Every summer it starts, the speculation; it seems we skiers are generally optimists, at least leading up to every ski season. The next season is always gonna be “huge”, and everyone has their own indicators of why. Like farmers, we all look for encouraging patterns and signs in nature to fuel our optimism. I remember growing up in the southeast (Asheville, NC to be exact – I always have to take an opportunity to give a shout out) the chances of a big snow year were slim, but they did happen on occasion. Of course, a big snow year in that part of the country meant a handful of three to six inch dumps during the course of the winter; whereas in Alta (where I live now), we consider a 700+ inch winter to be decent and anything below 500” to be a borderline catastrophe. But I digress….
In the southeast, people would point to an abundance of acorns as a sign of an upcoming harsh winter. I also remember a predominance of the wooly worms with black fuss verses brown fuzz being an indicator. Or was it the other way around? Doesn’t matter I guess. I think either way meant a harsh winter the way I saw it. Out West, it seems we look to the ocean waters, i.e. La Nina, El Nino, or no nino / nina; it all means a big winter is ahead. Well, that’s not exactly true, but I guess it could be as true as anything.
Excited and hopeful guests, planning for the upcoming season, often ask me what (if any) predictions I’ve heard regarding the approaching winter. It’s flattering, sort of, as if I’m important enough that I have an inside source, or the scientific (or Native American?) ability to accurately predict the weather six months down the road. I guess that could be a superpower to wish for? I tell them things like, “well the fireweed started to bloom a week early and that’s a good sign” or “the mountain goats have moved down the canyon earlier this fall and that can only mean big things.” I don’t really know if I actually heard these things or made them up somewhere along the line.
This summer, because it’s been abnormally hot and dry (hottest July on record in Salt Lake City) it’s gonna be a wet and cold winter. I actually do believe this; I’m not pulling your leg. It seems whenever we have one extreme, sooner or later we are bound to have the other, right?! It’s all cycles from what I can tell. Last ski season, we had an abysmal 450” season (just kidding, kind of, but not really! That’s the spoiled attitude here) followed by this hot and dry summer. We are definitely due! Is it gonna be a big winter? Your guess is as good as mine. JS
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