This season, Vail Resorts is replacing NASTAR with EpicMix Racing at Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, Keystone, Heavenly and Northstar. It’s a big blow to NASTAR. In 2011, Vail Mountain had 6,849 NASTAR racers with 29,310 starts, making it the most popular NASTAR mountain in the country.
So how will EpicMix racing work? Not surprisingly, a lot like NASTAR. The nexus of the program, however, will be Vail Resort’s popular EpicMix application. Basically, any guest purchasing an RFID enabled ticket or season pass can race and have his or her results uploaded automatically. Children under 13 will need a parent to set up an account through their adult account and choose an avatar for the child.
Pacesetter Lindsey Vonn
Race courses will be found on intermediate trails at all Vail Resorts, except for Kirkwood, this season. Registration is automatic at the race gate with an $8 payment (either by resort charge or credit card) for the first race. Each additional race is $4 per race for the rest of the ski season. Times will be posted to each racer’s EpicMix dashboard where they can see how they stack up against US Olympian Lindsey Vonn, friends and family.
Vonn is the pacesetter for EpicMix racing and will post her official time in November during US Ski Team training at Vail. As in NASTAR, participants will have their times adjusted for age, gender and discipline. Scores will be based on “seconds behind Lindsey” and virtual medals of gold, silver and bronze will be awarded to adults. Kids, 13 and under, will receive actual medals after each race.
Season Finale at Beaver Creek
The EpicMix racing season will end with the Lindsey Vonn Race Series Finale in April 2012 on the Birds of Prey World Cup Course at Beaver Creek. To be considered for this event, each participant will need to have raced at least 10 times. Top racers from each resort will qualify.
According to Vonn, “Making ski racing fun and engaging for kids and families is an exciting opportunity and a real passion of mine.” In honor of Vonn’s commitment to youth ski racing, Vail Resorts will donate 1% of all revenue from EpicMix Racing to local ski clubs.
Deals, Deals: Catching Up with Liftopia’s Ron Schneidermann
In the Spring of 2005, Ron Schneidermann and Evan Reece founded Liftopia.com to sell advance purchase ski lift tickets. Using their experience from working at Hotwire, a travel site that pioneered variable pricing for hotels, flights and rental cars, Schneidermann and Reece began knocking on doors.
“It was hard to convince resorts to work with us,” shared Schneidermann. “We underestimated how frequently they get hit up. It took us some time to build a reputation.”
But build a reputation, they did. In their first year, Liftopia.com partnered with 7 resorts. This season, they are partnering with nearly 250 resorts in the U.S. and Canada. They even sold passes this summer for three Chilean resorts.
I asked Schneidermann about the trends he sees in lift ticket sales and what this means for consumers, especially families.
1. Look for Value Online, Not at the Gas Station. “On mountain rates continue to go up,” states Schneidermann. “To offset this, resorts are selling discounted advance tickets online at their own sites and at Liftopia. Resorts are relying less and less on gas stations, banks and grocery stores as outlets for lift tickets.”
What this means for skiing families is that if you know the dates you will be skiing, you can buy your lift tickets now. Writing this article in late September, I visited Liftopia.com to take a look at some deals. The first one that caught my eye was for Park City. The entire season of pricing is up, with discounts ranging between 15% off and 32% off for tickets purchased one week in advance (the difference being less discount during the most popular times of the ski season).
Choosing a Colorado resort, I looked at Durango Mountain Resort (Purgatory). Durango offers one, two or three-day tickets, so I looked at the three-day offers. They are already sold out for Christmas week. But later in the season, the deal is 25% off and you only have to purchase your tickets one day in advance.
And this points to two more trends.
2. Buy Early (And Often). Skiers and riders are buying tickets earlier than ever and planning ahead to take advantage of good deals. “The booking season used to begin in December,” according to Schneidermann. “Now resorts are selling tickets in July. This year, we sold more tickets on one day in August than in the entire month of August 2011.”
3. Bundle Up! Resorts are putting a wider variety of products online. While Liftopia started selling lift tickets, they now sell rental packages, food and beverage credits, multi-day passes and more. Many of these tickets are bundled; for example, offering discounted lift tickets together with equipment rentals. “Last year about 15% of our sales were bundled,” says Schneidermann. “This was up from 10% in 2011. Bundling products provides more value to consumers.”
Yes, that’s the sound of my own horn tooting. You see, I’ve got an article in the Fall 2012 issue of Women’s Adventure Magazine. While I am one of the Adventure Moms, with a monthly column online at WomensAdventureMagazine.com, this is my first print piece for them. Toot!
The article is a profile of my good friend Marge Gunderson, sharing how “Fast Women Have More Fun.” Not only is Marge an super-septuagenarian cyclist, but she’s raced motorcycles and skis in her past, earning the nickname “Fast Marge.” And my article is in good company, nestled as it is among stories of BASE jumping, cyclocross, women veterans and more. Women’s Adventure is always worth a read.
I am honored to be a writer for the Liftopia.com blog. I have also, quite happily and successfully, purchased lift tickets on their site. As always, all opinions are my own and are exactly what I would tell my family and friends.
© 2012, Kristen Lummis. All rights reserved. Any use or publication of content, including photos, requires express permission.