Clipping a Snowbird’s Wings

Sometime last winter I began thinking about how nice it would be someday when I’m older to spend the colder months of the year in a warmer climate.

When I started casually thinking about where, I got it in my head that Flagstaff, Arizona, would be the perfect place. No logical reason, just the beautiful landscape and access to medical care and a college campus and other cool things like the Lowell Observatory. Arizona is warm, right? Don’t lots of people spend their winters there playing golf? Plus you can get to Flagstaff by Amtrak, and I’m a huge fan of rail travel.

So then I started following Flagstaff on Facebook and Twitter, etc. And guess what? It turns out that Flagstaff isn’t quite the “warmer climate” I envisioned.

Flagstaff’s first snowfall of the season was October 7th, while Milwaukee’s first real snowfall this year (not just a few flakes in the air, but actual snow on the ground) didn’t come until the end of November. According to an article in the Arizona Republic, Flagstaff averages 101.7 inches of snow every year, while Milwaukee gets less than half of that (only 46.9 inches, according to the Midwestern Regional Climate Center). In fact, Flagstaff has had several snowstorms this season already, but Milwaukee has seen mostly rain. We have no snow on the ground in my neighborhood, and it’s raining today.

While at an academic conference in Chicago last week, I checked the local forecast to see if I needed to wear my scarf and gloves outside my hotel. On a whim, I also took a look at Flagstaff’s forecast.

Flagstaff was colder than Chicago! As proof, here are the screenshots from my phone last Friday.

The moral of my little story? Well, just this, I guess: It’s important to do your homework and NOT make big decisions on the basis of assumptions. I do look forward to spending time in Flagstaff at some point. But I don’t think it’s ever going to be my winter home 🙂

About Katherine Wikoff

I am a college professor at Milwaukee School of Engineering, where I teach literature, film studies, political science, and communication. I also volunteer with a Milwaukee homeless sanctuary, Repairers of the Breach, as chair of the Communications and Fund Development Committee.
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9 Responses to Clipping a Snowbird’s Wings

  1. Who knew? It must be higher up in the mountains. Maybe Sedona?


    • Yes, it is higher up than I would have guessed. In fact, there’s a ski resort, called the “Arizona Snowbowl,” just a few miles away from the city. I’m learning so much about Flagstaff from my casual (and mistaken) interest in spending my winters there someday!


      • Rose says:

        LOL from the start of this blog…. I’ve experienced snow in southern AZ during winter the last on new years day. Nothing like snow in the desert. There was no getting away from snow for us. lol Guess as the saying goes, it’s always greener on the other side of the fence.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Sally Cissna says:

    Friends have been encouraging a move south to get away from the winters. So I have been doing as you have. I’ve decided that while the winters are milder 50 degrees rather than 38 degrees on any given day I am not ready to commit. First, there is the heat of the summer…it’s hot enough here; I don’t need several months in the mid to high 90s. Second is the issue of global climate change. If the winters continue to get better here in the midwest, why go south? I’ll go to visit in the spring and fall, but I’m not moving down there.


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