Why so much "no tech" in America?
I know right? I went to the mountain today, and not one high speed lift! Not one computerized snowmaking machine in sight! Heck they only have one cash register that they move back and forth from the main kitchen counter to the island depending on weekends or weekdays and crowds.
- 1,516 Posts. Joined 9/2001
- Location: Montana
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Having worked in IT at resorts for a decade now, I might know a little about this. What specifically do you mean? Were you referring to the other poster's comment about lack of high-speed lifts and automated snowmaking?
In general, I think technology is often overlooked at resorts, especially the any of the non-corporate resorts (Jackson, Snowbird, etc.) Here's some of the reasons why:
1. Good IT staff need to be full-time, year-round employees. Resorts dislike adding FTYE staff - remember, you're really only making money 5 - 6 months of the year. So, when it comes to cutting expenses in the budget, the first thing they look at is the G&A portion of the budget (general and administrative) and specifically labor. So, you tend to end up with very small IT departments who spend more time putting out fires than tackling larger infrastructure projects.
2. Communications is a big issue. Resorts tend to be large, campus style environments that require a decent knowledge of WAN networking to make everything work. However, until you really start getting fiber in the ground, there's rarely enough bandwidth to go around. That means you need to keep application stacks simple.
3. The other reason you need to keep things simple is because turnover is so high. When you hire lots of new managers and staff every year, you usually don't have the luxury of training them for a month. The rental shop manager is much more interested in order new skis and getting the bindings on them than spending the time getting them in the inventory system that automatically tracks their tunes.
4. On mountain tech can vary for a lot of reasons. In Europe they have a lot of automated gates. In the US they really haven't caught on. For one, they're expensive. Second, the RFID passes are still a bit pricey and the gate / reader technology has really only gotten usable in the last 2 years. Barcodes are much simpler. Also, when we started putting automated gates in at Copper (2002?) we found that the ticket scanners perform a valuable guest service task. People like to ask them questions, etc. So it seemed like we were never going to get away from staffing that position. We turned around and rebranded the gates as a way to bypass liftlines and called it Beeline. They've now been torn out, but mostly because they don't have the staff to support them.
5. Improvements like high-speed lifts and snowmaking are harder to justify in the West than in the East. Snowmaking's only purpose in the west is to get the resort open early, not to extend the season. Then you have to ask, can you make enough money before Thanksgiving to justify a large snowmaking operation? High-speed lifts are quite pricey and require a lot more maintenance than fixed grips. So, you also have to ask, can you draw enough skier visits to justify them? High speed quads don't put any more people on the mountain compared to fixed grips, they just get the people who are there up the hill faster.
6. Where resorts (and actually most businesses) really fall apart when it comes to utilizing technology is with sales. If you look at what Disney or Vegas does to maximize yield using technology, it's pretty amazing. It's a level of sophistication where most resorts are 20 years behind and even the best (which I'd say is Vail right now) is a decade behind. Companies like Ryan Solutions and to some degree RTP are trying to change that, but it's not there yet.
7. Large capital improvements stopped 3 years ago. Most resorts are gunshy about doing big projects in this economy. We'll see that turn around this summer, and the epic winter the West is going to have this year will play a role in that.
- 322 Posts. Joined 10/2006
- Location: Minnesota
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I know..it's ridiculous. I was skiing the other day and can you believe it. All day, only 1 person used their cell phone on the ski lift next to me. The people that just sit there quietly are so self-important. Extremely rude. Young people these days......