<br>Picture of Adam Pitluk
Man, that breeze feels good. It’s 98 degrees in the shade here in Dallas, and there aren’t enough swimming pools or air conditioners to stymie this stifling heat. Not too long ago, when I was out in West Texas with a buddy, we literally tried to fry an egg on a desert rock. Of course, it didn’t work, but it wasn’t accosted by ants or other desert pests either, presumably because it was too hot to accost.

I’m not complaining, mind you. I actually love the heat. It’s a byproduct of a childhood spent in Cleveland, where almost every youthful memory I have involves a winter coat, Freezy Freakies and Moon Boots. And many of those winters involved memories of driving out to ski “resorts” in Ohio and neighboring states that were, in actuality, closed-up landfills.

Still, right about now, I wouldn’t mind a quick blast of some wind-whipping-off-Lake-Erie winter air. Wouldn’t mind making a few turns on my skis either. Not down 265-foot-vertical-drop Midwestern garbage lots, but down 4,000-foot-plus, hackle-raising vertical feet of Colorado Rocky Mountain as-the-heavens-shudder-baby goodness. I’m not the only one who’s already thinking five months ahead. No, the entire staff of ­American Way is in various stages of winter preparedness. More specifically, we’re in different stages of preparing for the most wonderful time of the year — for us. Sure, the holidays are nice, but it’s what happens a couple of weeks after Christmas and Hanukkah that has us digging out the winter wares in the middle of August.

January 2015 will signal the crowning of our 13th Annual Road Warrior Contest winners. And as coronations go, our five winners are always anointed in the best destinations the wide world over. This year is no different. We’re going to a place I’ve never been, but even so, I can say — emphatically — that it’s one of the best places in the world, especially come January. Our Road Warrior winners and their lucky guests will join my team and me in Beaver Creek, Colorado.

If you’re familiar with this magazine, and if you’re familiar with this column, you know about my affinity for Vail. I literally wrote Vail a love letter in our Feb. 15, 2012, issue. It’s my favorite place to ski, and it’s also my favorite place to après ski.

Beaver Creek is only 10 miles away, and I’ve never gone. So we’ll all experience it together, which will, for me, forever link Beaver Creek to Road Warrior. I couldn’t be more excited. You should be even more excited because in addition to experiencing Beaver Creek, as a winner, you’ll also receive some cool prizes from Citibank, Bose, Avis and, as always, the AAdvantage program. Best of all, you’ll be on the cover of our March 2015 issue of American Way. But you can’t win if you don’t enter, so be sure to visit aa.com/roadwarrior by Aug. 31 in order to be eligible.

All the prizes and fame that accompany membership in this coveted ring of honor are not what make this contest so awesome. The best part is … well, I’ll let some of last year’s winners from our photo shoot in Curaçao speak for themselves:

“As one of the last contest’s lucky five Road Warrior winners, the friendships that I made with my fellow winners and American Way staff will be lifelong. We all truly bonded,” says Malcolm Griffiths. “Most life-changing of all is that with the award miles I won, I was able to fly home to spend precious last moments with my Nan in Sydney, Australia, who passed away just weeks after her 90th birthday.”

“In addition to meeting lifelong friends, this Road Warrior Contest has directly initiated a special relationship for me,” says Ashley Baker. “It has definitely had only very positive effects on me.”

“I was obviously an American Airlines fan before, but after the first-class experience my wife and I received from me being a Road Warrior winner, my loyalty will always be there,” says Tim Glasson. “The staff that accompanied us on the trip made us feel extremely special and reiterated the reason I fly American.”

“Being the grand-prize Road Warrior winner is such a badge of honor for me,” says Becca Powelson. “I’m extremely grateful for the opportunities it opened up and for the relationships I formed through the experience.”

“The very best part was the people,” says David LeVan. “It was really fun hanging out with the AA crew. I loved meeting the other Road Warriors and hearing their stories. I’m grateful for the time we shared and the friendships that we developed. I’m proud to be a Road Warrior and will enjoy the memories for the rest of my life.”

Enjoy the rest of your summer. Hope to see you in the winter.
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Adam Pitluk