Late last month we launched the latest report in our Skift Trends series, Building the Winter Resort of the Future.

Below is an extract. Get the full report here to get ahead of this trend.

Vail Resorts is the top ski resort brand in America, with Vail Mountain as the Everest of the industry for three major reasons: powder, which Vail gets more of than any other mountain in Colorado; early and frequent innovation; and exemplary service.

It is also its own ecosystem, managing a range of hotels, ski mountains, ski instruction schools, restaurants, equipment rental, even airport-to-mountain transportation. While the ski travel market is only just coming online and seeking to find a balance between an authentic experience out in nature, and technology which can discreetly enhance rather than undermine the ski experience, Vail got there years earlier – embedding an RFID chip in into every single ski pass.

Given the breadth of its assets, it has gotten to know its guest quite well. Epic Mix is its platform into which it has integrated its offerings, allowing guests to share their experiences within a private network and with their friends and family at home. Gamification in this space is one area where it makes sense: The DNA of the ski traveler is competitive.

You can humblebrag your stats such as vertical feet skied; race against yourself, your peers, even against Gold Medalist Lindsay Vonn. You earn badges, or pins, for activities and accomplishments like completing a ski lesson or a course. Since Epic Mix is location-aware, it makes it easy to find your missing kids, and connect with friends on the fly. And from the back-end, it’s solving the logistics problem that has made ski travel a bear.

The use of RFID and the embrace of technology is also allowing Vail to turn its skiiers into marketers. As Rob Katz, CEO of Vail Resorts explains: “We decided that we would use our mountain photographers to take pictures of our guests, but first, because we have an RFID chip in every single pass, we could scan the pass, take the photo, and then that photo would show up in this person’s account online right away. And instead of charging for that photo, we gave the photo to the guests for free so they could share it on Twitter or Facebook.”

“And our view on photos and using this kind of customer-facing technology was that, if a guest wants to have a photo of themselves at our resort, and they want to put that on Facebook, then that’s the best advertising we could ever get, and we really shouldn’t be charging the guests for that. We should promote the guests to do that. And obviously when we did this, and then removed the fees and allowed them to do it for free, we saw an explosion in the number of photos that were being posted about our resort by our guests on Facebook and Twitter.”

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Photo Credit: Children taking a ski lesson in Vail, Colorado. Ross Franklin / Flickr