The West has gotten quite a bit of snow already, and skiers and snowboarders are flocking to the mountains for a little pre-season action. Some of these resorts have been very proactive in embracing the mobile trend, creating apps that help their guests enjoy a more engaging experience on the hill. Let’s take a look at how some of the best resorts are creating an even better customer experience using mobile technology, and the big data implications that go far beyond the apps themselves.

  • Epic Mix – Vail resorts has set the standard for skiing apps with Epic Mix. The app uses RFID to link your season pass to an online account that records where you ski, as well as your total vertical feet. Epic Mix gamifies your experience – you can collect pins, track vertical feet, share photos, race friends (or even Lindsey Vonn, who has signed on to promote the app) and of course connect to Facebook and Twitter. From a customer experience standpoint, this app goes the extra mile. Photographers are positioned throughout the mountain, taking photos of skiers on the slopes and linking them to the skiers’ profiles for sharing and downloading.
  •  Mammoth – While not as robust as EpicMix, Mammoth’s app still offers useful and fun features. It boasts snow reports, an interactive trail map, profiles and “check-in” functions. Its gamification is not as advanced as Epic Mix, but it’s still a fun experience for skiers looking to record their day, check-in on the mountain and earn badges.
  • Sherpa – Launching this year, Sherpa is Copper Mountain’s new on-mountain, audio intelligence app. It’s like Siri for skiing. It labels itself as the hands-free, geo-aware, mountain guide. Plug in your headphones and put away your phone. As you make their way down the mountain, the app gives you insiders tips, directions and up-to-date terrain information. Fresh powder on the tree-lined side of trail 11? The app will suggest you head over that way.

Although these apps are exciting and engaging for mountain guests, the user-experience is just the tip of the iceberg. The real fun begins with the data these apps are able to mine. By taking skier profile information and matching it to skiing patterns, they can determine what demographics are skiing which runs and visiting which lodges. Then, they can further cater the experience based on this information. The various ways to crunch the numbers and provide a better customer experience is practically limitless.

Using GPS and RFID, the resorts know exactly who is where on their mountain and can figure out ways to control their crowd. Is Lodge 1 extremely busy for lunch? The resort can push out $5 discount at Lodge 2 to encourage other skiers who may be thinking about stopping for a bite to make their way over to Lodge 2.

What’s next? It doesn’t take a genius to realize this user experience will go far beyond phones. Forget Google Glass. How about Google Goggles? Skiers are already wearing bulky eyewear on the mountain. A pair of Google Goggles could tell them exactly where they are and where they should go to hit the best snow – right in front of their eyes.