(Photo: Prototype of Robot Instructor)
In an effort to resolve staffing issues and reduce operating expenses, Vail Resorts today announced an initiative to fully automate its resorts by 2025, effectively eliminating much of the workforce at its 40 resorts.
“This is the perfect way to meet our guests needs, minimize our costs, and optimize shareholder returns,” said Kristen Lynch, Vail CEO. “It significantly reduces the amount we’d spend on wages. And since we won’t have to provide employee housing, we’ll save big in that department, too.”
According to Lynch, Vail began the automation process a few years ago. The adoption of RFID technology at many of its resorts allowed the company to eliminate ticket scanning positions at its many chairlifts. Ticket sellers are also no longer required, since guests must now pre-purchase their passes on line. “It only makes sense to take this all the way,” she said.
Included in the initiative are plans to eliminate lift operators by installing “GoSlow Technology,” a sensor-driven system that allows lifts to slow down during loading or unloading and instantly react if a guest has any difficulty. Ski instructors will also be replaced with scanner-equipped skiing robots. “These are truly remarkable,” Lynch enthused. “They actually scan the student as they ski, providing immediate feedback and offering input on how they might improve. Plus if a guest gives them a tip, it goes directly to our bottom line.” Food and beverage preparation will all be handled off-site at a central location, delivered to the resort, and sold using a system reminiscent of twentieth-century automats. “It’s contactless, so it’s far more sanitary than what we’ve had in the past,” said Lynch. “Plus it’s a fun option for our guests, and has the advantage of speeding service in our on-site dining facilities.”
For the present, Ski Patrol will remain unaffected. “We’re exploring the use of drones to deliver and pull the sleds used to transport injured skiers,” said Lynch, “but until we have a system that can administer CPR, staunch wounds, and stabilize broken bones, our hands are tied.” Alternatives are under investigation.
Vail will begin the automation process at its smaller properties, eventually working its way through its roster of 40 destination and regional resorts. The company expects to be fully automated by the ’25/’26 season.
(Editor Note: Just so there’s no confusion, please note the date of this post)