Travel: Weather or Not
By Craig Altschul
Years ago, I told the late and irascible ski journalist, I.
William Berry, that the article he wrote in SKI magazine about his
trip to Austria was the least helpful travel piece I'd ever read. Bill was a
good friend, so he would have been as charmingly blunt with me.
Bill hated air travel and did whatever he
could to avoid it. I suspect he was ahead of his time as I feel the same way
a decade or two
later. Regardless, he succumbed to a SKI assignment after avoiding
flying across the pond his whole career. He was getting tired of always
having to take Colorado's side against those friends and colleagues who
relished an Alp fix whenever we had a chance.
So, what did he write about? The
It was foggy and he couldn't see out of
his goggles. It was too warm for a guy who relished icy mornings at ski
resorts near his place in Keene, N.H. His goggles fogged. It rained. It
snowed. It spit and spat whatever it occasionally spits and spats in the
Alps. Then the foehn (that warm wind that rolls around the ski
resorts) came in. He'd had it and longed for the Rockies. That was his one
and only ski trip to Europe.
I let him have it. "Who cares about the
damn weather when you were there? It may be completely different when I'm
there. You know, blue alpine skies, a couple inches of powder on top to
fluff through, and always a small warming hut where a shot of Obstler (a
full service Austrian rot-gut fruit blend) and a pair of wurstl are waiting
We agreed to disagree about the weather
the rest of his life.
My mantra always has been to hell with
the weather. Vacations are vacations. My theory was a bad day in the Alps is
better than a good day at the office. A day on the beach beats a
traffic-clogged freeway commute hands down (you can get both in Honolulu, of
course, if you are a masochist).
However, I may be coming around to Bill's
way of thinking. He is likely turning over in his grave, for my disagreement
with him was unbending.
It started last year in late winter.
Peggi and I had planned a trip to Kauai, Hawaii, for mid-April. Peggi always
has been a weather nut. I believe she is one of a select handful of people
in the world who actually watches the Weather Channel.
She noticed a pattern: It was raining on
Kauai. Every day. The little sun icon had hibernated. She got nervous. "Do
you think we should cancel?" she began agitating before March even came in
like a lion.
"Yeah, well let it rain," I told her.
"I'll sit there on a chaise and take a shower." Weather should never deter
or alter vacation plans, I reiterated. Then, that forlorn cloud with the
rain drops kept appearing. The call to cancel almost came when she spotted a
news story on TV that just about suggested Kauai was disappearing into the
I pacified her and called the concierge
desk at the Marriott. "How's the weather?" I asked. She just laughed. "Well,
the entire grounds and bottom floor are flooded, the pool is full of mud,
but we're doing fine," she said. "When are you arriving?" I told her we were
coming a month later and she really started to guffaw.
"You're coming a month from now and
you're worried about the weather?" she said. I responded, rather sheepishly,
"Well, you see, Peggi…" She cut me off. "Look, tell Peggi if it's still
raining a month from now, I assure you there will be no Hawaiian Islands to
Then, Peggi, our Newfoundland hound,
Kappy, and I went to Santa Fe for a short getaway as 2006 turned in to 2007.
I figured I could give you some neat tips about cool galleries, places where
the chilies were hot, and some great overpriced stores to buy gifts. I could
even gripe about driving on forlorn stretches of highways where the only
town is called Hatch.
It started snowing hard as we passed
Albuquerque driving up from Tucson. It was snowing so hard as we pulled in
to the hotel, I actually let out a huge "whew." Kappy was unimpressed. Peggi
just woke up.
It snowed all night. It snowed all the
next day. It snowed all the next night. It snowed all the next day. It
snowed all the next night. It snowed all the next day. Three feet of snow in
just a couple of days. The roads closed from Albuquerque north to the
Colorado border and east to Texas. Stuck. That was it.
Couldn't drive anywhere. The only thing
to do was to let Kappy play in the snow. He'd never seen it before and
thought it was a signal from Heaven he'd been a good boy. He had a wonderful
time and most certainly is looking forward to his next vacation. We mostly
saw the interior of the Residence Inn and watched the Weather Channel.
One afternoon, when bringing Kappy back
to the hotel room from play time in the adjacent field, I stepped off the
snowy hotel parking lot onto the snowdrift to let a humongous (if
courageous) SUV try to slide by. I slipped and slapped my head on the ice.
My head is hard, so it only resulted in a black eye and a threat of a
concussion. Kappy and Peggi were merely amused.
We finally got out of there. That's good.
So, Bill, I guess I have to admit it if you have an Internet connection
wherever you are (he could have gone either direction): Weather is probably
worth writing about. But, only, because my weather might be worse than
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