Vail Resorts (NYSE: MTN) has been named one of the World’s Top 10 Most Innovative Companies in the travel sector, and one of the World’s 50 Most Innovative Companies for 2016, by Fast Company magazine.
This is not news to anyone who skis in America or Australia. Vail Resorts put a bomb under the whole industry lift pass pricing structure back in 2008, and that was just the start of initiatives to streamline, personalise and make more affordable the whole ski experience. For example, crowd sourced real time lift line info can seriously boost your actual ski time on busy days.
“On behalf of our more than 25,000 brave, ambitious and passionate employees, we are incredibly honored to be recognized by Fast Company for our efforts to re-imagine every aspect of the mountain experience for both our guests and our employees. From our game-changing Epic Season Pass, to our groundbreaking social media application, EpicMix, to our sophisticated approach to personalizing our conversation with our guests and our use of acquisitions to create a highly impactful network of world-class resorts, we continually strive to raise the bar for the entire travel industry,” said Rob Katz, chairman and chief executive officer of Vail Resorts. “Our success has been made possible because of our people, who lie at the core of all innovation, and all of the time and effort everyone at Vail Resorts commits to developing leaders at all levels of our organization.”
Vail Resorts was recognized for several key differentiators, including:
Epic Season Pass. Introduced in 2008, the Epic Season Pass has singlehandedly changed the landscape of the ski industry, providing tremendous value to skiers and snowboarders with unlimited, unrestricted skiing at 12 mountain resorts, including some of the most iconic mountains in the world such as Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge and Park City. In December 2012, Vail Resorts embarked on a new strategy to create a pipeline of future skiers and snowboarders – and Epic Season Pass holders – by acquiring two small ski areas near major metropolitan areas with substantial populations of skiers: Mt. Brighton near Detroit, Michigan and Afton Alps outside of Minneapolis, Minnesota. To expand upon this strategy, the third urban ski area, Wilmot Mountain, located 65 miles north of Chicago, was acquired just last month. Last year, with the acquisition of Perisher ski resort in Australia, Vail Resorts became the first global mountain resort company. The addition of Perisher unlocks a significant market of Australian skiers and snowboarders for the Company’s U.S. resorts on the Epic Season Pass. Today, Vail Resorts sells more than 500,000 season passes in all 50 states and 80 countries around the world, creating the ultimate travel loyalty program.
EpicMix. In August 2010, Vail Resorts unveiled EpicMix, a first-of-its-kind online and mobile application that enables skiers and snowboarders to seamlessly capture their mountain experience using an RFID chip in their hard-card lift ticket or season pass and passive scanners at each lift. Skiers are able to track their vertical feet, earn digital pins for accomplishments on the mountain and, this season, the Company introduced a new feature, EpicMix Time, which uses anonymized, crowd-sourced Wi-Fi and Bluetooth signals to estimate lift line wait times in real time.
Personalized Marketing. Vail Resorts uses EpicMix and other guest insights to create a more personal, relevant and sophisticated dialogue with skiers and riders. The Company has been at the forefront of moving from traditional media to direct, digital and social channels to better inform and engage guests and ensure the effectiveness all of its messaging.
Sustainability. Vail Resorts has been on the leading edge of many environmental initiatives in the travel industry, which began in 2006 when the Company became the second largest corporate purchaser of wind power in the U.S. to offset 100 percent of its energy use. In 2008, Vail Resorts made a commitment to reduce its overall energy use by 10 percent and after having achieved that goal a few years later, the Company set its sights on tackling another 10 percent by 2020.
To their list we would add the reinvestment strategy – coming back to ski the likes of Vail and Breckenridge the past couple of weeks we have been blown away by the infrastructure improvements and terrain expansions. three days after a dump at Vail it’s so big we found knee to thigh deep snow in the trees. On a huge Saturday at Breck (very one was skiing the day before Denver Broncos were in the SuperBowl, we skied lonely lines most of the day.
The bottom line is they are making it easier and better to ski/board, and you can’t fault that – plus, their competition scrambling to catch up means more deals and improvements all over.