As of early last week, Vail Resorts claimed that just under 40 percent of skiers and snowboarders at its resorts had activated EpicMix accounts, generating more than 280,000 posts on Facebook and Twitter — that's more social posts already than in the entire 2010-11 season.
The reason for the success is attributed to the new photograph addition to EpicMix, allowing skiers and snowboarders to get a photo taken that is quickly uploaded to that person's EpicMix account.
Visitors and local residents alike can be seen stopping for a photograph when they might have otherwise just kept on skiing. One reason is that it's free.
“It's awesome,” said Lyall Gorenstein, from New York. “What better way to describe it — free — because not much in Vail is free.”
Gorenstein had three Epic Mix photos taken with his family and plans to pick the best one and frame it for what he calls his wall of shame, which features nothing but ski photos. Vail Resorts offers a higher resolution version of the photos for $19.95, while the digital lower resolution versions are free.
For those that use social media, the photographs are a great way to share images with friends almost instantly. The Epic Mix photographer scans each person's pass before taking the photo, and that's how the photo automatically uploads to that person's EpicMix account. Once the photo is there, you can post it to Facebook or Twitter, or you can arrange your Epic Mix settings to do that for you automatically.
Local professional skier Drew Rouse said the new photo feature isn't for him, but he has seen his friends “go crazy with it.”
“The tourists I talk to at work love it,” Rouse said. “I would say that Vail Resorts has a big hit with the public.”
And that was the point all along. When Vail Resorts CEO Rob Katz announced the new photography component of Epic Mix in August, he knew it would be hugely valuable for the company as a marketing tool.
“If you think about social media, and especially for resorts and vacation destinations, word of mouth always comes up as the No. 1 reason why people choose (a destination) — not that marketing and other things don't help, they do — but word of mouth is so strong and powerful,” Katz said. “... Photo sharing is the fastest growing area in social media. We want people to take these photos and show them to other people.”
For some visitors, the new system will take some getting used to. Ben Barrocas, from South Florida, said he'll give it a shot but said he misses the Sharp Shooter photographers.
Vail Resorts replaced the Sharp Shooters, a company it contracted out to take on-mountain souvenir photographs, with its own EpicMix photographers this year, but Barrocas said the EpicMix photographers are harder to find.
“On top on one of the lifts, near Buffalo's, there was nobody to be found,” he said. “I didn't find that many photographers — only found one today. The Sharp Shooters were visible — they were everywhere.”
Vail Resorts hired about 200 photographers total for all six resorts — Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, Keystone, Heavenly and Northstar. The Epic Mix mobile application and website debuted last season, which brought the resort a lot of buzz in the social media world.
The photo addition, however, seems to be surpassing all the buzz created in 2010-11. With more than 280,000 Facebook and Twitter posts as of Dec. 13, and with Facebook's estimate that each user has an average of 130 friends, Vail Resorts estimates that Epic Mix has already generated more than 36 million social impressions.
Vail Ski and Snowboard instructor Stacey Burns said she sees EpicMix photos being uploaded to her friends' Facebook accounts every day.
“I like it, I think it's fun,” Burns said. “I don't have to bust my phone out on the lift to take a picture anymore.”
Local resident Nathan Malone said because it's free, how could anyone not use it?
“It certainly seems that skiers are engaging more with social media, too,” Malone said, via the Vail Daily's Facebook page. “That kind of advertising is priceless for (Vail Resorts).”
Courtesy Summit Daily News