Are We In For A Big Winter? Winter Weather Predictors – True Or False They’re Still Fun!

2016-17 Lake Tahoe Epic Winter

This article may contain affiliate / compensated links. For full information, please see our disclaimer here.

Since starting Local Freshies®, we’ve heard many local superstitions of good and bad winter omens. Scientists of course will tell you that it’s a ‘load of poppy cock’, but as you can tell, they’re as good or worse than these time-honored superstitions. For those curious, here’s a few of the ski town natural winter predictors we’ve heard while hanging out at the local watering holes.

Wooly Bear Caterpillar

North America

Wooly Bear Caterpillar
Image by: Iwona Kellie

For those growing up in New England, you may have heard about this one. While talking to a few local Grand Targhee residents, the gist of the folklore goes like this: the amount of wooly bear caterpillars you see in autumn will tell you how severe the winter will be. The centuries old tradition goes even one step further. Depending on the coat of the caterpillar, how big their stripes are and all sorts of other characteristics, these little wooly wonders will also tell you if it’s going to be a cold/snowy winter.

Winter Coats On Livestock

North America

Scottish Highland Cow Winter Prediction
Image by: Deborah S-C

I’ve heard this one from my father in-law and will have to admit it seems to be a good indicator on how cold the winter will be. The earlier the process starts and the thicker that it grows, the colder livestock expect it to be. It takes cattle and horses a long time to grow their coats, so it seems that these animals might know a bit more than the average ‘bear’.

October Snow In Siberia

Eastern United States

Image by: Aleksey Kushnirenko

Supposedly, when the snow cover in October is above normal in Siberia, it translates to a cold, snowy winter for the Eastern United States. The thought is that when the snow is deep in northern Russia, it translates to a negative Arctic Oscillation. And, the flip side is also said to be true… when the snow is below normal, it predicts a positive winter Arctic Oscillation.

Snow In September

Lake Tahoe

Lake Tahoe Early Season Snowfall
Early season snowfall… good or bad omen?

This is an interesting one. We’ve heard from quite a few of our friends that early snowfall, especially in September, translates to a bad overall winter in Lake Tahoe. This September, we didn’t get just a decent dusting of snow but rather a few. The last season this happened we had an epic Miracle March, but the rest of the year it was downright depressing. So, depending on which way you look at it, this could’ve proved it right… or maybe not?

Muskrats Digging Deeper Dens

Interior British Columbia

Image by: Julie Falk

As temperatures dip in the fall and before the ponds or parts of waterways freeze, the muskrats begin preparing for the upcoming cold months. The local lore on the Powder Highway states that in the snowiest/coldest years, muskrats dig their dens MUCH deeper than normal.

Black Rosy-Finches


Image by: Jacob Roalef

While this isn’t a season predictor, the ski patrol installed bird feeders at their hut on the top of Sam’s Knob at Snowmass. When Black Rosy-Finches are seen stuffing their faces with seed, this a good indicator that a big storm is approaching.

What Is Mother Nature Predicting For 2019-20?

Will this season be feast… or famine?

While it’s a bit early for many of these, we’ll keep our eyes & ears open to see what happens. For those living in other parts of the country, be sure to let us know what Mother Nature is saying to you for the upcoming 2019-20 ski & snowboard season. Like always, we’re just hoping for a consistent year in Lake Tahoe. After 8 years of being in & around the Sierra Nevada, the one thing I know for sure is you can’t predict what it has in store. All you can do is be patient and ‘get after it’ when it does snow because it could be weeks (or months) until the next storm cycle. Here’s to everyone having an amazing season!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *