Winter that never was?The winter of 2011-12 will not go down in the record books (at least not in a good way) as it was one of low snow totals and warm temperatures for most almost all areas in the US. It certainly goes to show that the winter mountain resort business is one which can never be absolutely accurately predicted as it truly seemed like, with the business climate picking up, leisure travel in a rebound and after a solid 2010-11 winter season that this might be a winter to remember. Well, Mother Nature showed that she still plays a major role in the winter mountain resort business cycle and by waiting until well after the December Holiday season to bring snow to most mountain locales, the weather did have an impact on those vital holiday bookings along with business throughout most of the remainder of the season due to in part to a perceived lack of snow and perhaps the want to simply stay home?

What are lessons we can learn from this? Here are a few quick hits:

  • It’s impossible to accurately predict exactly what the business levels for a season will be like – sometimes things are close to estimates, but other times…
  • Be flexible (have a plan B/C/D, because once things start to change from where you thought they would be, you need to be able to shift your priorities and efforts.
  • People will still come and will still have a wonderful time. I spoke with many people on the mountains here in Utah who were having a wonderful time skiing and riding on manmade snow only. Perhaps they didn’t ride the closed runs at other times but they were excited and happy to be on the slopes, in the mountains and didn’t have a care that off-piste runs weren’t open.
  • These are the times to shine for a ski resort’s customer service, both on and off the hill, because a blip in customer service can really get magnified in these sorts of situations. I heard a waiter at a local restaurant commenting during a snowstorm recently that he was “over winter” to a table of visiting skiers/riders. What a way to bring them down about the new snow!
Feel free to leave any other thoughts or ideas about lessons learned from the winter (or non-winter) of 2011-12 in the comments below.
Photo credit: Flickr user Perfect Zero