Spending a few days on a beach soaking up the sun, enjoying an adult beverage or two, feeling the sand between your toes… that’s my idea of a perfect escape from an Oklahoma winter. But it’s difficult to predict what the season has in store for us. Some days have been so similar to spring that new blossoms bloomed as if they knew what they were doing. On the flip side, we’ve been holed up in our homes for days on end as copious snow and ice kept us from our routines.
Either way, a winter vacation from the post-holiday doldrums may be just what’s needed.
There’s a lot of talk about the weather in Oklahoma, so we polled those who talk about it most of all – those familiar TV faces who keep us informed on what to expect from the weather ahead – to get the inside scoop on their favorite getaways this time of year.
Damon Lane, KOCO-TV Meteorologist
Jackson Hole, Wyoming
“I am a huge fan of the mountains and skiing. I have about three months to enjoy the fresh powder and ‘bluebird’ days (translated skier lingo: sunny afternoons). I have many ski resorts I enjoy, but my favorite is Jackson Hole, Wyoming. You literally take a step back in time to what life was like during the Wild West days.
“Upon arriving at Jackson Hole Airport you’re met with a test of how good the braking action is, because it’s a short runway and the only commercial airport in a national park. You walk outside and get an amazing view of the Grand Tetons as well as a true test of how cold western Wyoming can be. Leaving the airport, you are likely to come across a herd of buffalo taking their time walking across the street – or as I call it, a Wyoming traffic jam!
“The town is amazing: wooden sidewalks and a community still true to living the slow life. You won’t find any Walmart here, and the locals are just fine with that.
“My main love, however, is the mountain. Jackson Hole is the most challenging mountain to ski in the Rockies. When you say ‘I’ve skied The Big One,’ you’re often met with many people asking ‘So what’s it like?’
“Jackson is out in the middle of nowhere. No major cities nearby means you don’t get the city crowds, and no one ends up in Wyoming because they got lost. You have to want to go there.
“I usually spend a week at a time there. The final day of skiing can be sad, but at the same time I’m already counting the days until I can return again.”
Jeff George, KOKH-TV Meteorologist
Wheeling, West Virginia
“For my family, Oglebay Park in Wheeling, West Virginia, is a great place to experience a winter season and visit some family.
“Oglebay is situated on 1,700 acres of hills in every direction. They have a huge lodge with an indoor pool, several restaurants and plenty of fireplaces where you can relax and slurp down the best hot chocolate on the planet. We prefer to stay in one of the dozens of private cottages, mainly so the kids can make a lot of noise. You can relax in the spa while taking in the scenery, but there are too many outdoorsy things to do, so cabin fever is never an option. When there is plenty of snow pack, you have to hit the slopes at the Wilson Ski Lodge. No worries if you can’t ski or snow board – just grab a tube or toboggan and head down the hill!
I like to top off the weekend with a little ‘black and gold.’ Heinz Field and the city of Pittsburgh is a short, one-hour drive to watch the Steelers play pro football at its finest!”
Terri Angier, Oklahoma Department of Transportation Spokesperson
“This will be my 24th winter weather season at the state Department of Transportation. Because we never know when our roads and travel will be impacted, it is nearly impossible for me to take a vacation during that time. However, there have been a few family events when I have been able to get away for a week or so.
“One of those rare family occasions was last year when my family and I visited Israel around Christmas. It has now become my favorite destination during the winter. My son, Chase, was serving at the Baha’i World Center in Haifa, Israel, and we visited him for a week. This was our third visit, but the first one in the winter – and we absolutely loved it!
“The temperatures were rather mild for winter and the experience was unmatched. On Christmas Eve we attended late night services in Nazareth at the Church of Annunciation, which was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. We spent time with our son at the Baha’i holy places and gardens and other communities in Israel. I was back in the States immediately after, making plans for the opening of the new I-40 Crosstown. But that time spent abroad will always stand out as one of my favorite winter vacations.”
Karen Carney, Will Rogers World Airport Spokesperson
“It’s almost impossible to tell when a major snowstorm will impact Oklahoma’s travel, so getting away on a winter vacation isn’t always easy. But when I can, amazingly, I enjoy snow skiing.
“The fresh air, the physical activity, the snow – it all makes for a magical break from the Oklahoma winter. What is really great is getting up early before others make it to the slopes. The crispness in the air, the quiet; it is just breathtaking.
“Colorado is my favorite destination. I think it goes back to when I was a kid, going to Vail with my father, and him teaching me to ski. Those father-daughter memories still come flooding back, and when I go skiing I am a child all over again.
“These days with work and a hectic life, I don’t get to go as often as I would like. It has probably been about four winters since I have gone skiing; but if all goes as planned I am making a trip this year.”
Gary England KWTV-TV Meteorologist seconds the vote for Vail… with an added dash of slippery slope intrigue.
“The snow swept in quickly. Visibility was, at best, very poor. Then the announcement: ‘Children will be taken down the mountain on snow cats. All adults must find their way down.’
“I frantically looked around the rustic building that was perched halfway up the mountain, but it was too late for an instructor. I glanced out the window at the raging blizzard. A mix of dread and fear seized my wife Mary, and me. This was our first time on a skiing vacation.
“The trip down the mountain was a fascinating experience. One good thing about the near-zero visibility was that we were unable to see just how high up we were. Then there was the wrong turn onto a Black Diamond slope. I quickly learned you can actually roll, tumble and slide long distances down a radical incline with absolutely no body control at all and still survive.
“The next day I decided to take a lesson on learning to master the mountain. It was a short lesson. The line I remember so well came from my instructor right before I crashed into a group of ski students that were the rope tow. Her voice has echoed in my mind ever since: ‘You are going to kill someone!’
“Was it great? Oh yes! Would we go again and again? Yes! And we did!”