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October 04, 2010

More on Ski Pass Defender

Check out the news from Breck and Vail Resorts over their new RFID enabled ski passes:

Breckenridge inventor Jon Lawson, who recently started marketing and selling the Ski Pass Defender, was told by Vail Resorts that he would have to give up his association with the product if wanted to return to his Breckenridge ski teaching job for an eighteenth season this winter.

Lawson’s invention is a simple sleeve that lets ski pass holders decide when they want to allow the electronic chip to be scanned. For example, a skier could choose to use the pass only for access to a lift. Or, he could allow all-day tracking, which at some resorts then translates into getting access on vertical footage and other mountain stats that can be shared with friends via social networks like Facebook at Twitter.

That’s the idea of Vail Resorts EpicMix app, publicized several weeks ago as a new product for this season and generally greeted with favorable reviews from the ski press and from skiers eager to share their exploits in the online equivalent of an aprés-ski lounge...

“Last week I got an e-mail from Pat’s secretary inviting me to come in and talk about it,” Lawson said, referring to Breckenridge VP and chief operating officer Pat Campbell.

Lawson said when he went to the ski resort office to discuss the issue, there was someone from the human resources offices holding his personnel file — which perceived as an attempt at intimidation.

In a second meeting with resort officials, Lawson got the ultimatum — either opt out of his business or opt out of his employment with Vail Resorts.

He chose to quit the resort to pursue his new business, saying it was an easy decision after the second conversation with resort officials.

“I went in again this week and Pat said the product is in conflict with their initiative. She gave me a choice of either divesting my ownership interest in the business or not working for Breckenridge,” he said.

Lawson described a few details of the conservation, saying that Campbell questioned him about the nature of his feelings about corporations, asking him whether he had something against The Man, or against corporate America.

Based on Lawson’s own post on the Ski Pass Defender website, he doesn’t.

“I don’t have anything against Ski Corporations using these technologies, and their “initiatives” to grow revenues and decrease expenses. But I think there are enough people who prefer NOT to be watched and cataloged by a big brother to warrant $16 of protection,” he wrote Sept. 21. “It is simply a way to give the skier or rider the freedom to choose to be tracked or untracked from day to day or run to run. And we now know where Vail Resorts stands on that point. ’You can have any color you want, as long as it’s black.’ “

Lawson thinks the ski company will use to information for targeted marketing at some point down the road, and also believes the RFID technology could be used to enforce on-mountain speed limits. He also says he has some expertise in the area of identity theft risk management, and claims the RFID data from ski passes could easily be skimmed in the ski area environment.

Big brother.

Now, to make matters worse, they also have the ability to combine stored values card transactions with this information. Basically they can catalog your entire day electronically.

Imagine that you ski 30,000 vertical feet and pop in to the on mountain bar for a beer after a long day skiing. You have one beer, then drive back to Denver, but you are exhausted from skiing and you have a car accident. Suddenly, they can recreate every run you took down to the type of terrain you skied and where you went.

For our pothead friends, imagine you pop off the lift into the trees with a couple buddies to smoke up real quick. They can actually track you and pinpoint your location. Ski patrol can come find you.

Ski pass defender simply let's you opt out of this.

I don't smoke pot and I have never drank while skiing. I poach an occasional closed run or two, but I like my privacy.

Not sure I really like Vail collecting this data. They invested upwards of $10M into RFID technology. What is their ROI model? It might be targeted advertising or it might be selling your information. I don't want ski spam and I don't want non-ski spam from their partners based on my skiing preferences.

Posted by Justin at October 4, 2010 11:37 AM


From winter to summer, the Aspen/Snowmass Mountains have it all! You've got four powderful choices- Snowmass, Aspen Mountain, Aspen Highlands and Buttermilk and they're bound to make your epic run everyday, the way you want it.

Posted by: ski trips at November 4, 2010 11:59 PM