Winners announced in Vail Daily’s annual Tell Us Your Love Story | VailDaily.com

Winners announced in Vail Daily’s annual Tell Us Your Love Story

We sifted through a dozen submissions — from nearly missed connections to cross-country romances to relationships that were more than a decade in the making — to find this year's Vail Daily Tell Us Your Love Story contest winners. The winners were stories we felt best fit the theme of "Love on the Clock," where one or both person's job played an integral role in the two finding love.

Here, we've printed the first-, second- and third-place winners. The winning couple received dinner for two at La Tour and a spa package from The Ritz-Carlton, Bachelor Gulch; second place received dinner for two at The Left Bank; and third place got two 90-minute massages from Simply Massage.

First place

• Mandi and Tim O'Marra

Mandi had a long weekend and decided to take a quick trip to Colorado to visit her cousins and see the fall colors of October, which were nonexistent in her hometown of Southern California. She had always loved Colorado and was excited to spend the weekend with her loved ones. She decided to go up to Beaver Creek to take a hike and enjoy the scenery.

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While she was hiking, Mandi fell in love with the view and decided to apply for a hospitality job, just to see if it would go anywhere. Turns out, they needed winter employees, and she was hired on the spot. She made the move that weekend and started her new life in Avon — not expecting that her decision would change the course of her future forever.

Tim had just completed school and was working toward becoming an emergency medical technician and firefighter. He was hired in Beaver Creek as a public safety officer and started that same October 2010. He was going through his training and was very familiar with the terrain, considering he had lived in Summit County for the past 10 years.

During Tim's training, Beaver Creek Public safety received a call that a new hire at one of the hotels was having an allergic reaction. It was one of the first times Tim was allowed to run a scene, and he was excited to finally put his education to good use on a medical call.

They arrived at one of the hotels, and Tim noticed that his patient was someone he had never met before — and was captivated by her long hair and her flushed cheeks. He was running her vitals and asked her when she would be getting off work. He was a little shy but thought they were really hitting it off — minus the fact that he had to be professional, considering it was his first medical examination on the job. He regretted meeting her while on shift and thought he had to get to know this girl …

Mandi was going through the motions of learning her new trade and was really enjoying her new career. She was more than ready to start her new life in this beautiful place, but she was dealing with a few setbacks back home. She had just broken up with her ex, and he was making her new life hard to start because he would not let the past go. Mandi kept ignoring his calls and tried to focus on her new job and making new friends.

During her first week of work, Mandi received a bouquet of Easter lilies from her ex — the only flower to which she is allergic. She immediately took an antihistamine but felt the effects of an allergic reaction immediately start. Her eyes became swollen, her cheeks flushed and her throat started to close. Her manager noticed and called Beaver Creek Public Safety.

Mandi was so embarrassed that she was making a scene at her new job, and to make matters worse, a very cute man in a uniform showed up to take her vitals. Her eyes were still swollen, and her throat was dry, but once the antihistamine kicked in, she just felt silly for making a scene. The cute man in uniform introduced himself as Tim and asked Mandi what time she got off work and then told her to give public safety a call if her symptoms persisted.

Mandi got off work that night and was still recovering from that embarrassing ordeal earlier that day. As she walked out of the hotel, she could not stop thinking about that cute EMT named Tim, and she wished she got more than just his name. As she walked out of the employee exit, Tim was standing by the door waiting for her.

Now, seven years later, Mandi and Tim are married and still live in Eagle County. They just had their first child, Smith, and are building a home together in Eagle Ranch. They still laugh to this day about their meeting and how a few spontaneous decisions and a week in time transformed their lives.

Second place

• Svetlana and Joe Tomasic

January of 2001 was going well: abundant snow, my business was finally standing on its own and I was again skiing after five years of sacrificing powder days for power meetings. My daily morning ritual took me from my shop, located in the Pines Lodge, past the front desk to the Grouse Mountain Grill for coffee. Normally, I walked by, said hello and kept moving, but one morning, a new employee caught my eye and she was absolutely stunning.

I stopped and introduced myself to this vision and she informed me she just arrived from Russia for the winter. I, of course, let her know that when she needed a ski rental, I was the guy. I drank so much more coffee after that. I didn't see her often, but when I did, I found reason for conversation. When she finally rented skis, I pushed staff aside so I could properly assist her and steal her phone number off the rental form.

A few days later, I called to ask her out, and there were challenges. First, a small language barrier, and although she spoke English well, my nervous, unprepared phone call probably sounded incoherent. Second, she had just flown in a small Cessna and was completely nauseous. So when asked if she wanted to go to dinner sometime, she thought I meant that night and said no. I asked if she had a boyfriend, she said no — rejected. My hopes dashed.

Days passed, we saw each other in passing, said awkward hellos and went about our business. One day, we happened into the elevator, where she asked me if I still wanted to go to dinner and explained everything I mentioned above — hope restored.

I immediately began calling in favors with business colleagues. Bearcat Stables hooked up a sleigh ride. I broke out the Lakota River Guides company car — H1 Hummer (impressive) — worked out trade with TimberHearth Grille and pulled out all the stops to impress my date.

Date night was a blizzard, but I had the right vehicle. I pulled up to her house; she looked out and, being from Russia, had never seen a Hummer; she thought it was some kind of redneck piece of junk. Later, her roommate explained how cool H1s were. Side note: Hummers are so wide and loud you can barely see the person next to you, let alone hear them — worst date vehicle ever for getting close to your girl.

The date went well; we had many more and spent countless hours together. We met in January and married in May. Yes, May of 2001, just five months later, which seemed crazy but felt right. Now, 16 years later, our beautiful daughter Sophia is in the seventh grade and I am still madly in love with this beautiful woman. I'm so thankful that a front desk, cup of coffee and a ski rental brought us together halfway around the world while at work in a little hotel in Beaver Creek Colorado.

Third place

• Lauren and Ricky Knudsen

"So, could you just bring a fire truck to this party I'm planning for a friend?"

Even as I write this, looking back, I honestly can't believe that I thought this was a reasonable request to ask Ricky. I mean, he did work for the Vail Fire Department and did have easy access to fire trucks when he wasn't working with me at the Vail Cascade. Surely, this guy must have unlimited access to a fire truck for a party, I thought.

Well, the quick answer to that was "absolutely not happening." To think these were some of the first words I had ever spoken to him as we had passed each other almost daily working at the Cascade was slightly bizarre. Since the person moving away was a mutual friend of ours, Ricky decided that his presence alone would "one up" any appearance by a fire truck.

This began the awkward, "not dating (but really dating)/getting to know you while working together" stage. God help everyone who was stuck around us at this point. Thankfully, I came up with plenty of excuses to make my way down to the security office where he worked. Since the majority of all event planners lose the packages they send to themselves at the hotel, I always figured I would begin my search in the security office. Some of our first dates/not dates were the free meals served in the Cascade employee cafeteria, the search of finding leftover breakfast and a lot of walks on Gore Creek path — Ricky, of course, always "on patrol."

On Fourth of July, after months of "not really" dating, Ricky called me to come and meet him and some friends at The Red Lion before fireworks. When I showed up and looked through the windows on Bridge Street I saw about 15 slightly intoxicated off-duty firefighters all at one table, I thought to myself, "There is no way I am going in there." I called my sister for a quick pep talk and walked in. … I guess you could say that night changed everything. Everyone we meet that night thought we had been dating for years — it just worked for us.

Nine years later, a lot of those guys at that table have remained some of our closest friends, supporting us through marriage, kids, loss of life, first home ownership and so much more. Ricky still works at the Vail Fire Department. He has since traded his days off of snowboarding and golfing in the valley for packing lunches and doing our 5 year-old McKenzie's hair and singing "Frozen" songs with our 2-year-old, Emory. I work for a nonprofit in Denver planning events.

The Fourth of July is still our favorite holiday to be in Vail and was even more fun this past year when Ricky and McKenzie got to ride on the fire truck together during the parade. I will always be so grateful that Vail is the place that we met and fell in love.