Some time ago, my mom began what is now an annual tradition: the prediction, every Fall, that the upcoming winter is going to be "The Big One." One would assume this strategy would guarantee that when The Big One finally did arrive, my mom would have successfully predicted it, but unfortunately she had the bad luck to begin her forecasting career at the start of an exceptionally dry decade in the southwest. Winter after winter would thus come and go in our hometown of Flagstaff, Arizona, leaving us in shirtsleeves on Christmas, grumbling helplessly as the local ski area struggled to open.

Lately, however, my Mom's been on a bit of a winning streak. Which bring us to this coming winter...

For anyone who spent any time at a Southern California beach this past summer, it's been pretty obvious that a La Nina winter was coming. The ocean has been cold, cold, cold, producing a cool foggy summer along the coast (113° diversions aside). Past experience suggests La Nina means bad news for California skiers. But there's no way to explain away these very strange October storms that we're having. So which will it be: Big Winter or Bust?

I'm going to modify my mom's strategy a little and suggest that whatever happens, we're going to have an unusual winter. That's my prediction. Expect the unexpected. Strange storms, strange warm and dry periods, strange mountains. Count on it.

Andy Lewicky is the author and creator of SierraDescents