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How long does a crypto winter last?

The term “crypto winter” refers to a prolonged bear market in the cryptocurrency space when prices fall significantly and remain depressed for months or even years. Crypto winters can be extremely difficult times for cryptocurrency investors and companies working in the blockchain industry. However, they are also seen as a necessary cleansing process that weeds out weak projects and sets the stage for the next wave of innovation. So how long do crypto winters typically last? Let’s take a closer look.

What is a crypto winter?

A crypto winter describes a period when cryptocurrency markets experience a prolonged downturn. Prices of digital currencies plummet from previous all-time highs and remain depressed for a significant amount of time.

Trading volumes dry up as investors shy away from putting more money into crypto. Initial coin offerings (ICOs) and blockchain projects that thrived during the preceding crypto mania struggle to obtain funding. Media and mainstream interest in cryptocurrencies also wanes dramatically during this time.

The origins of the term “crypto winter” come from a comparison to the nuclear winter predicted to follow after a catastrophic nuclear war. Just as a nuclear winter would devastate the climate and environment, a crypto winter wreaks havoc on the crypto landscape.

Key characteristics of a crypto winter

Here are some key characteristics that define a crypto winter:

  • Prolonged bear market – Prices of leading cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and Ethereum fall anywhere from 70% to 90% compared to previous all-time highs and remain depressed for over a year.
  • Lack of mainstream interest – Hype and mania surrounding crypto dies down. Minimal media coverage compared to the hype seen during the previous bull run.
  • Low trading volumes – Drastically reduced exchange volumes as investors stop trading. This is both a symptom and cause of prolonged bear markets.
  • Lack of funding – ICOs raise little money as investor appetite for speculative projects dies out. Many blockchain startups unable to obtain funding.
  • Closures and bankruptcies – Companies in the crypto industry shut down or declare bankruptcy due to lack of business and funding.

Essentially, a crypto winter describes a grim “nuclear winter” like scenario for the crypto and blockchain space following a period of enormous hype and speculative mania.

Historical crypto winters

There have been two notable crypto winters in Bitcoin’s history so far:

2011-2015 crypto winter

Following Bitcoin’s price rally to $30 in June 2011, the cryptocurrency entered a multi-year bear market. The 2011 bubble was primarily driven by speculators and media hype. As mainstream interest quickly faded, Bitcoin spent nearly 1,200 days in a prolonged crypto winter.

Between 2011-2015, Bitcoin prices crashed from around $30 to below $3. Multiple exchanges including Mt. Gox – handling 70% of Bitcoin transactions at the time – shut down. Mining activity stalled and developers left the open-source projects.

However, work on the core protocol continued leading to fundamental improvements. The concept of “blockchain” also started gathering attention in the mainstream arena during this time.

2018-2020 crypto winter

The next crypto winter began in 2018 after the massive hype surrounding ICOs and digital currencies in 2017. The prices of crypto assets like Bitcoin, Ethereum, XRP etc. skyrocketed in 2017, with Bitcoin coming close to $20,000.

When the speculative crypto bubble popped, over $700 billion was wiped off the crypto market capitalization in 2018. Bitcoin bottomed out around $3,100 and stayed bearish for over a year. The 2018 bear market was less severe than the previous winter but still lasted over 12 months.

The low point of the 2018-20 crypto winter was marked by ConsenSys – a major Ethereum venture studio – laying off 13% of its workforce. Major crypto exchange Huobi also cut down at least 100 employees. Many blockchain startups relying on ICO funding were wiped out during this period.

How long do crypto winters last?

Based on historical data, crypto winters can last anywhere between 12 to 24 months or even longer. Here’s a quick overview:

2011-2015 crypto winter

  • Duration: Approximately 54 months
  • BTC price drop: Over 90% from peak to trough

2018-2020 crypto winter

  • Duration: 18 months
  • BTC price drop: Over 80% from peak to trough

The average duration works out to around 36 months. However, crypto markets are still relatively young. Future crypto winters may have different timespans. Institutional involvement and mainstream adoption could also impact the length of bear markets in crypto going forward.

Here’s a table summarizing the duration and key details of historical crypto winters:

Crypto winter Duration BTC price drop
2011-2015 54 months Over 90%
2018-2020 18 months Over 80%

When will the current crypto winter end?

The current crypto winter started in November 2021 when Bitcoin hit an all-time high of around $69,000 and began descending into a bear market. As of October 2022, this crypto winter has lasted for around 11 months so far.

Bitcoin prices have plunged below $20,000 levels – a drop of over 65% from all-time highs. Almost $2 trillion has been wiped off the total crypto market capitalization since the peak in November 2021.

Ethereum has fallen from highs of $4,800 to below $1,300, erasing over 70% of its value. Other major crypto assets like Solana (SOL), Cardano (ADA), Binance Coin (BNB) etc. have seen even steeper declines of 80% to 90%.

Such a severe and prolonged bear market signals that the current crypto winter is far from over. If this bear market follows historical trends, it is likely to last for another 12 months or longer before the next bull market kicks in.

Some crypto experts project the current winter could drag on until mid to end 2023 based on market sentiment indicators. Others expect a reversal to happen in early 2023 if inflation comes under control allowing the Fed to stop aggressive rate hikes.

In any case, analysts do not see the crypto markets rebounding quickly in the next few months. A long accumulation period of several months, if not longer, appears likely.

Leading indicators to watch out for

Here are some key metrics and indicators to track in order to gauge when the crypto winter might end:

  • Bitcoin dominance index – Measures Bitcoin’s market capitalization as a percentage of the total crypto market cap. The BTC dominance index rising back above 50% often signals the end phase of a bear market.
  • Bitcoin cost of production – Estimates the cost of mining one BTC based on hardware, energy prices etc. When BTC price drops below production costs, selling pressure reduces indicating a bottom.
  • Bitcoin hash rate – Tracks the computing power dedicated to securing the Bitcoin network. An increasing hash rate points to renewed interest from miners.
  • Active Bitcoin addresses – The number of unique Bitcoin addresses transmitting cryptocurrency on the network per day. Higher usage signals increased adoption.
  • Exchange inflows – The volume of Bitcoin being transferred onto exchanges from private wallets. Lower inflows suggest investors are hodling BTC and waiting for higher prices.

Monitoring these metrics could provide advance warning on when accumulation is underway heralding the next bull market.

How long do crypto recoveries take?

Just as crypto winters can last over a year, crypto recoveries where prices rebound to new highs also take time. The price rise is typically gradual in the initial months before accelerating into a parabolic advance later.

Here is an overview of how long past crypto recoveries have taken:

2015 recovery

  • BTCMarkets bottom: January 2015
  • Breached 2013 highs: February 2017
  • Duration: Approximately 26 months

The 2015 bottom marked the end of the 2011-15 crypto winter. It took over 2 years for the price uptrend to gather steam and exceeding the previous 2013 peak.

2020 recovery

  • BTCMarkets bottom: March 2020
  • Breached 2017 highs: December 2020
  • Duration: Approximately 9 months

This was a much quicker recovery as institutional interest provided rocket fuel for the bull run. Further, money printing after Covid lifted all asset prices. It took only 9 months for Bitcoin to reclaim its 2017 record.

Based on past recoveries, it takes an average of around 17 to 18 months for crypto markets to get back to full strength after a bear market. However, macroeconomic factors can accelerate or delay the timing.

The table below summarizes Bitcoin price recovery periods:

Recovery period Duration
2015 recovery 26 months
2020 recovery 9 months

This data suggests that even after the current crypto winter ends, some patience will be required before markets get fully back into bull mode.

How to survive a crypto winter

Crypto winters tend to separate long-term believers in the technology from short-term speculators. Here are some tips on how to survive the bear markets:

  • Reduce risk by diversifying into stablecoins, decentralized finance protocols, and platform tokens that generate income
  • Avoid leverage and shorting which can get liquidated in volatile downtrends
  • Dollar cost average small amounts to take advantage of discounted prices
  • Focus on building and learning rather than trading and price watching
  • Stay up to date on project development to find tokens with real utility
  • Have enough fiat reserves so you don’t need to sell crypto at a loss

Surviving the crypto winters requires patience, discipline and keeping the long-term perspective in mind. Those who manage to stick it out are handsomely rewarded when the next bull run eventually arrives.


Based on historical data, the average crypto winter lasts between 1 to 3 years before giving way to the next bull market. However, a combination of macroeconomic factors – inflation, Fed tightening, war etc. – could extend the current bear market beyond historical timeframes.

While further downside in crypto prices cannot be ruled out, the time to start accumulating top assets systematically is during such depressed markets when there is “blood on the streets”. Eventually the crypto spring will come as it always has after periods of prolonged crypto winters.