Open forum – how can we understand the digital transformation of business_ – vail resorts_ digitalizing the mountain

Vail Resorts, owner and operator of a collection of eleven world-class ski resorts including Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, and others across the Rocky Mountains, Lake Tahoe and Utah, has decided to bring recreational skiing and snowboarding into the digital age.

Vail Resorts generates revenues through lift ticket sales, ski school, dining, retail, lodging and real estate activities, with lift revenue comprising the largest share. Heavenly ski resort tickets Volume and pricing power are critical elements for the company, and its ability to draw in the higher-spending “destination” guests (versus local skiers) plays a large role in its success.

Weather is also of critical importance for the company – ski resorts have arguably been the most directly impacted by global warming, with season duration decreasing by nearly a full month in the last 50 years in some locations and springtime snow cover declining 16% in the Rocky Mountains over the same time period. Vail ski resort vail co As a result, many resorts have suffered declining financial performance with pressures on the top line as well as increased expenses associated with increased snowmaking.


Vail Resorts has taken the offense in light of the challenging environment in which it operates, making several strategic shifts, including building out its summer recreational facilities. Kirkwood ski resort reviews However, its primary strategy is technologically driven and relies heavily on its CIO and CMO as it aims to attract skiers and capture new sources of value from its clientele.

Historically in constant competition with nearby Aspen Mountain and numerous others, Vail has always maintained “state-of-the-art” facilities, yet the company’s true digital transformation began in 2008. Whitetail ski resort lodging The company decided to move away from paper tickets in favor of RFID technology which electronically scans lift tickets, helping to shorten chair lift wait times and also helping to spot fraudulent passes. Heavenly ski resort altitude The RFID scanners required Wifi internet so the company installed connectivity in every chair lift line. Biggest ski resort in the us Originally rolled out only to season ticket holders and loyalty card members, today all lift passes now contain RFID tags.

As it looked to provide further utility for its customers, the company began work on its EpicMix app in 2010. Sun peaks ski resort In addition to real-time weather and mountain condition information, the web and mobile application connects skiers with their stats from the mountain (trails and vertical feet covered), allows them to download and share photos from resort photographers, and enables them to virtually race against professional skiers (among other features). Killington ski resort address In its latest development (moving from simply creating value to more tangible capture of value), the company has partnered with salesforce.com’s ExactTarget Marketing Cloud to leverage the data captured with EpicMix, creating a digital marketing platform and providing a fully connected, personalized experience for customers.

As it built up its IT capabilities to handle consumer-facing technologies, the company experimented with different organizational execution strategies, demonstrating flexibility and adaptability in its quest to digitalize itself. Map of heavenly ski resort CIO Robert Urwiler originally outsourced the majority of the development work, yet given its strategic importance, has recently taken most of it in-house, building out his team with project managers to focus on EpicMix fulltime.

Today, the company enjoys robust data analytics and CRM based on the EpicMix platform, which facilitates cross-access into and syncs data across all eleven of its locations. Telluride ski resort map The company’s most recently released data proves the initiatives are working – since the 2010 pilot, Vail Resorts has increased email open and click rates by more than 50%. Colarado ski resort More importantly, as of January 2015, while total skier visits were up only 1.8% year-over-year, lift ticket revenue was up 9.3% compared to the prior season and ski school, dining, and retail revenue was up 9.2%, 6.8% and 10.4%, respectively, indicating higher per-customer spending. Alta ski resort weather It is clear that Vail Resorts understands the physical and environmental challenges to its business model, and the digital competitive advantage it has carved out seems to be paying off.