s “easy-scan” technology  in 2008.  RFID based systems seem to be the new standard, as more and more ski resorts see the value in the new technology.  Now Shawnee Peak is testing the waters, er, snowdrifts, with a new online survey to gauge consumer interest.

The system works by embedding a RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) chip in a plastic card which the skier carries.  The card would allow skiers to board the ski lifts by automatically activating gates at the bottom of each lift.  A major benefit to skiers is the fact that they do not need to physically show the card.  Traditionally a skier would present a ticket or season pass to be scanned with a barcode scanner.  The new RFID enabled cards can be read from inside a skier’s jacket.  Not only does this better streamline the ski-lift process, but it shortens ticket window lines since the cards can be purchased and registered online.  Cardholders may also receive discount offers for future purchases, have the ability to load tickets onto the card, and track individual ski runs.  Skiers even have the option to post their ski runs to their Facebook profile or other social networks.

Ed Rock, General Manager and VP of Shawnee Peak, says "We believe that this technology is undoubtedly the wave of the future.  Harnessing the power of the internet and potential of smart technology will position Shawnee Peak on the cutting edge of ticketing, social media and communication."

Although the costs of implementing an RFID card and gate system are substantial, the time saved, as well as the money and waste saved by abandoning a paper ticket system, help to offset those initial costs.  The popularity of card-based ticketing systems among skiers has been demonstrated by positive results at several ski resorts in the Western United States.  The most popular features are the ability to pay for tickets online and bypass the ticket window, and to post their daily ski runs to social network sites
The Shawnee Peak survey has already heard from over 1,000 respondents.  Here is one skier’s comment:

"Have experienced this system in Washington State where they currently use RFID re-loadable cards...makes it really convenient when it gets busy (no waits in line!), and takes a load of work off the resort itself (ticket counter/services desk)...is also nice because it speeds up the lift line with no hassles of checking whether your pass is valid or not," said A. Dean, Gray, Maine. "Great system & easy to use, see no cons to the system as of yet!"

Want to weigh in with your own opinion?  Take Shawnee Peak's simple, 6-question survey today. The Survey closes at 4:30pm EST Friday, May 6, 2011.

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