Vail's Keystone Resort beta-testing digital mountain assistant

Through simple text messaging, Emma offers guests real-time information on everything from snow conditions, parking and personal performance stats to recommendations on rentals, lessons and dining options. Photo credit: Vail Resorts

Vail Resorts is beta-testing a digital mountain assistant this winter at its Keystone Resort in Colorado.

Through simple text messaging, Emma (Epic Mountain Assistant) offers guests at the ski resort real-time information on everything from snow conditions, parking and personal performance stats to recommendations on rentals, lessons and dining options. This first-generation technology uses artificial intelligence through natural language processing to answer questions 24/7 through short message service text. As Emma interacts with guests, it technically gets smarter, expanding its knowledge base and insight throughout the season. 

Vail Resorts is using the early season to better understand how guests ask questions while at the resort and will launch Emma at eight additional ski resorts later this season: Vail, Beaver Creek and Breckenridge in Colorado; Park City in Utah; Heavenly, Northstar and Kirkwood in Tahoe; and Whistler Blackcomb in Canada.

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“The earlier Emma can interact with guests on a variety of topics, the faster she will learn and adjust to guest preferences,” said Kirsten Lynch, chief marketing officer for Vail Resorts, in a statement. “Emma is the world’s first digital mountain assistant and continues a decade of pioneering technological firsts from Vail Resorts to enhance the guest experience.”

Among Emma's many capabilities is its connection to EpicMix, a technology from Vail Resorts originally launched in 2010, which allows skiers and snowboarders to track their days and vertical feet. Guests can retrieve their EpicMix stats by texting Emma simple questions like, “How much did I ski today?” or “What are my stats?”

Additionally, Emma can answer questions on weather conditions, grooming, lift-line wait times, ski school, lift tickets, equipment rental options, dining recommendations and more, serving as a one-stop source for the information guests need, when they need it. If Emma cannot answer a question, it will connect guests to a live agent for further assistance. In an effort to continuously improve Emma's capabilities, guests can text "feedback" to share their open-ended ideas and comments for Emma.
 
Vail Resorts has introduced several tech avenues, including RFID technologies in passes and lift tickets to enable an “easy scan” process and to power EpicMix; launched the EpicDay Express lift tickets program, which allows guests to skip the ticket line completely; and introduced EpicMix time insights, a website that gives guests a historical look at lift-line wait times for any day throughout the season, using data collected from its real-time lift-line feature, EpicMix Time.