The initial announcement at the beginning of this winter season that it would soon be possible for us to use our smartphone as a ski ticket was accompanied by a lively media buzz. Thanks to SKIDATA, the Salzburg-based world market leader for ticketing and access systems, an interesting new alternative to the classic ski ticket is on the horizon: a 100% digital version for smartphones. The new format is based on SKIDATA’s in-house technology, and it enables users to pass through the lift gates with their Android smartphone, which eliminates the need for an extra Keycard.
The solution is based on a newly developed app that holds a digital version of the pre-purchased ticket. Upon arrival at the lift gate, the application initiates a data exchange with the access system to automatically release the turnstile. What makes this innovation special is its ability to overcome a key challenge for today’s winter sports solutions: allowing users to keep their smartphone in their jacket pocket and their ski gloves on. All they have to do is take their own Android phone with them to the slopes and make sure it is charged.
When developing the digital ski pass, SKIDATA’s engineers were faced with a series of tough technical challenges, as Franz Holzer, Managing Director of SKIDATA Austria, explains: “There are the extreme temperatures to deal with, in addition to high levels of humidity and the resulting strain on the battery. Add to that the fact that guests are wearing gloves and that touch screens tend to be less responsive at temperatures below zero. So building a mobile access solution for ski guests is quite a challenge, even for a technology leader. In view of this, proper pre-testing becomes all the more important.”
SKIDATA was able to win Snow Space Salzburg Bergbahnen as a partner for the all-important field test. A big player in the Austrian ski tourism market, the Snow Space Salzburg resort runs the family-focused Monte Popolo mountain retreat in Eben, which is independent from the main resort. Thanks to its proximity to the SKIDATA research facilities in Groedig, Monte Popolo turned out to be an ideal testing ground for the solution.
Snow Space Salzburg’s CEO, Wolfgang Hettegger, is passionate about the new technology. “As a leading mountain transport operator,” he says, “one of our core tasks consists in triggering innovations in our industry and acting as a driving force behind their implementation. Our focus is always on making the winter sports experience more convenient, more secure and more fun for our guests.” A good example is the world’s first-ever chair lift with combined heating for the chairs’ seating surface, lumbar support and back rest, which went into operation at Snow Space Salzburg last year.
“With mobile ticketing we can make it even easier for our guests to enjoy their skiing experience. Instead of having to wait in line at the ticket booth they can book their ski pass from the comfort of their home or guest accommodation and take the ‘online route’ to the slopes. In case they need personal assistance, we have staff standing by via live chat to guide them through the booking process,” as Hettegger explains.
The 10th of February marks the kick-off to the first public field test. Interested winter sports guests are invited to book their ski pass in the Ski amadé online ticket shop and upload it to a dedicated app on their Android smartphone.
“We’re planning to continue the field test until the end of this season to gather as much experience as possible,” says Holzer. The results will then be used as a basis for putting the finishing touches on the product. The timing of the market launch depends on the feedback from guests and the experience we hope to gain during the pilot run. Over the coming three to five years we expect mountain transport operators to develop a growing interest in offering this digital alternative to the classic ski pass.”