Identifying Safe Reopening Strategies for Ski Resorts Using Agent-Based Simulation

We are liv­ing in unprece­dent­ed times. More like­ly than not, your busi­ness has been impact­ed by the unique events of the world­wide COVID-19 pan­dem­ic. How­ev­er, even in the most challenging of times, con­tin­u­ing edu­ca­tion remains crit­i­cal­ly impor­tant. In an effort to con­tin­ue sup­port­ing our client part­ners dur­ing this dif­fi­cult time, we will con­tin­ue shar­ing insights and guid­ance to help you strength­en your busi­ness and serve your val­ued cus­tomers when the time comes to wel­come them back to your venue. Learn more about our COVID solu­tions here.

As ski season quickly approaches, figuring out how to safely welcome your skiers back in the COVID era can be a daunting task. At acces­so, we’ve been work­ing tirelessly to help our ski clients plan for a safe and successful reopening. We recently partnered with Integrated Insight, an analytics consulting firm, to analyze how virtual queues, timed ticketing and social distancing will affect your guests and ski area. Watch as acces­so Solutions Architect Kevin Brice and Integrated Insight VP of Industrial Engineering Ben Dubiel take us through their 3 simulations for COVID crowd management for your ski resort and read on for your guide to avoiding an unexpected avalanche of traffic on open­ing day!

Tools for Reopening Safely

-Timed Ticketing & Reservations: As COVID-19 con­tin­ues, many ski area oper­a­tors are focus­ing on a reopen­ing plan that limits the num­ber of guests vis­it­ing each day. Your tick­et­ing sys­tem can help you achieve this in sev­er­al ways. Offer­ing guests timed tickets on your eCom­merce tick­et­ing site is essen­tial. Timed ticketing can great­ly help your oper­a­tions team pre­pare for and safe­ly accom­mo­date guests. This allows your resort to safely spread out skiers throughout the day on the mountain. Guests can make their reser­va­tion to ski any­where, on any device—even when they are on the gondola! Oper­a­tors can eas­i­ly enforce capac­i­ty based on local restric­tions or oper­a­tional needs.

- Virtual Queuing: Vir­tu­al queu­ing is a great way to keep skiers safe while allow­ing them to ful­ly enjoy your resort. Long lines are almost as much of a staple for ski areas as fresh powder. During COVID-19, enforcing social distancing with long lines would mean your resort would need miles of line area. Empowering your guests to join virtual queues can eliminate these lengthy physical lines in a way that promotes social distancing. Plus, when guests no longer have to spend a significant amount of their day standing in a line, they can have more time to enjoy your ski resort, making long-lasting memories that help boost guest loyalty. Not only can virtual queues be helpful for your lifts or gondolas, but also, they can be a big help for rental shops and other high traffic areas around your resort.

 

Agent-Based Simulation Scenarios for Ski Operations

In order to show how operations perform under different scenarios, the Integrated Insight team built a sample ski resort. Using agent-based simulation, they modeled the effect of different operational scenarios on guest traffic flow to identify potential friction points, crowding and/or excess queue times. Agent-based simulation uses Artificially Intelligent agents to create models of guest behaviors and navigational flows. The team created three scenarios to understand the impact that different operational methods have on system performance.

 

Free-For-All (Baseline)

This is the baseline model to show how guests would have arrived prior to COVID-19. It is important to see what would happen if no adjustments to the arrival experience are made. Data shows that the majority of guests show up between 8:15-9:15 am, but afterwards, the number of skiers arriving drops significantly. The Free-For-All scenario fills the gondola queue fastest, creating a longer wait quickly. At peak operation in this scenario, the posted wait time for guests is 140 minutes, and your resort would need over a half-mile of line space just for the gondola queue. As we can see here, a scenario that involves your ski area following through with “business as usual,” for the most part, is not conducive to a safe or efficient reopening for your resort.

 

Timed Ticketing Only

The next scenario is Timed Ticketing. This shows the result if guests are assigned an arrival time and cannot access the gondola until their assigned time. The arrivals prior to and during opening are significantly lower, but pick up once Timed Ticket and Reservation slots are active. In the simulation, we’ve also included guests arriving before and after their times to model guests needing to wait to access the gondola. The Timed Ticketing scenario only delays the concerns from the Free-For-All. Guests experience the queue filling and congestion at 11:15 am instead of first thing in the morning. Posted wait times are still at 125+ minutes and the resort still need half a mile of socially distanced queue to accommodate the guests waiting for their turn on the mountain.

 

Virtual Queue & Timed Ticketing

The final scenario shows Timed Ticketing with a virtual queue that only allows guests to enter a physical buffer queue once their assigned time is reached. In this case, the guests show up later as there is no incentive to access the queue early. This gives them time to spend at your F&B locations, rental shops or other places at the resort where they can practice safe social distancing while still enjoying their experience. At peak operations, the posted wait time is 136 minutes, but in this simulation, your guests only wait an average of 13 minutes in a physical line once their wait is over in the virtual queue. The socially distanced buffer queue or physical line only needs to be about 370 feet (.07 miles), and guests are spread out across your resort instead of crowding at the gondola line. This option not only is the safest for your guests and staff, but it also allows your resort to limit guest capacity while still driving revenue through F&B and other shops.

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Identifying Safe Reopening Strategies for Ski Resorts Using Agent-Based Simulation

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