This week, Vail Resorts unveiled EpicMix Racing—the latest evolution for their popular EpicMix social platform. EpicMix Racing allows skiers and riders at [R482R, Vail], [R36R, Beaver Creek], [R77R, Breckenridge], [R197R, Keystone], [R169R, Heavenly], [R299R, Northstar] and soon [R201R, Kirkwood] to compete against friends, family and even Lindsey Vonn for social bragging rights.
OnTheSnow had the chance to sit down with Vail Resorts Online Experience Director Stacey Pool, who shed some light on the creation of EpicMix Racing and what skiers and riders can expect to see this season.
OnTheSnow: How did the idea for EpicMix Racing come about?
Stacey Pool: The idea came about when talking with [Chairman and Chief Executive Officer] Rob Katz and [Chief Marketing Officer] Kirsten Lynch about what the next big opportunity was for extending the on-mountain experience and capturing it digitally. EpicMix Racing came up in January and it felt like the natural next step. It was something that we weren’t currently capturing with EpicMix and it extends racing into the application.
OTS: How was Lindsey Vonn involved in the creation of EpicMix Racing?
SP: The idea was pitched to Lindsey shortly after the concept came about to have her be the face and the lead of EpicMix Racing.
OTS: How is it that racers are able to compete against Lindsey in the Lindsey Vonn Race Series?
SP: Lindsey sets the pace at the beginning of the season. Our race pros on the mountain will race against her to set their par times. Then on a daily basis, the race pros will race the course and based on where they land against Lindsey, that will determine the par time for the race course that day. We are then changing the previous handicapping system a little bit, we are providing adjusted times for the guests based on their age, gender and discipline. Based on the way they run the course, they can see what they would need to get to meet or beat Lindsey’s time. Then when they race the course, we’ll calculate their seconds behind Lindsey to determine whether they land in the Gold, Silver or Bronze category. She’s our seasonal pacesetter and then you’re compared to her based on what the par times are for that course on a given day. They’ll see their times and seconds behind Lindsey at the bottom of the course and that will also automatically be pushed to their EpicMix account so they can see it on mobile or online.
OTS: With so many newer disciplines of the sport gaining popularity, particularly in the free skiing world, do you think EpicMix Racing is a way to attract more people to racing?
SP: What we’ve found over the past couple of years with EpicMix in general, is it continues to bring out that competitive, bragging concept that people have done in the past in a non-digital way. I think that racing, from a performance and competitive standpoint, is going to bring people there that want to continue to compete against their friends with EpicMix. I think it’s going to attract a lot more people because they’re now going to be able to bring their circle of friends into this experience that they weren’t able to do before. They’ll be able to compete against each other digitally or through their social networks. I hope it’s going to bring a much broader group to racing just based on the fact that it’s in EpicMix and you can compete against your friends and family.
OTS: There’s a charity component to EpicMix Racing too. Can you explain how that works?
SP: The revenue that we generate from our racing locations across the six mountains, one percent of it will be given to the clubs—starting with the ski club at Vail because Lindsey’s very passionate about it. Lindsey’s desire is to provide the opportunity to race to people that might otherwise not be able to. We are very focused on getting children excited about racing again. Outside of the charity aspect, we’re working with our ski schools to make sure that the kids go and race and get excited about it.
OTS: There are race programs at most resorts. What makes EpicMix Racing a step up from race programs at other resorts?
SP: We have taken amateur racing and brought it into the 21st century and into the digital space where your racing experience doesn’t get lost. It’s not a challenge to see what you and your friends are doing because you can now do it all through the application. You also get to share that experience more broadly. Hopefully, that will now attract more people to compete and race that might not have before. The sharing component really elevates the experience. The fact that you can win a medal and immediately share it socially, that’s huge.
OTS: The Epic Pass and EpicMix have been replicated around the country by other resorts. Some resorts are joining forces to create one pass for their resorts while others are instituting RFID passes and tickets on the mountain with many of the online features of EpicMix. How do you view this? Is it the sincerest form of flattery?
SP: I think it’s flattery but it also serves as a challenge for us to continue to up our game. I look at that more as “what can we do next to stay ahead?” Flattery is always great, but to me, it’s more like competition or challenge.
OTS: So how are you staying ahead of the curve then?
SP: Understanding what our guests want and what they want us to capture for them. I think EpicMix is a great tool to continue to look year over year at what you’ve accomplished and getting you excited about trying different things that you maybe wouldn’t have considered in the past. I think EpicMix Racing is a perfect example of that. Knowing where digital trends are going, with social media and continuing to use EpicMix as a tool to expose our brands to so many other people.
OTS: So what’s the next big thing for EpicMix? With the influx of so much POV camera usage in the sport, could it be EpicMix Video?
SP: I don’t know. So many people want us to do video but there are a lot of complexities with video. Personally, I love where gamification is going, which to me is a huge opportunity for EpicMix because so many people love the competition and the challenge. To me there’s a lot we can do with gamification and apply that to overall loyalty with our guests. Who knows? Maybe video?