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Trends Q: What happens to booking lead times in winter where snowfall is scarce?

photo of the author Gregg Blanchard

Last year was rough, and while this year is shaping up a bit nicer for many resorts, we’re still not out of the woods. So, before moving on, we wanted to glean a few more insights from the snowless season that was 2011/12. This time, we’re looking at how the low snow year affected booking lead times. Did it hurt or help? Take a look.

The Goods
To find our answer, we took 100,000 reservations from 10 different resorts over the last two seasons. For every day of the winter season, we calculated the average number of days in advance a reservation was made for that day. Here’s the graph:

The thing that stood out to us, and likely stands out to you, is that the lead time was actually longer during the year with less snow. With a few small exceptions, the average in 11/12 stayed just above 10/11.

What This Means
There are likely a few factors at play here (the economy for one), but our best guess as to why this happened is fairly simple. When snow falls consistently, more people take last second vacations as storms roll in and forecasts hint at great conditions. To check out theory, we looked a little closer at the stats. Sure enough, the percentage of lead-times shorter than 7 days dropped more than 10% in 11/12.

When more people making bookings just a week or two out, the overall average is lowered. So, in a year like 2011/12 where storms were scarce, so were last-minute bookings. The only bookings left were those planned well in advance, leading to a higher overall average.

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