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Patrick Thorne

18 Nov 21

Vail Resorts Begin Predicting Lift Queues in the Future

Patrick Thorne

18 Nov 21

Vail Resorts have announced that they’ve collected so much data from operating their Epic Mix passes for more than a decade now, they are able to predict when and where lift queues will build up and warn skiers accordingly.

‘EpicMix Time’ will offer a full-day prediction of lift line wait times at the company’s ski areas.

“Queuing forecasts will be made in 15-minute increments, to help guests plan their day in advance, navigate their time on mountain in real-time and make the most out of their skiing and riding experience,” a company statement says.

Epic Mix is ostensibly a season pass which can be used in various versions, including the main one which gives access to all 34 resorts the company owns in North America and at several other leading ski areas around the world.

But it has many associated services and facilities, including tracking each skier as they move around the mountain. This allows the company to provide live information on how busy each run and lift is and let skiers know in advance, an idea now copied by other leading areas worldwide.

“EpicMix Time will combine historic and actual wait time data for a specific lift, combined with both resort and lift guest counts, wait times at other lifts, current snowfall, day of the week, and period of the season to create a predictive lift line wait time model for all lifts, at all times of day. This new technology leverages machine learning, so its forecast will continue to improve in accuracy throughout the season,” the company statement claims.

During the pandemic the idea of showing skiers where the bottlenecks are at any time of the day has come into its own as a way of diverting skiers away from crowds for different reasons to just wanting to find an empty lift and uncrowded slope for the love of it.

This is the first times queues have been predicted before they happen though. EpicMix Time will be accessible via the pass app for 12 of the company’s most popular resorts.

“Based on years of data collected from EpicMix, we know that even on peak visitation days, more than 90 percent of lift line wait times across our resorts are under five minutes,” said Kirsten Lynch, chief executive officer of Vail Resorts. “Even so, we remain dedicated to continuing to improve the guest experience, reduce wait times and communicate transparently with guests, especially given the excitement and demand for travel this coming season. All of our announcements today represent a collaboration between our operations, analytics, digital and technology teams to prioritize our pass holders and ensure skiers and riders have an Experience of a Lifetime at our resorts this season.”

Lift queue prediction is part of a swathe of measures the company has announced to minimise any risk of pandemic spread this winter.

These include limiting lift ticket sales during peak holiday periods (including December 25-January 2, January 14-17, and February 18-27) to prioritise Epic pass holders and launching new operational plans to improve lift-loading efficiency which includes a significant improvement of how efficiently the company loads lifts and gondolas to reduce wait times, among other operational enhancements.

These include updated lift maze layouts and installing new signage to improve flow and better inform skiers, while optimizing the lift loading and unloading to reduce operational slows and stops on lifts. These improvements will be supported by new staffing plans, including dedicated lift maze coordinators at the company’s busiest lifts, and increased staff training focused on maze management, lift loading and unloading the company says.

EpicMix Time will be available at Whistler Blackcomb in British Columbia; Vail Mountain, Beaver Creek Resort, Breckenridge Ski Resort, Keystone Resort and Crested Butte Mountain Resort in Colorado; Park City Mountain in Utah; Heavenly Ski Resort, Northstar California and Kirkwood Mountain Resort in Lake Tahoe; and Stowe Mountain Resort and Okemo Mountain Resort in Vermont.