Vail Resorts' new RF tracker is like Foursquare and Facebook on skis

If you plan to do some skiing in Powder Mecca this year, otherwise known as Colorado, check out Vail Resorts clever new use of on-mountain RF tracking technology dubbed "EpicMix." It turns an RF-enabled lift ticket into a combination of ski-run tracker and a homegrown version of Foursquare. It will also be available in Tahoe at Heavenly.

Vail has been using RF-enabled lift tickets for a few years now -- so skiers can tuck their passes somewhere in their coats where they won't flap around, and lift operators can still scan the ticket. This year, the company will use that RF technology to monitor which lifts a passholder uses and then calculate the number vertical feet skied in a day and across a season, at a single resort, or across all five owned by the company: Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, Keystone, Vail, or in California at Lake Tahoe's Heavenly.

The EpicMix Website will also link into the company's free mobile application for iPhone and Android. User stats and other data can be shared with social networks and that's where the fun really begins. EpicMix users earn "pins" a la Foursquare, and can win prizes. For instance, a pin is earned for attending opening day at any resort. Opening day for Keystone was November 5. Breckenridge will open this weekend, Vail and Heavenly on Nov. 19 and Beaver Creek on Nov. 24, 2010. (Vail Resorts last month bought a second ski resort in the Tahoe area, Northstar, but didn't have time to outfit Northstar for the EpicMix, a spokesperson said.)

EpicMix awards pins like the "Pow Hound" for skiing on a powder day

Vail promises that pins will be available for hundreds of activities and "achievements" though isn't specific on exactly what pins will be available. EpicMix will allow users to “opt out” by using a plain old paper ticket, a spokesperson said.

But those who play can share their statistics and pins through updates on Twitter and Facebook. They'll get a leader board to use with their Facebook peeps and the mobile phone app will alert them when said Facebook friends are also on the mountain. The company has also put special restrictions of use for kids under 14, linked their accounts to their parents and will offer special pins for kids. Parents will be able to use EpicMix to track their kids lift rides in real time. Future plans call for the EpicMix to link up with Google Maps, too, a spokesperson said.

Track your Facebook friends and fellow EpicMix users on the mountain.

The EpicMix application hasn't gone live yet, but no worries. Vail Resorts turned the delay into a giveaway. Last week it announced it would give up to $100,000 to one person selected in a drawing who activates an EpicMix account before Dec. 29, 2010. The gift will be equivalent to $1 for each 30,000 of vertical feet skied/snowboarded by all visitors across all the mountains from opening day until the day the application goes live, up to a max of $100K. The app is promised to be live between Thanksgiving and Christmas. The EpicMix promotional site is keeping a running total. As of Thursday evening, with only one resort open, the tally is already up to almost $6,000.