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Tech on the slopes: How RFID is changing the experience of skiing and snowboarding

WHISTLER, B.C. — For many years, ski resorts have been behind the know-how curve. Positive, there have been tons of cool developments in the design of every little thing from skis to boards to goggles. However the enterprise of shopping for a ski move and utilizing the raise system at your favourite mountain was fairly old-school.

Skiers and snowboarders know the drill: Pay in your raise ticket and get a small steel triangle, a bit of paper with a bar code and sticky backing on it, which you utilize to place the ticket on your jacket or ski pants.

However now, with RFID (radio-frequency identification) know-how, you possibly can simply place a credit score card-sized move in a pocket on your left facet at higher arm peak. The RFID chip in the move tells the raise techniques who you’re and opens the gates that permit entry to chairlifts. It additionally tracks your actions on the mountain.

RFID know-how started showing at ski resorts a decade in the past, and has turn into commonplace at many main North American and European mountains, together with Whistler Blackcomb (residence to the 2010 Winter Olympics and a scenic 5 hour drive from Seattle through Vancouver).

A current go to to the mountain revealed what drove this storied resort to make the transfer to RFID, and all the advantages the know-how has supplied to each the mountain and to the skiers and snowboarders who journey on it. In an interview with Geekwire, Whistler Blackcomb enterprise help crew supervisor Yolanda Foose defined that the main enterprise driver for the transfer to RFID was to get extra correct ticket validation and cut back fraud.

Whistler Blackcomb launched its RFID system for the 2014-2015 season (see video under to get an concept of the way it was launched to skiers and riders) and has been constructing on that basis ever since.

Whereas it’s straightforward to see how the system reduces fraud (as a result of skiers and boarders should move by way of raise gates that solely open if they’ve a legitimate move on them — and every move is tied to a person individual), Whistler Blackcomb says it has been in a position to make use of this infrastructure to construct advantages for its prospects.

One of the first advantages is security. By having a document of when somebody scans their RFID ticket at a specific raise, the mountain can far more simply assist if a skier goes lacking.

“We’re in a position to observe the final RFID gate a visitor scanned by way of, which helps to slender the search space immensely,” mentioned Foose. “Whistler Blackcomb has over 8,100 acres of terrain, in addition to backcountry entry factors, so this know-how actually offers (ski) patrol — and search and rescue — a leg up when in search of a misplaced visitor.”

For many guests to Whistler Blackcomb, nevertheless, the enjoyable of an RFID ticket comes from the WB+ app, accessible for each iOS and Android units. The app offers a simple method to make use of the RFID knowledge generated from skiing and driving on the greater than 200 runs at Whistler Blackcomb to generate an entire vary of statistics a few go to or a season. Actually, it might probably carry historic knowledge courting again to when the RFID system was launched in 2014.

“Our company love WB+, it’s driving them to go to completely different areas of the mountain, ski longer and extra usually,” added Foose. “For those who put a problem in entrance of our WB+ members, they may attempt to obtain it.”

The RFID know-how at Whistler Blackcomb additionally brings it in keeping with its new company father or mother (Vail Resorts, which accomplished its acquisition of the iconic Canadian ski operation final yr). Vail Resorts was amongst the first main resorts to take up RFID when it implemented the technology in the 2008-2009 ski season.

Foose says that understanding which runs are hottest – and when they’re most used – will help the firm tweak the method it runs its enterprise.

“We do analyze this knowledge and it would issue when figuring out future capital funding,” she mentioned, including that RFID is getting used year-round at Whistler Blackcomb, which enjoys a busy summer season season with tons of mountain climbing and biking. “Each RFID scanning and WB+ are used for the mountain bike park and we’ve got applied timed mountain climbing on some of our extra well-liked trails.”

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