emma vail resorts

Alexa for Outdoors: Vail Resorts Launches ‘Emma’ Digital Mountain Assistant

Filed under: Technology  Winter 

Snow conditions, wait times, and even dinner recommendations – Emma will help plan resort visits anytime via text message.

emma vail resorts

First, Siri provided a phone assistant. Then, Alexa offered a home assistant. Now, Emma gives you a mountain assistant.

Announced today, Vail Resorts (VR) – operator of 11 mountain resorts and three urban ski areas worldwide – introduces Emma, a virtual helper for resort guests.

According to VR, Emma can instantly answer text messages about snow conditions on the mountain, ski school and equipment rental options, run and resort details, dining options, lift wait times, parking info, and more.

What’s more, VR said Emma’s “knowledge base and insight will continue to expand through both human and machine learning” the more it interacts with users. The idea, according to resort executives, is to help minimize wait times and improve visitors’ resort planning.

Vail Resorts Emma: Digital Mountain Assistant

Beginning this month, an “alpha” version of Emma will launch to a “very small community of users,” according to VR’s press release. And the plan is to have Emma ready to launch for the 2018–19 ski season at nine locations: Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, and Keystone in Colorado; Park City, Utah; Heavenly, Northstar, and Kirkwood in Tahoe; and Whistler Blackcomb in British Columbia, Canada.

“Vail Resorts continually enhances the guest experience across our mountain resorts through innovative firsts,” said Robert Urwiler, chief information officer for VR. “Emma is the first application of AI and NLP [natural language processing] in the mountain resort industry and will offer our guests access to information that is authentic to each resort.”

VR said that while Emma will continue to learn and can answer most questions, it will connect users with a live agent if it cannot address an inquiry.

Plus, VR suggested that as Emma develops, future updates could integrate with Facebook Messenger, Amazon’s Alexa, and smart wearables.

VR did not say if Emma would be available at all resorts after the nine-resort launch later this year. But the company did say that Emma would support summer resort info in the future.

Following the launch, users can reach Emma by text, no app download necessary. As such, standard SMS and data rates will apply. We’ll be sure to use the Emma assistant once it’s live. And if it helps reduce our time in line and enhance our après-ski – then we’re all about it.

By
Adam Ruggiero is an all-sport activity junkie - from biking, running, and (not enough) surfing, to ball sports, camping, and cattle farming. If it's outside, it's worth doing. Adam graduated from the University of Minnesota with a BA in journalism. Likes: unique beer, dogs, stories. Like nots: neckties, escalators, manicured lawns.
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