The Woolly Worm Winter Forecast for 2016-2017

2016 woolly worm festival

Man what a gorgeous day it was in Banner Elk, NC on Saturday and Sunday. It was a Chamber of Commerce day with sunny conditions, abundant, blue skies and highs in the upper 60s. The radiant sunshine made it feel substantially warmer.

I was able to fly our drone and get some really nice video from the air and ground level and I’ll share that with you guys as soon as possible.

I did not stick around for the championship race to see the name of the winning worm and who won the big money. However, I was emailed the winning worm’s prediction for the winter and snow lovers are probably not going to be “feeling the forecast”.

Let’s get to THAT forecast and then I have some additional woolly worm and weather predictions to lift the spirits of those of us who want a lot more snow in our forecast.

The 2016-2017 Banner Elk Woolly Worm Forecast is:

Week 1: Normal temperatures and light snow
Weeks 2-4: Cold and Snowy
Weeks 5-11: Above average temperatures with little snow
Weeks 12-13: Normal temperatures and light snow

I noticed that Dr. Ray Russell had a vendor booth setup on Saturday, right next to the registration area for woolly worm races to sign up and race their worms. His 2016-2017 Winter Forecast was released to the public on Saturday morning BEFORE the Annual Woolly Worm Festival and I have a feeling that Dr. Ray’s forecast might have been more than a little influential to the official “readers of the worm” and their forecast.

Dr. Ray Russell is forecasting a drier-than-average winter with less than average snowfall and temperatures near average. He is forecasting 20-25% less snow than average and temps that he says will be near average to perhaps one degree above average.

Some of his specifics area snow totals forecasted are:

Banner Elk – 34″
Beech Mountain – 70″
Sugar Mountain – 70″

(Beech normally gets 80″ per winter season.)

You guys can see his entire forecast at:

Here is Some “Medicine” for Snow Lovers

Since last season’s forecast were SO inaccurate, we can rest assured that this season’s forecast probably won’t be accurate either.

Dr. Ray forecasted 67″ for Banner Elk last season and the area only saw 38″ – missing the mark by a full 29″. He was off on Beech Mountain’s forecast by 40″ – predicting that they would see 110″ and only 70″ fell last winter.

Dr. Ray doesn’t need us to come to his defense, however I feel the need to share the fact that nearly every weather expert was providing similar forecasts for last winter. Every weather guru in the region was forecasting more snow than normal back in August of 2015. (By the way – we did as well. Okay we don’t predict anything, but we posted our Winter prediction and like everyone else – we forecasted way more snow than normal.)

As things got closer into November a LOT of them began hedging their bets a bit and some forecasted a slow start to winter…and we ALL know how slow last winter was in terms of getting started. Ski areas in the Southeast and mid-Atlantic were not able to get going in earnest until around January 5th or so. Every ski area took a MAJOR financial hit during the always-important Christmas to New Years Holiday ski period.

Every ski area in the region lost MILLIONS in hoped for revenue.

So I think the moral of this post/story is that there is one constant when it comes to long-range winter forecasts. THEY CANNOT BE RELIED UPON TO BE EVEN CLOSE TO ACCURATE.

So we’ve got THAT going for us.


Joe Bastardi and WeatherBell are forecasting a COLDER AND SNOWIER WINTER!
Joe Bastardi and WeatherBell are forecasting a COLDER AND SNOWIER WINTER! CLICK TO ENLARGE!

I’ll admit that I’m one of those winter weather people that “NEEDS” to hear a forecast that supports my wishes. Translation, let’s go look for something more positive than the Banner Elk Woolly Worm Winter Forecast and Dr. Ray’s recent, not-so-snowy one. (Isn’t that what Climate Change Alertists do?)

I didn’t have to search long to find out that our old buddy Joe Bastardi of WeatherBell is forecasting a bit of a sluggish start to winter – HOWEVER he thinks that January through March will be colder and snowier than normal. More about that in a moment.


2016-10-16-woollyworm004The photo to the left is of Mike Glazer of Lewisburg, Pennsylvania’s 20th Annual Woolly Worm Festival. They held their festivities this weekend as well and interestingly they hunt down as many worms as possible and examine ALL of them and come up with a forecast…instead of picking just one that happens to be running for his life to escape the fate of being groped and stroked (translation: read) to discern the upcoming winter weather.

According to Mike Glazer, “The winter will come on slowly,” he said. December will not be bad but “once January and February hit its going to be severe.”

“We are going to get some nice snow storms this year.”

The woolly worms and AccuWeather agree this winter will be worse than last year’s. AccuWeather is predicting above normal snowfall across this part of the country.

Glazer brags the woolly worms are right 108 percent of the time. Last year they predicted a mild winter, which it was.

The role of the judges, garbed in white lab coats, is to examine with the help of magnifying glasses and measuring devices the size of the caterpillars’ black and brown rings plus the plushness of their fur.

Each judge, using calculators, come up with numbers that are combined and interpreted by Glazer.


Two weeks ago, this forecast video was released which goes into much data sharing to ALSO predict a sluggish December but a colder and snowier winter than normal.

Bastardi and company predict, “We are concerned that winter is going to get underway during the month of November, at least in a back and forth fashion. The JMA model sticks a trough over the Northeast in December and there is plenty of concern about that. For now we are focusing more on December than November as the “start” of winter. I still love our overall idea but hope to home in on how quickly cold comes in by the middle of October. In the end this winter will be more like 2013-14 and 2014-15 as far as centering cold over the East and Midwest and not across the South. There is low probability of the core of cold being in the West.”

So there you have it. We’re going to hitch our wagon on the WeatherBell peeps…and the collective woolly worms of Pennsylvania.

OUR PREDICTION – BASED ON NOTHING SCIENTIFIC WHATSOEVER (Which has as much scientific chance at being right than all of the others…)


We’re thinking that the end of October will have us thinking that winter is EARLY later this month with a burst of cold and maybe even some early snow into early November. We’ll get a burst of cold and snow that will crank up snowmaking crews at Cataloochee, Appalachian, Sugar, Beech, Snowshoe and probably one other ski area by mid November to provide some Thanksgiving Weekend skiing.

Then we’ll see a mild period that will have snow lovers, skiers, snowboarders and ski area management crews worried about the important Christmas-to-New-Year ski week. However, cold and some snow will hit about a week prior to that and things will be good for the Holiday period. Then around January 5-10th we’ll see winter hit in earnest with more snow and colder than normal temps the rest of the way.

We will still get the minor-to-mid-range mild-ups but we think the season-long average will lean to colder and snowier than normal. We’re predicting that snow will be around 99%-101% of average – meaning insignificantly plus or minus but with great technology and the support of “Mother Nature” we will have an AWESOME WINTER AHEAD.

We will have perhaps TWO warmups that will cause some temporary closures from some of the lessor aggressive snowmaking ski areas.

How’s THAT for a detailed forecast? For the record, I simply compiled what’s happened every year since I’ve been repping the ski areas of the Southeast and mid-Atlantic and conjured up a creative way of providing it in writing.

Truth be known, I’ve got as much or perhaps a better chance of being accurate than all of the data-collecting weather geeks.

So in summary – EXPECT AN AVERAGE WINTER as far as the WEATHER is concerned with better than average snowmaking technology and snow-makERS who will make snow and groom our slopes to perfection.

We’re now gearing things up a notch around SkiSoutheast-land so check back often for news about “What’s New” at the various resorts.

Feel free to email me at: [email protected]

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Mike Doble
Mike is the Editor and founder of, and Since September 1996 he has posted more than 13,000 posts, articles, photos and videos promoting all of the ski areas of North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia and Maryland.Mike is the father of four daughters, is an avid skier and enjoys golf, tennis, kayaking and hiking in the mountains. Winter snowsports and Summer boating on Watauga Lake are among his favorite pastimes.