It's probably way too early to get an accurate prediction of what the Heartland's winter weather will be, but it's always fun to speculate and see what others are saying. Jim Vick, longtime marketing director at [R221R, Lutsen Mountains], says the cold nights get him to thinking about the upcoming season, and he looks for any signs that mean a good, snowy winter. "The woolly worms have a broad black band, which is a good sign," he laughed. "At this time of year I love looking for any little sign that might indicate a good winter."

He isn't the only one. Last season acorns fell in abundance on my deck and all across northern Michigan. Last winter was a good winter all across the Midwest. This season the acorns are once again falling in heavy numbers, and I'm betting on another good winter.

Ski areas in the lower Heartland had one of their best seasons in recent years. Both Ohio's [R223R, Mad River Mountain], which was open through Easter last season, and the Hoosier State's [R318R, Perfect North Slopes] had one of their longest seasons ever. [R370R, Ski Brule], in Michigan's UP, and [R73R, Boyne Mountain], near Petoskey in the Lower Peninsula, held their last day of the season April 20. I was at the mountain, and it was great to end the season in shorts and a T-shirt.

What will this season bring? The Farmer's Almanac is calling for another long and "numbing" winter in the Great Lakes region with below-average temps and heavy snow. This eclectic publication correctly predicted a long, hard Midwest winter with above average snowfall last winter too.

On the other hand the National Weather Service is predicting above average temperatures for the region and near-to-slightly-below normal precipitation, which wouldn't translate into good snowfall predictions. The good news is that they predicted the same thing last year, and we all know how that went.

Come on Farmer's Almanac, woolly worms, and acorns.