Tahoe ski resorts promote high-tech offerings

February 21, 2011 7:54:08 PM PST
If great snow conditions aren't enough to lure you to the mountains, a couple of Tahoe ski areas have some new high-tech offerings that might.

For little kids learning to ski, sometimes the trickiest part is just riding the chairlift. So Alpine Meadows ski area is trying out a new product called Magnestick.

"Parents love it," said Alpine's Rachel Woods. "It's an added extra element of safety for kids as they are learning to ride chairlifts."

Magnestick is built into a lightweight vest.

"It slides over the child's jacket and on the back we have a metal disk," explained Woods.

The beginner lifts have electromagnetic seat backs. When the child gets on, the metal disk on the back of their vest sticks to the magnets on the chair, and the child can't fall off. At the end of the ride, a brass brush interrupts the electromagnetic field. The magnet releases and the child can get off the lift.

Heavenly ski area's latest high-tech gadget is aiming at a slightly older crowd. Epic Mix is an RF chip built into your ski pass, about the size of a credit card. When you get on a chairlift, a scanner detects the card.

"So you basically just ski or snowboard the way you always would and Epic Mix does all the tracking for you," said Heavenly's Russ Pecoraro.

A computer records how many vertical feet you ski or snowboard and lets you know when you reach a milestone.

"I got 700,000 vertical feet today, total for the season," said skier Bryan Hickman.

You can even link the card to Facebook and it automatically posts your accomplishments. There's also an app for iPhones and droids so you can share a lot of information.

Skier Chris Hernandez uses it to find his buddies.

"It's showing me that Megan, Brad, they just checked in about a half-hour ago," described Hernandez. "And Brad just loaded Canyon chair."

Epic Mix works at all the ski areas owned by Vail Resorts, including Heavenly. The top skiers vie for bragging rights -- like the guy at Vail with three million vertical feet.

"Everyone knows him -- Sean C. He pops up there, we all know him," said Hickman. "We've never met him, but we know him."

Epic Mix is free with your Heavenly ski pass. Alpine's Magnestick safety vest costs $20 to rent for a day, or comes free if you enroll in ski school.

Written and produced by Jennifer Olney.

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