L♥ve at high altitude | VailDaily.com

L♥ve at high altitude

Compiled by Caramie Schnell
Alain Frund and Leela Greenberg.
Special to the Daily |

We received nearly two dozen entries for the Vail Daily/TV8’s annual Tell Us Your Love Story contest this year. While the winners were printed in Friday’s Vail Daily (visit the story online at http://www.vaidaily.com), we were impressed by the caliber of the entries this year and are sharing some more of our favorites.

— Caramie Schnell, High Life editor


Leela Greenberg and Alain Frund, Vail

Support Local Journalism

Teeny and I made fun of him the first time we met him. He cajoled us into sharing a taxi from the airport in Guatemala City, and as we slid into the car she leaned over to me, “do you remember that James Bond that only got to be James Bond once because he wasn’t James Bond-y enough?”

“Timothy Dalton?” I asked.

“Yeah. That dude looks just like him!”

We burst out laughing. It was true. Chiseled jaw, coy smile, strong eyebrows. He narrowed his eyes at us. “Hey! Don’t laughing at me!” His French accent made us laugh even harder. He smiled and my stomach clenched, but I immediately denied that it happened. I had just turned 20 and had vowed off men. For good. I wanted to travel and see the world; not meet boys. I wore white eyeliner and aggressive pink lipstick to keep them at bay. Alain, however, could not be deterred.

The next day Teeny and I hiked up Pacaya Volcano, touted by the tour company as “the only safe place you can play with lava.” As we summited Pacaya’s crest, we saw a maze of red rivers glowing beneath the black earth. We also saw, amid a group of tourists, Alain, his walking stick plunged into a puddle of lava. “Bonjour!” he called.

It didn’t seem strange to see him again. Travelers often have similar routes and calling it a coincidence, or, worse, serendipity, would be ascribing the chance encounter a significance it wasn’t allowed to deserve.

“This is amazing!” I said, “I wish we could camp here!”

“Well we could ..” Alain replied.

“No way,” Teeny said. “They’d never let us.”

“Ha! This is Central America. There is no ‘they’ to care.” Alain seemed sure of this, and so we planned to meet at Rainbow Café, at the base of Volcán Pacaya, in one month. We would hike the volcano at night after the guides had left, and sleep on an island of shale between the two lakes of magma that straddle the summit. On the appointed day, neither of us thought the other would show. But there he was, waiting. He brought a concert violinist from Ireland that played all night as the lava hissed across the mountain and I brought a bag of potatoes that we wrapped in foil and cooked on the molten rocks. We stayed up all night, mesmerized by the howling wind and the muffled fiddle, by the rain pelting the lava and saturating the night with ruby-tinted steam.

On par with that first night, we trekked across rainforests, explored Mayan villages, and one night, he rescued me from a homicidal knife-wielding German. I fell in love, but too shy, I never said a word.

It wasn’t until five years and many letters later that I lifted the boy embargo just enough for Alain to slip under and we shared our first kiss, in the streets of Madrid.

Now, the adventure continues. In Vail, Colorado.


Tanya and Jason Barnicoat, Eagle

It all started 20 years ago with a whitewash in the snow. I was 16, my future husband Jason was 19 and my brother’s best friend. Fun flirtations like this and a frosting fight led to a forbidden teenage romance. Our first “official” date was Feb. 19th, 1994 with dinner from the Wendy’s drive-up window, which we nervously enjoyed in a desolate beach parking lot in our hometown on Cape Cod, Mass. On this night we chased each other down the snow-covered sand, climbed up the lifeguard chair and embraced for the first time. Well actually, in my husband’s words, he would say I “devoured his freaking face”

As with any teenage relationship our families thought it would never last and when the time came for Jason to return to the dorms and I still in high school they thought it would end right there. Well hell, we sure proved them wrong. We moved in together my senior year of high school half way between Cape Cod and Providence, RI where he was enrolled at Johnson & Wales. I worked full time at Friendly’s at night scooping sundaes and schlepping fries, got up each day and drove to school. He did the same. Tough times, but our love was so strong for one another, we always persevered.

We were married on our five year anniversary of our first date. The wedding menu was a bit better than that first dinner at Wendy’s. We chartered a boat in Florida for the ceremony with our own savings while “Cheeseburger in Paradise” played as I walked to the bow of the boat. Jason forgot the wedding music but I forgave him as I have so many times over the years. We will celebrate our 15th wedding anniversary on Feb. 19th this year.

Fast forward 20 years later and we our living the life in our beloved Vail Valley with three fur children. This winter I was even able to achieve my dream job as a ski bum thanks to my husband’s overwhelming support. He is a successful executive chef and I couldn’t be prouder. My heart still skips a beat when I see him in his sexy black chef coat. It has been a wicked awesome ride and I hope our flame never goes out.


Colleen Maholias and Tom Striegel, Dallas, Texas

Vail Village, 2010, apres ski at the Red Lion. My girls annual ski trip started like all the other years past … excitement to gather together, catch up, eat, laugh and tackle the mountain. On the first day after skiing, we all met at one of our favorite places to apres ski and listen to some music. As the bar got very crowded, the singer challenged everyone to attempt to throw a coin into the bucket on stage and the winner would receive a prize. I felt a tap on my shoulder and a nice man handed me a coin to try my luck. I missed the bucket, but never thought I was in for the prize of a lifetime!

As his group started talking to my group of gals, we all seemed to have a great time. He was from Dallas, I was from Chicago.

We continued to run into the group throughout the weekend, and when one of our girlfriends got injured on the mountain, he and his cousin immediately volunteered to carry her from place to place (a true gentleman, a knight in white, shining armor!)

As the weekend came to an end, he invited me to visit Dallas. He kindly took my information and I waited patiently, but within a week, I was surprised with a large package at my door front in Chicago, full of ski and women’s clothing! I later learned he owned a clothing business and had decided I was his sample size! I felt like a ski princess, and couldn’t wait to thank him.

So, cautiously, and a bit strategically, I planned a few Dallas business trips to get to know this nice man in his own land. That was four years ago and the rest is apres history! As of four wonderful years ago, we are still enjoying our yearly February Vail trips together, only now I visit as a Texan!

Love truly is in the air, especially at high altitudes!


Kirsten Ovind Zeller and Bill Zeller, North Dakota in the summer, Vail in the winter

Ours is a story that started 26 years ago back in college at The University of North Dakota. I remember meeting Bill in Calculus 2. We used to shoot hoops after class and I thought he was so cute. A friendship was formed. The timing was not right for romance. I moved to Vail and he to Minneapolis. We briefly caught up at a couple homecoming football games after college.

Fast forward 20 plus years when we run into each other in Denver when UND was in the Frozen Four hockey tournament. He sees my best friend and says Kirsten must be here. Next thing you know we are catching up like old friends. Phone numbers were exchanged and he comes up to Vail with his friend to visit the next day.

Through many months of daily phone calls we met up that summer and knew it was meant to be. A move from my Vail home of 18 years to Minneapolis the next summer. Two years later, a proposal on the mountain and now a ski wedding this Valentines Day. I’ve met my partner on this adventure we call life.


Nancy Wheeler and Bob Sumner, Eagle

Things take time. Sometimes, a long, long time. Like 25 years!

Nancy and I met, had an extraordinarily steamy few dates and proceeded to become just good friends. This was back in the eighties. It didn’t work out. She was too young, barely in her twenties. But we stayed good friends and as a real estate broker I sold her a multitude of homes through two marriages. In fact, over the years, I think she was my best customer.

Fast forward to 2013. Both our miserably failed marriages were finally put behind us. Nancy came to town to visit some friends. She had moved to Eagle five years prior – the last time we had seen each other. Neither of us were on the other’s radar. In fact, at the time, neither of us even had our radar turned on.

We talked. We shared our stories. We bared our souls and when we did, we discovered we had more in common than not. Short story… the chemistry that had maintained the friendship was the element that had been missing in our prior relationships.

And a funny thing happens when you get into your later years. Age differences become less of a factor.

Nancy returned to Eagle. I climbed on my motorcycle, packed a change of knickers, followed and never looked back.

So here we are, approaching our half year anniversary, reveling in a relationship grounded on being best friends, both in awe of how we got it so wrong before and so right now.

Twenty five years! Finally! And the amazing part … Well, this is a family publication so let’s just not go there. It’s probably enough to picture being shot out of a cannon, a space shuttle launch, a booming thunderstorm and … Sorry, guess I went there.

I’m tempted to use words like respect, maturity, tenderness, care, fulfillment or nurturing, but I’m afraid I’d have my man-card revoked. Let’s just call it love.

Cue Etta James. “At last …”


Miles and Alex Gifford, East Vail

I met my husband, Miles, when we were both on vacation with friends in the Dominican Republic back in March of 2010. I was ordering a drink at the bar and he standing next me. We started chatting and the rest, as they say, is history.

The only catch is that he is American and I am Canadian. And we lived hours away from each other. Once we both got home we found each other on Facebook and started sending messages back and forth. We started messaging and talking on the phone everyday not long after that. And there hasn’t been a single day since in which we didn’t message, Skype or talk on the phone.

About a month after we met, Miles suggested he drive up and visit me in Toronto for a long weekend. After that weekend I knew I was in trouble, I was falling for a guy from another country. I was heartbroken when he drove away, thinking that I might never see him again.

But I did! That summer I went out to visit him for 10 days in Cape Cod where he was working for the summer. I knew that trip that I was going to spend the rest of my life with him. And he felt the same way. Despite a very awkward first “I love you” (He said it first, and I said it back a few days later) it was pretty obvious that we were both crazy in love.

Miles moved to Colorado in the fall of 2010 and we did long distance across two time zones. We took turns traveling back and forth to visit each other and I took time off work and came and lived with him for two several month long stretches.

We got engaged in October of 2012 and started working on paperwork that would allow me to move permanently to the US and in October of 2013 I got my visa and we got married here in Vail.

We are both so lucky to have gone on that trip at the same time and to the same resort. We would have never met and fallen in love if we hadn’t. We are proof that if you love someone and want to be with them, you will not let anything or anyone stand in your way.


Megan Conklin and Chad Newmark, Highlands Ranch, Denver

My name is Megan Conklin and my boyfriend, Chad Newmark, and I have been looking forward to telling you the story of how we met, almost since the day we met: Saturday, March 3, 2012.

As you might remember (or not, it’s OK), it snowed the entire week prior to that Saturday. I was stuck in Denver, living the office life but dreaming of all the fresh pow I would enjoy once the weekend finally arrived. My boss was letting me work from home and at one point, I told her that she’s lucky I’m honest; I didn’t sneak up to the mountains even though it crossed my mind.

Once Saturday came, I bypassed my friends’ invitations to ski at A-Basin or Breck. I was adamant I wanted to ski Vail, my favorite place ever since my East Coast skier eyes first viewed the back bowls. (In fact, I’ve never even skied at Beaver Creek in the seven years I’ve lived in Colorado; I just couldn’t bring myself to drive past Vail.) Anyway, I had a solo ski day in mind when I left my house in the Highlands neighborhood of Denver at 5am, to beat to rush and to get my super secret free parking spot. Driving up to the high country, I put on my happiest music, so stoked to finally get a piece of the pow!

I parked, ate some breakfast, got on my gear, threw in my earbuds, and walked across the bridge into Lionshead and got in the singles’ line for Born Free Express. The lift hadn’t started yet but the line was growing behind me.

The lift started, one… two… three… I counted as the chairs ahead of me loaded up, listening to my music on full blast. I ended up getting on maybe the 10th chair next to a group of two men on my left, and the guy who was standing behind me in the singles’ line on my right.

About halfway up the chairlift, one of the guys on my left nudged me and said, “Hey! That guy is trying to talk to you!” I knew this, kind of, but I didn’t really feel like taking off my glove and pulling out my earbud just to exchange the usual short-lived pleasantries, but dude on my left now made it impossible to ignore the guy who was sitting on the other side of me.

Ear bud comes out.

Guy on my right’s opening line? Have you read the Vail Daily??

What!? The Vail Daily?? No. I didn’t. What did it say?

It said we got a ton of snow overnight! It’s going to be awesome today!

Yeah… That’s great. (I move to put my earbud back in place.)

Guy on my left chimes in (note, neither of us know this guy): You two should get married!!!!

I say (to be clear): I don’t even know him!!

Guy on my left says, Well, let me help introduce you. (to me) What’s your name?


(to him) What’s your name?


And he had us shake hands. I guess since we introduced ourselves to each other, we were able to continue the conversation, talking about where on the mountain were our favorite spots to ski, the long lift line out of Teacup the weekend before when Blue Sky Basin had closed early due to high winds, what we do for work, Pink Vail (it was that day), etc.

I thought once the lift ride had finished, we’d do the usual, “well have fun out there!” and be on our way, but Chad suggested we ride Avanti up and take a run together.

That run led to a full day of skiing together non-stop until a 3 p.m. lunch at Wildwood! During the course of the day, we learned more about each other and, realizing we were both 29 years old, Chad started planning what we would do for our 30th birthdays. (At the time, I thought he was nuts!) And, I guess the rest is history. Now Chad and I have been together almost two years and have loved every minute of it. We live together now with our dog Kona, just outside of Denver. We actually did spend our 30th birthdays together! His parents have a place in Lionshead so we spend over half of the winter weekends and a lot of summer time in town; it has certainly become a second home and so special to us. Though I don’t yet officially have a ring, we plan to get married in Vail in Summer 2015. (He asked my dad if he could marry me when we were in Pennsylvania over the holidays, so I’m not totally delusional … haha!)

And yes, we have often found ourselves asking each other, Have you read the Vail Daily? Apparently, it’s a pick-up line that works!

Support Local Journalism