Suggest that 9News chief meteorologist Kathy Sabine is a Denver TV star and she'll react with bewilderment. But facts are facts, and Sabine has been among the Mile High City's most recognizable faces for decades. She just marked her 25th anniversary at the station and she's still going strong, as is clear from the following in-depth interview. But she also reveals that her contract with 9News is about to expire, and refers to her future with the station as uncertain.
Sabine goes into detail about a childhood spent skiing and taking part in California rodeos before revealing how her early ambition to become a veterinarian transitioned into a focus on journalism, with a potential career as a model representing a road not taken.
She also discusses the reason she decided to focus on forecasting; the break that led her to Denver; her crash course in Colorado weather and the high standards to which viewers hold her, particularly when predictions don't pan out; the multiple opportunities she had to move to bigger markets and platforms, fueled in part by guest spots on the Today show, and why she didn't take them; those false yet long-lasting rumors that she dated John Elway; why she wasn't amused when a video of an unusual exchange between her and 9News anchor Kyle Clark went viral; her discomfort with the darker aspects of the Internet and its strange obsession with her age and shoe size; her recent dance debut on the Ellen show; her gratitude for the way she's been embraced by Denver; and those ticklish contract negotiations.
For her, the skies have been mostly sunny. But let her tell you about it.
Westword: I understand that you're originally from Truckee, California.
Kathy Sabine: Most people don't know where Truckee is, so I just tell them I'm from Tahoe. And they say, "Oh, that's so cool."
I grew up on Donner Summit. You probably remember the story in history class about the Donner party. There was cannibalism and the wagon train stuck in the snow. Yep, I grew up right up there, where all of that wonderful history happened. I went to a very small school. The elementary school up on Donner Pass was really two rooms for five grades. Each grade was a row of desks. Literally, one row was first grade. My high school graduating class was, like, a hundred kids. It was a very small school.
My parents were involved with summer camp lodges that were affiliated with the Sierra Club. And they were also owners of a local ski hill, sort of a spring-skiing hill. So I grew up right up against a Bureau of Land Management forest. Hiking, skiing, camping. I was very big into the outdoors and nature and the mountains. I grew up in the mountains, which I think is why the appeal of living in Colorado was so big for me.
How young were you when you started skiing?
My dad taught us when we were about two. We would get off the school bus and go skiing. I used to race, and my dad was head of the ski school for a while at Soda Springs. He then became part owner of the ski hill, so skiing and racing were a big part of my childhood. And Colorado, in a lot of ways, is so similar to growing up near Tahoe, with the mountains and the skiing so close and all of the wonderful outdoor activities.
Is the weather there similar to Denver's?
Truckee's often the coldest station in the nation. It's often very cold. We get a lot of snow up on Donner Summit, and in a good El Niño year, we'd get thirty feet of snow. So the snow scenarios are very similar to what you might find in a Crested Butte or a Breckenridge, something like that. But coming here and learning about severe weather — tornadoes and hail and the wind storms and the flooding — that was all new for me. We didn't really have the weather extremes like we have here in Colorado. That was kind of an adventure, learning about that.
With that amount of snowfall in Truckee, could you be snowed in for days at a time?
Absolutely. Sometimes my dad would have to tunnel out the bottom story of our house. We'd go out the top windows sometimes because the snow would be so high. We'd have to wait for the school bus next to these big, giant snow piles. Snow and winter were a very big part of my early childhood, that's for sure.
I understand that weather wasn't your early interest in terms of a possible career. Instead, you were more interested in animals, and particularly horses. Is that correct?
That is correct. I am the oldest of three daughters, and I was very shy and very much a tomboy. My middle sister was the pretty, smart, popular one, and I was climbing trees and hiking and riding horses. Most of my best friends growing up were animals. I was very drawn to them, and they were drawn to me. I would take in rescue animals, strays. I would dog-sit, cat-sit, horse-sit. I would exercise horses in the summer for people. I would sleep outside in the summer with the animals. I just felt very at home with them and very connected to them.
Did you compete in rodeos as well?
Yes. I had horses growing up, and I used to compete on a small scale with 4-H. And we had a horseman's association. I was president of the junior division. So I would take part in the small-time rodeos, the Gymkhana events: pole-bending and the keyhole race and some of these other fun events. That was a big part of my childhood, as well.
I was a rodeo queen when I was in high school — queen of the Tahoe-Truckee rodeo. I think I was about fourteen. You'd have to sell tickets to the rodeo and there was a horsemanship competition and things like that.
Given your participation in ski racing and rodeos, do you consider yourself to be a competitive person?
I would consider myself a competitive person, although taking part in the events is probably the most fulfilling part of it — the friendships you make, the connections you make, the things you learn. But I did learn through ski racing and barrel racing that I do have a competitive nature. I do like to win, and in my current career, that's served me well [laughs].
But my original plan was to be Dr. Doolittle — to live in the woods with all my creatures and be some type of a veterinarian. I was the first person in my family to go to college and pay my own way through.
Was that your focus when you first enrolled at Cal-Poly?
Exactly. I was enrolled in veterinary science and animal science, and that was my intent, absolutely. I was accepted at UC Davis and Fresno State and Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo, and I chose Cal Poly simply because, growing up in the mountains in a very small town, I thought living in a bigger city near the ocean would be a brand-new life and experience for me, and it was.
While you were in college, you also did some modeling, I understand, but you didn't really pursue it as a career. Why wasn't that of interest to you?
Well, I was paying my own way through college, and I'd been working since I was eleven or twelve to buy my own horse, to buy clothes for school. We weren't a family of a lot of means. I literally grew up in a cabin in the woods, so I worked really hard to get scholarships, work-study programs, grants, things like that, to get to college. When I got there, I had a bike and a horse. I had no car.
You took a horse to college?
[Laughs.] Yeah, I did. I took my horse. I couldn't afford a car, so I rode my bike to the jobs and I rode my horse for fun on the weekends. I had friends who had stables, and they were kind enough to board my horse there. I'd do work in exchange for food for my horse — hay — and to pay for boarding. I would clean out the horse stalls.
My horse was my best friend. I started saving for him when I was eleven. Even though my dad came from a ranching family in Washington and had the horse gene, my parents thought I was silly to want a horse. But I started babysitting and saved up to buy him with my own money. I had him for a very long time, and when I went to school, he had to come with me.
What was his name?
Laddie, for Aladdin. He was half quarter horse, half Arabian. The quarter-horse part made him an amazing barrel horse, and the Arabian part of him made him a wonderful endurance horse at altitude. He could just go and go and go.
In the meantime, I was taking a full load in college, 22 credits, and I was working two jobs. I had worked very hard to get there, so some of the jobs I did to pay my way through school included waiting tables, cleaning houses, exercising animals, dog-sitting and the like. And on top of that, I was also approached to do some modeling work. I'm five-eleven, so I'm tall, and I was very thin back in the day [laughs]. So I was approached to do some different things for a local college agency. I was in Bicycling magazine. I did modeling jobs for a number of products. I was in the Women of Cal Poly calendar.
Then a girlfriend and I were approached by a modeling agent out of New York to leave college and go to New York and sign a modeling contract. It was funny, because she was beautiful: long, blond hair. She was the beautiful one. I was more of the girl-next-door type. I think that's more of my appeal. I certainly don't think of myself as beautiful.
Her boyfriend at the time got wind of this and proposed on the spot, so she didn't go. He gave her a huge rock! And I was smack-dab in the middle of my college career and feeling really good, and I felt to give up the scholarship money, the grant money, to stop school and have this adventure in New York with no guarantees... . Everybody said it would be really hard come back to school and launch back in again, and I would've lost all that money.
I struggled with it for a while, because it would have been an amazing adventure. But I really wanted to be a veterinarian, and I really wanted to be known for being smart and making a difference and helping animals and working in research, maybe, and creating something new. I was all for trying to make my mark that way, so I didn't go, and I've never regretted it.
How did you wind up getting involved in journalism?
After I'd been in school for a few years, I realized that to become a veterinarian, I couldn't do it in four years. It's more like eight or nine years. Doing the math, I couldn't afford eight or nine years of school. I started realizing I needed to get out and get a job and support myself and start making a life for myself. So I sat down with my adviser and said, "What should I do?" We assessed my strengths and my weaknesses, and I love to write. That's ultimately why I got into journalism and television news: my love of writing. But I also love speech and communication, so my adviser said, "You'd really be a great English teacher." But while it's a wonderful and respectable profession, I didn't see myself in that role. Then she said, "What about journalism?" And I thought journalism would be amazing. But then it was a question of whether it would be print or broadcast.
I'd already done some modeling work. I wasn't afraid of the camera. And I thought there was probably some decent money to be made on the television side. Print journalism, you have days to write a story. On TV, you've got to turn it that day. One and done; there are no do-overs. It's live, and that sounded exciting to me. But I didn't know very much about it, so I took a job in production at KSBY in San Luis Obispo, the NBC station.
At KSBY, I worked behind the scenes. I worked the camera, the audio board, Chyron operator, technical director, all those behind-the-scenes jobs. Now, my boss was married to the weather lady, Sharon Graves. There weren't many women meteorologists, or chief meteorologists, back in the ’80s. It was a pretty male-dominated field back then. But I became pretty good friends with her. She loved horses and didn't know how to ride, so I took her riding and taught her horses and kind of schooled her on the equestrian side of things, and she taught me about weather. I was terribly interested in it and found that I kind of had a knack for it.
We were sitting around one weekend and she said, "It's California. They read the weather here on the weekends. You should audition to do weekend weather here." And I was like, "That would be fun." So I stayed after work every night. I would set up the camera with the chroma key on and pretend I was whoever the popular weather person was back in the day. I'd just practice and keep making tapes and putting them on the news director's desk. I think I just badgered him to death. He probably just wanted me to go away, but he gave me a chance. And when he saw me, he was like, "God, you can actually do this." And I said, "Yeah, I can do this."
That's kind of how I started on television. I got on the air at the station.
I met my husband at 22. He was in college as well. Back in the day, that's when you got married — at 22 [laughs]. That's when I got married — right out of college. My husband had a real job, quote-unquote, with benefits and a car and a salary, and I was flipping pizzas during the week and doing weekend weather and making $16,000 a year. So when he got a promotion, I had to quit my job and move with him. That happened four times. I went from the NBC in San Luis Opispo to the ABC, KEYT, in Santa Barbara. I went to the Fox in Salinas-Monterey, and the ABC in San Jose, California. And along the way, I had two children very young, as well.
Usually, when people in TV news move from station to station, they're trying to jump to bigger and bigger markets each time. But it sounds as if you were making parallel moves because of your family situation.
That's exactly right. I would get a coveted television job, and anytime they asked me to do anything, I would do it. I was a reporter, I was an anchor, I was a producer. I never said no. I wanted to learn everything and just be a sponge. I found out I'm a good writer and a good reporter, but I don't love it. I found I was always in morning meetings asking for wild-animal stories. I did not enjoy covering fires and accidents and talking to people in times of tragedy. I found that weather suited my personality. It was important information and a generally positive topic — and everybody could talk to you about the weather. So that became my primary position. But I tried everything.
When I was in Santa Barbara, I probably would have stayed forever. It was a station up on a hill, and we were still on typewriters and using satellite feeds. Kenny Loggins lived up the hill. Do you remember Kenny Loggins? He would come down to the Children's Miracle Network telethon. It was such a beautiful place. But that was where an agent spotted me.
Ken Lindner is one of the biggest agents in the world. He's based out of L.A., and he has scouts that go around the country, and one of his scouts saw me and contacted me and said, "We want to represent you." And I said, "Well, I don't really need to pay you guys to represent me. I was able to get four jobs on my own just fine." And she said, "No, no, you could go so much bigger. You can go so much further."
Here's me with my limited modeling experience: When she said "agent," I was picturing some crazy guy with a hairy chest and gold chains and a cigar. I was like, "No, thank you." But she said, "We'll fly you to L.A. You need to meet Kenny." He was representing all the big names back in the day, all the network anchors. So I went there and signed with Ken Lindner in 1992 or 1993.
What you did was, you gave them tape of your work and then they put a reel together and they marketed you. They could get into these stations where you might not get a call back or might not have the right connections; they could get right in. And within two weeks, I had a job offer from the Weather Channel. The number-one station in Dallas was interested, too, and also KUSA in Denver.
Now, I had always pictured me doing some of my schoolwork in Boulder or living in Colorado at some point. So I didn't go to the Weather Channel. As much of a cowgirl as I am, Dallas didn't sound interesting. It had to be Colorado. They flew me out, and Mike Nelson was the chief meteorologist back then — he's probably the best meteorologist I've ever seen. He and Dave Lougee — who's the president of our company, Tegna, now, but back then, he was the news director at KUSA — they interviewed me. Apparently there were 1,000 tapes, but they picked me.
I had been working in a market that was number 120, maybe. So I made something like a 100-market jump by coming here. That's a big deal!
Did you know right away when you toured the station and spoke to the staff that you were in the big leagues?
Oh, my God, yes. I had just had my second child, so I had a three-year old and a baby, and they were like, "We want to hire you." All of a sudden, my husband had to quit his job and move with me, because I was the one with a real job and a real salary. KUSA had an amazing reputation. They're known across the lower 48, to be sure. What an honor to even be considered. I was without words. It was huge. Huge.
What were the main challenges here when it came to the actual forecasting? And did anything about Denver weather catch you by surprise?
I was at the Burnsley Hotel — they put me up in the Burnsley until my family came out — and I remember looking out over the balcony at some of the mammatus clouds and the cumulonimbus clouds, and I'd never seen clouds like those in my life. And the hail, and the lightning. I thought, "You are not in Kansas anymore."
This was the real deal, and I had a lot to learn. But lucky for me, I had the best teachers. Mike Nelson really took me under his wing and taught me so much about weather in Colorado. He was just amazing. I was used to snow and cold and wind, but tornadoes and hail and lightning and some of the other stuff that happens here: It was the most beautiful and the most terrifying thing I'd ever seen in my life.
I started doing weekend weather. This was back when Kim Christiansen was the weekend anchor and Tom Green was the weekend sports guy. So the three of us, when I started, worked together 25 years ago on the weekends, and now here we are, Monday through Friday on the 4 and the 5. But I was also reporting three days a week and was also the number-one storm chaser. Every day I would go out and chase storms, and one day, I got what I considered to be lucky. I went out with one of the best photojournalists in the country, Eric Kehe, who was at 9News forever. He and I came across two tornadoes. The "twister sisters," we called them. It was a 22-hour day. I worked the morning news, I went live in the afternoon, turned a package for the late news. I won an Emmy. We were on the Weather Channel. We were in the Weather Channel calendar.
I'd only been at 9News for a year when that happened. And after that, management sat me down and said, "Okay, we need to send you back to school to get a second degree in meteorology. Because you're the real deal. You're going to have a long-term career. We believe in you. You're here, but you have a degree in animal science... ." [Laughs.] That makes me really popular around Stock Show time, can I just say. When I get out there with the ag stuff, it makes me very popular!
My minor was in journalism, but they were like, "You're in Denver, Colorado, at KUSA, a number 18 market. So we want to send you back to school to get your second degree." And they did. I did my coursework at Metro State and online at Mississippi State University, and that has served me very well, having that extra science. I have two Bachelor of Science degrees.
What was it like going through that education process after you'd already spent years forecasting the weather on the air? Did it suddenly beef up what you were doing in a way you might not have been able to predict?
Absolutely. It was the hardest thing I've ever done. You have a full-time big job with two small children under the age of five, and you're taking tests at one o'clock in the morning and going to school during your lunch break and at night. It was really hard, but it was essential. And I think as a woman back in the day, to be taken seriously, you didn't need just a certificate from online. You needed a four-year college degree. You needed that piece of paper that said you were a scientist. I wasn't allowed to be called a meteorologist back then until the American Meteorological Society or the National Weather Association and these organizations said I was. Nowadays, people can claim the title fairly easily. A lot of people can claim they're meteorologists without the degree and without a lot of the course work. But back in the early to mid-’90s, I had to get a letter from these organizations sent to management, and then they gave me that title on the air.
When I eventually got promoted to the chief meteorologist position back in, I think, 2004 or 2005, I was one of the first women chief meteorologists in the West. It was kind of a big deal. It was a very male-dominated field, so that was a huge accomplishment and feather in my cap to have gotten to that point.
Have you felt 9News has had less of a glass ceiling than other stations around the country? And do you think Patti Dennis, who was the news director at 9News for so long, was one of the reasons for that?
Yes, I do believe Patti was integral for that. But the general manager at the time, Roger Ogden, was the one who saw something in me. He was the one who really supported me, guided me, made the contacts with the Today show that got me on as Al Roker's fill-in and working under Janice Huff. I went to New York something like thirty times over five or ten years. He was the one I really thought saw something in me and believed in me and made this happen. Patti was, of course, integral as well, working under Roger in the news director role. But he was the one I felt just believed in me and gave me that support. And then having Patti in the news director role: There weren't a lot of women news directors, or women in leadership positions at TV stations back in the day. So she was a wonderful role model and inspiration to so many of us for what we could attain.
Did you see that across the station as well — that women were getting a chance to do jobs at 9News that might not have been available to them at other stations across the country, during the early days?
Absolutely. They were very forward-thinking, very supportive of women. It was: Are you capable? Are you knowledgeable? Are you community-minded? Are you a good representative of the brand of KUSA? And if you were that person for them, they absolutely got behind you. If you were under the magic umbrella of Channel 9, there really wasn't anything you couldn't do.
One of the phrases I'm sure you've heard many, many times around here is, "If you don't like the weather, wait ten minutes." But does the weather really change that quickly here as compared to other places? Or is it more that when the changes come, they can be really dramatic?
Both. Colorado is the pinnacle for a meteorologist. In California, the storms basically travel from west to east across the state, so the forecasting prognostication is fairly simple — just following the jet-stream flow. But in Colorado, we can have a storm come in from any direction. We can have weather that can be life-threatening any time of the year. We can have some of the biggest weather events in any season. You never close your eyes on a blue-sky day and exhale and think it's going to be an easy day, because Mother Nature will smack you upside the head and say, "Wake up."
You can have wind storms and flooding and hail and blizzards and tornadoes like they don't get anywhere in the country. Forecasting here is a challenge, it's a privilege, and when you get it right, it feels really good. Because people in this state, they are educated about the weather. They care about the weather. We have a lot of outdoor enthusiasts, a lot of pilots, and they definitely hold us accountable. They're smart, they're savvy, and our forecast, they base their week, their money, their work and their vacation on it. And if we get it wrong, boy, don't we hear about it!
We take this very seriously, and our accuracy rate is very high. And because it's high, they expect even more from us. It becomes not, "It's going to snow on Friday." They want the window and they want to know how much. For example, one of the storms we had in January, I think I had two to four inches of snow for Denver, and Denver got a couple of inches, and DIA got a couple of inches. But at my house in Parker, I was shoveling eight to twelve inches. So making everybody happy and getting it right for everybody in all the various micro-climates is very challenging.
You alluded to this earlier, but is one of the reasons that people in this area take the weather so seriously is that the forecast might not just save them several hours, but it could conceivably save their life?
Absolutely. We have people that commute to the mountains. Or maybe they're going skiing or snowboarding. Or maybe they're going to send Grandma and Grandpa in the Winnebago over Vail Pass. You know you can go on a September day from 95 degrees to five inches of snow in less than 24 hours. I made that forecast once. I thought I was going to get fired, but it worked out all right because it happened. You have people who have puppies that they leave in the yard and send their kids to school in shorts and flip-flops, and they're walking home in snowdrifts. Livestock managers, ranchers, farmers on the plains: There have been herds of animals that have been stranded out in the fields because of cold and snow because there might not have been enough warning to get the animals back to where they had access to adequate food and shelter.
It's a huge responsibility, and one I take very seriously — and I do believe it can be a life-or-death situation for people. And if they're not paying attention, it can change on a dime, and it can change your life that quickly as well.
I'm sure you got negative feedback in California if a forecast was inaccurate. But was the criticism at a different level in Denver? And did it surprise you that people were so passionate about it?
People in Denver are definitely passionate about the weather, and the men and women who came before me set the bar very high. People like Mike Nelson, Ed Greene and some of the longtimers around here. Viewers have certain expectations, so you can't really expect to come straight to Denver and start your weather career here. You've got to go someplace else and get some experience under your belt, some confidence, a college degree, because when you come here, you need an extra layer of skin. You've got to be tough, you've got to be smart, and you've got to be prepared.
There were a few people over the past 25 years who came in and started their career here, and it didn't end well. Because if you're not prepared for a breaking weather situation and prepared to stay calm when all heck is breaking lose and people are counting on you to give them information in a calm, collected manner — tell them what's happening, where to go, what to do — it's a tough situation to be in. It's a different level.
Speaking of a different level, very shortly after you got to Denver, you became a big local celebrity. Was that strange to you in a way?
Why would you call me a big local celebrity? Because I've never considered myself that. I don't know that weather people can really be considered that. Why do you think that?
Here's one example: For decades, there's been the rumor that you dated John Elway. [She laughs.] That kind of story doesn't live for so long if you're not a celebrity.
Well, that's not true. I never dated John Elway. But I suppose if you're in the rumor mill, maybe you have arrived.
My friend, former sportscaster Drew Soicher, after I got divorced from the husband I married after college, after thirteen years, he wanted me to date John Elway, desperately. And John at the time had an assistant named Kathy, so that complicated things, and he was dating a woman who had brown hair like me and blue eyes, although she was very petite. So Drew Soicher started that rumor and it took off like wildfire. I had sports radio stations calling me from across the country. I had people asking me. And I'd never even met the guy.
Years later, I finally met him. I was remarried, he was remarried, and I had my son at a football game, and he was very kind. He came up and said hello and took a picture. We were doing live coverage at one of the Broncos games and he looked at me, and I knew he must have heard the rumors, because he started laughing. And I just kind of started laughing, too. He was just the kindest, most wonderful man. But that was the first time I'd met him. [Laughs.] I guess it could be worse.
You mentioned earlier filling in on the Today show. I'm guessing that as a result of that, or a bunch of other things, you had offers to leave Denver for larger markets, cable channels or networks. Is that true? And if so, why did you decide to stay in Denver?
It is true. I was offered the chief meteorologist position at the NBC station in Miami, at a station in St. Louis, stations in Los Angeles, and, yes, there was some interest from the network because of the Today show. But as things continued to progress in that direction for me, that's when I was offered the lead forecaster role at 9News. They renegotiated my contract. As Mike Nelson moved on in his career [he switched to Denver7], they moved me up to keep me from moving out [laughs].
Here's another example of national publicity you received for what I'm guessing struck you as a strange reason. Back in 2015, there was some supposedly awkward banter between you and Kyle Clark that ended up on The Tonight Show With Jimmy Fallon. Did it seem bizarre to you that it was suddenly getting attention across the country?
Yes, I think we were all surprised by that.
Was it fun for you? Could you laugh at it?
I think it was fun initially. But then...I don't know what to say about that.
It doesn't sound like one of your favorite experiences.
I think everyone is surprised when something goes viral. And it's always the things that are the smallest, everyday things. It's amazing to me what people find interesting.
On the subject of the Internet being a deep, dark hole, I discovered that there's a blog lingering online called Fire Kathy Sabine, although its most recent post was in 2012, so I guess whoever's behind it has moved on. Is that the kind of online trolling someone in your position has to deal with simply as part of working in the industry in this technological age?
I don't even think you have to be in the public eye to deal with negative social-media impacts from unhappy people who just like to hit people blindly — and there's no way to really protect yourself from that or defend yourself. As social media and the platforms have grown and we've all become more involved in them, it's become a sport for people. And it's one I choose not to partake in. I don't look at that stuff, I don't respond to it, I don't like to acknowledge it.
Things like that can really affect your day, your job, your life. So I try not to get caught up in the cycle of negativity. I think the Internet and Instagram and Twitter and Facebook can be used for good, used to help people. It's useful to get out important information. Bringing people in and letting them get to know different parts of you can be good. But I choose not to get involved in the negative things. It's a conscious choice of mine. My generation — we kind of got dragged kicking and screaming late into the age of Twitter and Facebook. At least I did. And so I'm fairly new to a lot of that. I don't dig deep into those dark holes. I'm afraid of what I'd find there, and I don't think I'd find anything useful. I choose to spend my time on the bright side, on the sunny side with positive people promoting positive ideas and messages. I just feel like life is hard enough, and we all work so hard — and everybody's going through something.
Why can't we all just be kinder to one another and focus on the positive instead of the negative and making other people feel bad so you feel better? I don't believe in that, and I don't support that.
Not everything about you online is negative, although a lot of it is weird. You've been featured on a website called The Appreciation of Booted Newswomen because of the boots you wear on the air.
You weren't familiar with that?
Well, they admire your boots. [She laughs.] And there are also multiple wiki-type sites [here's the link to one, and another, and another] that debate your age and your shoe size. In fact, you could probably break the Internet right now if you said how old you are and what size shoe you wear.
How weird is that? Don't you think that's weird? Why would people care about that stuff, anyway? It's all fascinating to me, and I think you could make the Internet your life. I just choose not to. I'd rather be out riding my horse than searching for that kind of stuff.
You recently appeared on the Ellen DeGeneres Show, where you stepped out of the audience and danced with Twitch. How did that all come together?
This is the second time I've been to Ellen. The first time I was there, a few years ago, I was with my mom and my sister and my daughter, and Ellen pulled me out of the audience and I got to chat with her. I was part of one of the games, and I won the audience QVC gift cards. I made some connections while I was out there and said I wanted to come back at some point and asked how you go about getting the tickets and things like that. Her show leads into our four o'clock show, so that's a wonderful promotional vehicle for them and for us.
While I was there, Twitch, who's their really cool DJ, pulled me out of the audience to dance with him. My husband was terrified.
You didn't know about it beforehand? It was a surprise?
Well, one of the producers came up beforehand and said, "We're going to put you on the outside." And I said, "This is where people dance in the aisle." And she asked, "Are you okay with that?" And I thought, there's stuff everywhere and I'm very uncoordinated. I had an idea right before it happened, but there wasn't a lot of warning. At that point, you either panic or you go, "You know what? Girls just want to have fun." I love to dance, and as an adult, you just don't get to dance very often unless you're at a wedding or something like that. And Ellen is really one of the most amazing women I've ever met. Just being in the same room with her is such a cool experience. It's so positive and happy, and I just felt safe there. I thought, why not?
Their marketing people sent the clip back to the station. I didn't know they were going to do that, and we talked about it on the air. It was a wonderful promotion for the Ellen show and our four o'clock show. Because she's wildly popular, and now I have street cred with the millennials because I danced with Twitch. They think I'm really cool now, and I'm okay with that [laughs].
Do you think one of the parts of your appeal is that you're serious about your job but not always serious?
Oh, yeah. I think my greatest appeal is I'm the girl next door. While I hear that some men find me attractive, their wives want to be my friend, and I think that's really cool. I'm not the most beautiful or the smartest person in the room. I'm like everybody else. I have good hair days and bad hair days, and some days I have the fat days and some days I think I look good, and sometimes I'm wrinkled and I'm tired, because I'm a working mom of three. I look like people who watch me, and they can relate to that. I don't try to be anything I'm not. I just try to be kind and real and honest and do my job the best I possibly can, in a way that's hopefully entertaining and fun.
You can't be serious all the time, but weather is serious business in Colorado. When it comes down to that, I am absolutely serious about it.
This past year marked your 25th at 9News, which is an unusually long run at one station. What does that longevity mean to you?
I never set out to be here this long. I don't think anyone does in a television career. Like you said, you have to move up and out and up and out to get to the next place. It's like an escalator, or a stair-stepper. You're constantly moving to get to the next place you want to go in your career. But this place is special, and the fact that I've been here for 25 years...
I've really done everything at the station. I've been the weekend weather anchor. I've done mid-day. I've been on the morning shift, I've been the chief meteorologist at night. I've been a reporter, I've anchored the news. The opportunities have been tremendous, and it just speaks to how special 9News/KUSA is — that people come and they stay for a length of time like this. Like Adele [Arakawa] and Ed [Sardella] and Kim. It's a very special place. I feel very fortunate that they found me and thought I was good enough and brought me here. I could never have dreamed this and planned this starting out. I'm so grateful.
What's next for you?
Well, nobody knows this, but my contract is up in a few months. So the future at this point is really kind of uncertain.
We Believe Local Journalism is Critical to the Life of a City
Engaging with our readers is essential to Westword's mission. Make a financial contribution or sign up for a newsletter, and help us keep telling Denver's stories with no paywalls.
Support Our Journalism
Are negotiations for a new contract under way?
The station has reached out to my agent, and they're talking.
Are you leaning one direction or another?
At this age and stage, I feel so fortunate, because I have a lot of opportunities. I guess the answer would be that I'm not leaning in any particular direction, but it's a good time of reflection.
Have your kids gotten to the age where it would be easier to consider relocating?
I don't know if that's a piece of the puzzle, in terms of when opportunities come and why. But it's nice to have options and nice to consider those things.
I don't want to ruin anything or stir up any trouble. I'm happy, and my intention is to stay. But there is some uncertainty. It's been an amazing 25 years at Channel 9, and if this winds up being the end of the road for this chapter in my life, what a great ride.