If you're seeing more photos of smiling faces from the slopes of Vail, Northstar and Breckenridge on your Facebook account or in your Twitter stream, you're not alone.
As predicted, the addition of on-mountain photos to Vail Resorts' (NYSE: MTN) award-winning EpicMix online site and app is already revolutionizing how guests take and share photos. Just a month into the season, the second generation of EpicMix has already resulted in more than 280,000 posts on Facebook and Twitter, exceeding the total number of social posts from all of last season with more than half of this year's posts including photos. Based on Facebook's estimate of 130 friends per account holder, EpicMix has already generated more than 36 million social impressions this season. Additionally, guest activations are already up by just under 40 percent only 5 percent of the way through the season.
Now guests will have more reasons to share their on-mountain photos and accomplishments. Today, Vail Resorts is announcing three new additions to EpicMix just in time for the holidays. More enhancements are expected to be added later this season.
1. The Mountain Remix collage is launching today on the EpicMix online site allowing guests to combine their on-mountain EpicMix professional photos with their stats, such as days skied and vertical feet with their favorite digital pins they've earned, along with other selected information like snow totals, into a single picture file or "jpeg" creating a completely one-of-a-kind Remix collage. The Remix will be a single snapshot of their perfect day, vacation or season that guests can then share on Facebook and Twitter with friends and family
2. EpicMix photographers will be able to capture action photos of guests at select locations on the slopes at all six mountains – Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, Keystone, Heavenly and Northstar. Guests will ski or ride in marked areas to an EpicMix photographer, who will capture the action and then scan the guests' RF-enabled lift ticket or pass. The photos will then be automatically delivered to their EpicMix account to share with friends and family or can be incorporated into a Remix collage.
3. All EpicMix photos are available to guests for free to share on Facebook and Twitter. Guests can also purchase a high-resolution image for download for $19.95. With the excitement of photography far exceeding expectations, Vail Resorts will be limiting the availability of high-resolution images for guest download to 30 days from the date the photo is taken. Low resolution images for sharing on social sites will not be subject to the 30-day expiration.
When Vail Resorts launched EpicMix last year experts called it a "game changer" and "one of the most ridiculously cool…" mobile strategies. Since then, EpicMix has won a "People's Voice" Webby awardin the Experimental and Innovation category for mobile devices and a WOMMY award, among others. With the incorporation of photo and the upgrades for EpicMix this year, the buzz from guests, media and social influencers continues to gain momentum with posts, blogs, comments and tweets:
Wired Magazine: "For 2011-2012, EpicMix is expanding into photography in a big way, and it's a significant step not just for the company, but for skiers' and snowboarders' experiences with their sport….Photo is the big change, and here, Vail is out front of Disney and almost every other vacation destination that does pro photography."
Mashable: "What's different — and especially impressive — about EpicMix is that it doesn't require a smartphone or GPS-enabled device to participate, nor does it require familiarity with geolocation apps and the concept of "checking in." Everything visitors need is already in their access card."
Slade Sherman: "Many have asked how leading check-in applications like Foursquare and Gowalla can evolve and become more relevant? Epic Mix, using smart UX, data, social graph integration and game design around a Ubiquitous Check-in, provides a good answer to this question."
Business2Community: "EpicMix also lets skiers build their reputation among a community of avid downhill fans with a pretty slick gamification system."
An EpicMix guest: "Thank you Miss EpicMix Photographer. You are awesome. You have no idea how your expertise affected our family. Today was a dream three years and eight months in the making… You took the Christmas card photo today .THANK YOU…"
The true innovation, according to guests and the media, is that the app and online site allow guests to share stories, achievements and photos without interrupting their on-mountain skiing and snowboarding experience. Instead of manual check-ins, the RF-enabled pass or ticket allows for automatic passive check-ins at each lift at all six resorts, which then tracks the vertical feet and rewards guests for accomplishments like riding every lift in one day to earn the Conqueror pin. The RF-enabled pass or lift ticket is also scanned by EpicMix photographers for immediate delivery of on-mountain photos for sharing with friends and family. Other ski tracking applications that rely on GPS require guests to use special phones, download software and impair battery usage, which results in very little engagement by guests.
"We've been overwhelmed by our guests' enthusiasm and engagement with EpicMix so far this season. We knew that photos were one of the most powerful ways that people remember and share their special moments and vacations and we're seeing that translated into our guests' adoption rate and engagement with EpicMix Photo. We're giving people a way to tell their own story in their own words, with their own stats and now with their own professional photos," said Rob Katz, chairman and chief executive officer of Vail Resorts. "In many ways, this is the 'holy grail' of social media. We have provided our guests a tool they love that allows them to easily share the amazing experiences they have at our resorts with friends and family. EpicMix isn't just another ski or travel app, it's become an integration of your ski day and vacation experience that enhances your on-mountain enjoyment by providing an additional digital layer that's easy, convenient and fun."
According to Katz, EpicMix offers a truly unique experience that isn't available at any other ski mountain or other resort destination. He predicts that as photo sharing continues to grow and as Vail Resorts enters the peak season for skiing and snowboarding, EpicMix Photo will continue to grow in popularity with guests and will continue to differentiate EpicMix from other apps and online sites.
How to get EpicMix
EpicMix is available to all Vail Resorts guests who purchase any lift ticket or season pass this year. Almost every ticket and pass will be enabled with RF technology and allow guests to participate in EpicMix and the new photo functionality.
Once guests get their RF-enabled pass or lift ticket, they can simply log on to www.epicmixphoto.comand activate their EpicMix accounts. They can then download the free EpicMix mobile app for the iPhone, Android or other smart phone.
The safety and privacy of guests is the highest priority for Vail Resorts and no information collected through EpicMix will be shared unless a guest "opts in" and specifically chooses to share their information. All information collected through EpicMix is subject to the strict privacy policies of Vail Resorts. Guests can choose to disable the RF chip in their pass to prevent any scanning. Children under 13 participating in EpicMix will have limited features and a connection only to their parents' account.
For more information and to watch a video of EpicMix, visit www.epicmixphoto.com.
About Vail Resorts
Vail Resorts, Inc., through its subsidiaries, is the leading mountain resort operator in the United States. The Company's subsidiaries operate the mountain resort properties of Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge and Keystone mountain resorts in Colorado, and the Heavenly Ski Resort and Northstar California in the Lake Tahoe area of California and Nevada, and the Grand Teton Lodge Company in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. The Company's subsidiary, RockResorts, a luxury resort hotel company, manages casually elegant properties. Vail Resorts Development Company is the real estate planning, development and construction subsidiary of Vail Resorts, Inc. Vail Resorts is a publicly held company traded on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE: MTN). The Vail Resorts company website is www.vailresorts.com and consumer website is www.snow.com