While seeking some epic pow-pow at Breckenridge recently (read: practicing my "pizza and French fries" on the cruisin' slopes), I noticed a new phenomenon: ski dudes and dudettes whipping out their smart phones to compare stats on Vail Resorts' new EpicMix social-media app, which tracks guests' achievements. On one hand, this seemed cool and fun -- while on the other hand, kind of worrisome.
Now, don't get me wrong: I'm as tech-obsessed as the next guy. And EpixMix does seem pretty cool. Thanks to new RFID chips in all Vail Resorts season passes and lift tickets that are tracked by lift scanners at Vail's five resorts -- Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, Keystone and Lake Tahoe's Heavenly Mountain -- the program compiles and awards virtual "pins" based on peaks visited, lift rides per day, vertical feet skied and other stats.
But as I see it, there are upsides and downsides to such an operation, one that surely other ski resorts will soon be aping. Here's my take on it:
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Positive: Dude, you can totally put your EpixMix stats on your Facebook page, so all your buds can see how many vertical feet you skied during that so-called "sick day" last week! Negative: Dude, you totally put your EpixMix stats on your Facebook page, so your boss saw how many vertical feet you skied during that so-called "sick day" last week! Positive: EpixMix surely comes in handy when somebody goes missing on the mountain, allowing trackers to pinpoint the last ski lift used by the MIA skier. Negative: Finding that MIA skier and discovering he got lost because he was so obsessed with checking his EpixMix stats that he forgot to look where he was going. Positive: When you rack up enough achievements, you are rewarded with virtual "pins" showcasing your on-slope prowess, such as the High Nine Pin, the Tour da Force Pin and the crazy-difficult Steve Austin Pin, awarded to those who ski more than 6,000,000 vertical feet this season. Negative: Jealous friends and colleagues will rename your pins with names like Get a Job Pin and D-Bag in Snow Pants Pin. Positive: There's a kids version of EpixMix, too, where the little ski bumpkins can earn Pins with names inspired by Harry Potter spells. Negative: Clearly, Harry Potter-theme pins are much cooler than the grown-up versions, and it's sooo not fair the rug rats get to have all the fun.