One thing we at Liftopia look at frequently is how far ahead of the trip date a customer buys his or her ticket. If a customer books the day before a trip, we call that a one-day booking window. If he or she purchases a full week before, that is a seven-day booking window. All orders for a trip date combined make up a booking curve. We decided to take a closer look at booking curves depending on both size of ski area and the region in which the ski area is located.
We looked back across multiple seasons to try to see where advance purchase sales fell naturally to get a baseline of data. We removed all potentially skewed data points to ensure an accurate data set. We compiled data over multiple seasons to try to remove any strange weather patterns, and we sliced and diced the data by both size and region.
One main takeaway is that booking patterns vary widely across regions and sizes of resorts. Western Canada and the Northern Rockies (MT, WY, ID) led the way with the longest average booking windows (the average number of days before a trip that the customer bought). These regions sell only 15% and 14% of total revenue into tickets booked the day before the trip date, respectively. Additionally, 36% and 32%, respectively, of tickets were sold 15 or more days in advance of the trip date.
Northern California/Lake Tahoe and the Pacific Northwest made up the other end of the spectrum with the most sales into a shorter booking window. Northern CA/Lake Tahoe saw 35% of their sales within the day before the trip and the Pacific Northwest saw 40% of sales within the day before the trip date.
We also looked into the Southern New Hampshire/Maine sub-region of New England to see how seven different resorts of different sizes and brands compared in terms of booking curve. One might expect that because each resort is a different size, serves a slightly different customer base, and has its own unique brand, that you would see fairly different patterns.
This turned out to not be the case, as we found on average 46% of advance purchase bookings occurred the day before a trip date. Over the past two seasons and across all seven resorts, the lowest percent of one-day booking windows was 40% and the highest was 54%, a relatively tight range.
Based on the characteristics of the resorts in these regions, one conclusion we can draw is that regions with destination resorts (Western Canada and Northern Rockies) tend to book more revenue further in advance of trip dates, while “drive markets” (Tahoe, New England) tend to see bookings closer in. This shouldn’t be too surprising. But it is important to note that even a purchase made one day before a trip date is still in advance and extremely valuable to a resort. This is especially true for a resort in a highly competitive drive-market. Ensuring that customers commit to your resort before they get in the car to head up to the mountains or decide they are too hungover to ski after their Friday night festivities is critical in this type of market. With this in mind, as long as you price appropriately given the booking window, you can still use this form of advance purchase to your advantage.