Vail Resorts has introduced Emma, your Epic Mountain Assistant, the world’s first digital mountain assistant to help guide guests while on their ski and snowboard vacation at nine of the Company’s resorts.
Emma is an interactive mountain assistant who uses artificial intelligence (AI) and natural language processing (NLP) to answer a wide range of guests’ questions about their ski vacation.
Emma will debut for the 2018/19 winter season at Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge and Keystone in Colorado; Park City in Utah; Heavenly, Northstar and Kirkwood in Tahoe; and Whistler Blackcomb in British Columbia, Canada.
Through short message service (SMS) text, Emma answers guest questions in real time. On-demand information can be accessed 24 hours a day, seven days a week, resulting in instant service and a seamless experience for guests from exploring a resort’s village to learning if a favourite slope is groomed to recommendations for the best après-ski location.
Topics such as snow conditions and lift line wait times, parking and in-resort wayfinding, ski school, lift tickets and equipment rental options, on- and off-mountain dining and activity recommendations and more can be accessed through Emma. From planning a ski vacation to arrival and all the way through to departure, Emma offers guests an unprecedented breadth of information tailored to each resort.
If Emma cannot answer a question, she will seamlessly connect guests to chat with a live agent for further assistance. As Emma interacts with guests, her knowledge base and insight will continue to expand through both human and machine learning.
Emma will be launched as an “alpha” version to a very small community of users this March to prepare for her debut in the 2018-19 winter season. Future generations of Emma may include integration with Facebook Messenger, voice assistants like Alexa, wearable technology notifications and Vail Resorts’ groundbreaking EpicMix mobile application.
“At Vail Resorts, we are committed to delivering an experience of a lifetime to each one of our guests and that means giving them the information they need, when they need it in order to plan and fully engage in the experience while at our world-class mountain resorts,” said Rob Katz, chairman and chief executive officer of Vail Resorts.
“As we have done before with EpicMix, we can use cutting edge technology with Emma to improve our guest service without detracting from their connection with the incredible natural beauty of our resorts or the personal engagement provided by our passionate employees.”
Emma is the latest among many of Vail Resorts’ technological firsts in the mountain resort industry. As Vail Resorts celebrates the 10th anniversary of the Epic Pass, the Company is also looking back on more than a decade of service innovations, which provide new ways for guests to connect with the resorts and interact with family and friends.
EpicMix, which debuted in 2010 after more than two years of development, is a ground-breaking app that allows skiers and snowboarders to track their days and vertical feet skied, earn digital pins, compete with friends and family through the leaderboards and share on-mountain accomplishments with friends through social media.
Vail Resorts followed up the original version of EpicMix with EpicMix Photo in 2011, delivering free digital photos to the EpicMix app taken on the mountain that could be shared through social media.
Next generations included the debuts of EpicMix Racing, recording digitized amateur racing statistics and EpicMix Academy, tracking progress for guests enrolled in ski and snowboard school.
In 2014, Vail Resorts introduced Epic Day Lift Tickets, an online and mobile platform that allows guests to purchase daily lift tickets in advance of their trip at the guaranteed lowest price and use the express line to pick up tickets or reload more days of skiing on mobile or online and skip the ticket line completely.
Vail Resorts was the first company in the mountain resort industry to introduce real-time lift line wait times in the 2015-16 winter season with the EpicMix Time app by using anonymized, crowd-sourced Wi-Fi and Bluetooth signals.
In 2017, the launch of EpicMix Time Insights website enabled guests to select and view actual lift line wait times for any day throughout the ski season using data collected during the previous season with the EpicMix Time app in order to plan their ski vacation.
During its launch for the 2018-19 winter season, Emma will offer real-time, resort-specific information to guests throughout Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge and Keystone in Colorado; Park City in Utah; Heavenly, Northstar California and Kirkwood in Tahoe, and Whistler Blackcomb in Canada.
“Vail Resorts continually enhances the guest experience across our mountain resorts through innovative firsts,” said Robert Urwiler, chief information officer for Vail Resorts.
“Emma is the first application of AI and NLP in the mountain resort industry and will offer our guests access to information that is authentic to each resort. Through innovations such as Emma and many others, we continue to pioneer new guest service standards for the mountain resort and leisure industry, using state-of-the art technology to seamlessly improve the guest experience.”