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By Kevin Damaskie The old gypsy woman peers deeply into the depths of her crystal ball, its smooth surface contrasts the weathered lines of her strong hands as she once again inquires what I wish to know. "Is it going to be a good ski season," I say, my voice trembling with anticipation. As she leans back, I catch a glint in her green eyes. "It's not clear, the ski industry is so fickle, so hard to predict. I don't think this is going to work," she sighs heavily and falls back in her chair. I lean forward and put another $20 under the crystal ball. "One should not be so quick to let failure grip the soul," the gypsy cackles as she palms the note and caresses the smooth globe. Predictions in the ski industry, as in many other industries, are often based on cash flows and sales. But the one thing that cannot be forecast with take-it-to-the-bank accuracy is the most important factor in the ski business - snow. People who really care about snow, and the cash it generates, may use one of two methods to do their forecasting: the Old Farmer's Almanac or a local clairvoyant. Dianne Mills of Squamish has been practising her clairvoyance, clairaudience and psychic skills on radio talk shows and through private readings for more than three years. "I think this season is going to be even busier than last year," Mills says. "I see that there is going to be a lot more building and a lot more growth and expansion." Mills says the rapid development of Whistler has created some negative energy surrounding the topic, but the negativity is manageable if people keep the growth in perspective. "Handling rapid growth is a matter of going with the flow," she says. "The positive aspects will be strengthened as long as there is not a lot of greedy people involved." As for the skiing, Mills says she believes "we will have a good season as far as snow goes and the new lifts are going to be received very well." Those skeptical of clairvoyants have been opening the Old Farmer's Almanac to discover what weather winter will bring. The 1995 edition gives a fairly non-committal missive which could be interpreted positively by the snow hungry powder hound and the cash hungry salesperson alike. "The period from November to March is expected to be colder than normal in every month, except February, which will be close to average. Snowfall will be above average throughout the region; precipitation totals will be above normal inland, below west. November will be cold despite a mild period before midmonth. The weather will be mild and wet from late November until mid-December. Very wintry weather with progressively greater amounts of snow will then prevail through January. The first half of February may be mild and wet before a series of cold waves bring colder than normal conditions through March, with above-normal snowfall in the north, but below-normal precipitation south. April and May will be slightly cooler than normal, with precipitation near average." However the writers of the Almanac conclude with the following proviso: "It is obvious, however, that we nor anyone else has as yet gained sufficient insight into the mysteries of the universe to predict weather with anything resembling total accuracy."

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