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In the end, the best-laid ski plans rise or fall on the whims of winter weather.

The greatest variable to any trip to the slopes is weather, which is judged and view differently by skiers. It’s a mixed bag: Skiers want snow, but they also want some sun. But too much of either can actually detract from the experience.

Ultimately, though, snow is what it’s all about. And this year forecasters are predicting an average amount of snowfall.

“It will be a normal type of winter, as much as we know now,” said Harald Strauss, a veteran climatologist with the U.S. Air Forces in Europe Operational Weather Squadron, based at Sembach Air Base, Germany. Strauss reserves the right to reverse himself. Forecasting this far out — two to five months — is fraught with qualifiers, he said. The variables are many, from autumn temperatures and westerly winds to Mount St. Helens and El Niño.

Next month is crucial, too. According to Strauss, November is one of those transition months that hint at what lies ahead weatherwise.

“November makes the winter,” Strauss said.

Weather forecasting in Europe is different from the trends and tendencies applicable to the United States, Strauss noted. For one, the higher latitudes, which are comparable to Canada, come into play. Factor in the Alps, the Gulf Stream and the unpredictable wind patterns sweeping across the Atlantic, and long-range forecasts can appear even more like guesswork.

There’s an old German saying that basically states that a wet autumn is often followed by a dry winter and vice versa. A few years back, Strauss said, there was a lot of snow between Nov. 9 and Dec. 23. Then nothing.

“That was it for the snow for that winter,” he recalled.

In case a ski trip to the States is on the winter itinerary, the 2005 Farmer’s Almanac predicts a winter of extremes, with drastic swings in conditions and temperatures. In the Northeast, for example, colder than normal conditions are expected for December and February, but January looks as if it will be unseasonably warm, according to the venerable almanac.

Back on this side of the globe, Strauss is advising patience.

“Right now,” he said, “it’s too much of a guess.”

One Web site skiers in Europe might find helpful as they plot and plan for ski weekends ahead is: www.snow-forecast.com.

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