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Trying to get a solid winter weather forecast out of a weatherman is like trying to find an Eskimo who has never taken a snowball to the gut.

Still, we want to know whether it will be worth dusting off the old sticks this season.

What do the skiing message boards say?

At, one writer posted, "Hey all. Has anyone got any idea what sort of winter we are expecting in the Alps this year, and if there is likely to be more snow than last winter!?"

Somebody chimed in, "Yes. Plenty of snow. I can also reveal that this Saturday’s winning Lotto numbers will be 4 14 20 26 35 49."

Wise guy.

So maybe the message boards are useless, but some tried-and-true ways to predict winter weather can be found on the Internet — by which I mean good old-fashioned European folklore.

Now, these proverbs might not hold up any better than Al Roker’s five-day forecast, but the fact that they’ve stuck around through plagues and a couple of world wars is enough to make a ski bum think they might have some merit.

• "Onionskin is very thin; mild winter coming in," say the Brits. "Onionskin is thick and tough; winter will be cold and rough."

There’s already at least one slope open in the Scottish highlands, so one would have to guess Britain’s onions are pretty hearty this year.

German folk predictions don’t translate as poetically, but there’s no shortage of quirky prognostications there.

• "If the rabbits’ fur is thick and rough, get wood and coal right now," they say. And "If the bees cement themselves in early, a hard winter is coming."

Plus, keep an eye out for love handles on the crows. The Germans say "The fatter the birds and badgers are, the colder the baby Jesus will appear," whatever that means.

If badgers are scarce in your neck of the woods, try out this simple maxim: "Much fog in the autumn indicates a snowy winter."

American folklore might also help if you can find a woolly bear caterpillar or a turkey. The belief about the caterpillar says the longer the brown band on these fuzzy black-and-brown larvae, the milder the winter. If you find one that’s all black, Al Gore gives his Peace Prize back.

The turkey lore is more of a Southern thing. It says if you cook a turkey and the wishbone comes out nearly white, the baby Jesus won’t have to worry about getting frostbite on his birthday.

If the bone comes out dark, buy yourself a season pass.


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