Western U.S. ski resort advanced bookings down | SierraSun.com

Western U.S. ski resort advanced bookings down

Sebastian Foltz
sfoltz@tahoedailytribune.com

A skier gets up on edge to float through some fresh powder at Heavenly Mountain Resort. While early advanced winter lodging numbers are reportedly down, officials say it's not yet a cause for concern.

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. — While western resort towns recorded record summer lodging numbers for the third consecutive summer, the winter projections appear to be less promising — at least for the moment.

A report from DestiMetrics — a Denver-based organization that tracks mountain lodging bookings at 19 western mountain destinations — suggests that advanced winter booking trends were down 2.3 percent in September compared to the same time last year.

Occupancy for the month, however, was up nearly 15 percent with revenues up 22.7 percent coming off of a strong summer.

Actual "on-the-books" advanced occupancy was only down 1.1 percent.

"It's the first decline we've seen in several years," DestiMetrics director of operations Tom Foley said, but he was quick to add that numbers could easily catch up. "We're early enough and the numbers are small enough that there's no reason for concern, just attention."

The company's October data will be more telling, he explained.

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Factors that typically influence travel booking include the Consumer Confidence Index, the state of the economy and stock market, and other governmental actions like the potential for a shutdown. For winter activities, weather is also a major factor.

"Weather almost trumps everything. It certainly trumped a bad economy," Foley said of positive occupancy trends even during the recession. "Snow is a game changer … We have two wildcards that make or break a season — weather and economy."

Weather was the primary reason for California resorts seeing less occupancy in recent years when compared to Colorado. It also means California destinations have less of a disparity in occupancy to recover from moving forward.

"There's negative snow equity and undeniably it's been a challenge in the West," Foley said.

Promising El Niño forecasts could easily buck the trend, and with Colorado resorts starting to open this week advanced booking may also start to recover.