Mandy and Skylar

How We Met

She walked into a bar to join us for dinner. This was the first time I saw her. Prior to this first time meeting each other, our mutual friend must have known we would be attracted to one another. Allison kindly warned me of the realities that would come along with crushing over Skylar. After all, she lived in Alabama and I lived in Vail and she’s was only going to be here for five days to visit.

I still remember the first time we met. She walked in wearing a burgundy beanie and dark green, dad-sized flannel. She was cute as a button and her eyes were a radiating blue.
I noticed she liked to split meals with whomever she’s sitting next to as she tried cutting a giant burger down the middle with a knife. I eat my own meal like a grown up, so we would never work anyways. We didn’t talk much at dinner, but it was clear that we noticed each one another. I got shy. I’m usually not that way when I’m attracted to someone, but I decided that if I didn’t look at her then there was a good chance I’d get out before falling for her.

Over the next couple of days, I took her and her best friend, Kirsten, fly-fishing for the first time where I taught them how to cast a fly rod and catch a fish. After a long, cold day fishing and floating down the Colorado River we all lounged around the wood burning fireplace at Allison’s place. We were drinking a smorgasbord of Colorado Craft Beers and telling stories while Allison, Skylar, and Kirsten were reminiscing over their college days playing soccer together. Meanwhile, Skylar called a time out and excused herself to the corner where she typed away at her computer. She was finishing up her master’s degree in social work and was so dedicated to her work and degree that she stepped away to complete a small assignment. She talked so passionately about her work through school and her plans after graduating. Her grit and drive were overwhelmingly attractive.

It was sad reminding myself that long distance has never worked in past relationships, but it was hard to imagine my life without her in it. She was leaving in 2 days. We spent her last day on the mountain snowboarding with Kirsten, Allison, and Brooke. She was good at it, especially for being from Alabama and not snowboarding very often.

In the middle of our last run, I motioned her to follow me into one of my favorite tree runs. We plopped down in the trees next to each other surrounded by tall, snowy alpines. We didn’t really say anything. It was the first time we were alone over the past few days. We now refer to that spot on the mountain as, “the place where we almost kissed.” She had a girlfriend back home, but she seemed undeserving of Skylar. Skylar pushed off the snow and rode away to avoid the growing tensions between us. Our friends were probably wondering where we were anyway.

Our last night together, we sat in my apartment playing a made-up drawing game that was similar to Pictionary. While enjoying our beers I looked at Skylar and attempted to wink at her. She spent the last 20 minutes stalling their departure trying to teach me to wink after I told her I couldn’t (I lied.) We were both trying to stall. I didn’t want her to go or for our night to be over. Our friends finally drug us out of the apartment insisting it was time for them to go. I walked them out and we lagged behind. As she was walking away I grabbed her shirt and pulled her back towards me. She put her hand between us and pushed me away. I think I knew it wasn’t going to happen, but I was devastated.

We didn’t talk after she left. She texted me once and I don’t think I answered. I missed her, but she made it very clear it wasn’t going to happen… until it did. She began texting me a few days later, and I told her to call because I was driving. She told me she was no longer in a relationship and from there we began to get to know each other.

I asked for her address and then started sending handwritten letters with little illustrations at the top of everyone (about 22 of them). We still would text and call, even skype each other but the letters meant the world to me. After mailing the first few back and forth, my love for her grew and I wanted her to know that later down the road. I began spelling out “I LOVE YOU” one letter at a time by hiding a letter in each letterhead illustration; until I spelled the words “I LOVE YOU.”

We met in February 2015 and were getting to know each other over the next couple of months. One night she called and told me she was moving to Colorado…to Vail. She was waiting until her graduation at the end of May. These seemed like the longest months of my life. She drove 22 hours with her old Rodeo packed to the brim of all her belongings. After arriving in Denver at 1 am, her friends wanted her to stay and to make the rest of the drive in the morning. She insisted on continuing her way to me. I told her to stay since it wasn’t safe driving the passes at night. She, of course, didn’t listen. I waited up for her since I couldn’t sleep even if I tried. That was the most anticipated first kiss of my life. No matter how it went, it didn’t matter, I already loved her.

Well, it was perfect. Months passed and we were on the way to a weekend event together in Vail. It was a sunny day with the windows open, Taylor Swift blaring, and her hand started getting sweaty. She looked at me and said, “Mandy, I love you.” I paused and looked at her and started laughing. Before she became concerned I said it back. After a wonderful day together in such a beautiful place, we arrived home and I told her to dig out all the letters we wrote to each other. She had them all in order. I flipped through them and found the letters that had my subliminal messages and laid them out in order. I pointed to the letters at the top of each page and spelled out I.L.O.V.E.Y.O.U.

How They Asked

About two years into our relationship we decided together that I was going to propose. I could see that she was hesitant in leaving me responsible for picking out a ring and choosing a reasonable time frame for this event to happen. She’s never seen the organized, event planning side of me, so I couldn’t blame her. I was persistent in being the one to ask.

On July 29th, the day after my birthday, I met with Joe, the jeweler, and owner of Siebke Hoyt Jewelers. I had been working with Joe to design a ring for Skylar and he happened to be in town later that week, so we planned time to meet up. In order to leave Skylar on a Saturday night to meet Joe, I needed a diversion. I had a friend call at a specific time and say that she needed me to go let out their dog around 9 pm because she got caught up at work and wouldn’t be home until late. We were sitting at the Eagle County Rodeo in our home town when I got a call. Skylar, the dog lover, insisted on coming with me. I told her I would just go quickly and that I wouldn’t be long then sent her home. I saw the ring for the first time that night and it was absolutely beautiful.

After a few crummy hiding places, I decided that the ring needed to be stashed at our friend’s, Clay and Kali, home. They were the ones that introduced me to Joe, the jeweler. As the ring sat shiny and perfect for the next 7 months in their safe, I was constantly hounded by friends who knew. I wanted it to be perfect, maybe too perfect. It was stressful trying to plan one of the biggest days of our lives in such a beautiful place. I was overwhelmed with opportunities.

After getting a blessing from her parents over the holidays, I began brainstorming proposal ideas. At the beginning of February, I finally decided that it needed to happen. My best friend, Clay, and I were sitting at Mami’s Cabin on Beaver Creek Mountain enjoying a cold beverage between fresh powder runs. He asked me when I was going to “do this thing, I’m going to start charging you rent for storing your ring.” We laughed, and I turned to him and said, are you free the 24th? I carefully started inviting our friends and telling them about the SURPRISE proposal. I only gave them about 3 weeks to make plans to be there.

I wanted to propose on a mountain, surrounded by the people that love us. I had the date and idea picked out, but I needed to lock down the location. A week later, Clay and I rode around Beaver Creek to check out all the decks scattered across the mountain. We stopped in the middle of the trees where clay called his ski patrol buddy and asked him directions to a specific deck and which one he thought had the best views. There were a lot of people involved. The support I had through the planning “missions” was overwhelming in the best way.

It was important to me that every one of all ski and snowboarding levels would be able to make it to and from the deck easily. Rose Bowl deck had stunning views of the Gore Range Mountains and was easily accessible from the gondola.

The hard part was done. Now for the PDF. I sat down 4 days before the proposal date and wrote a detailed PDF titled “If I’m Lucky.” It contained a digital sketch of the deck and how I envisioned it looking during the proposal. As well as very specific play by play instructions from meeting times, set up, and how to get a whole party on the top of the mountain by just using backpacks. Our friends managed to fit a grill, 8 bottles of champagne, food for 50 people, booze, all the decorations, a huge “Will You Marry Me Sign, “ all in backpacks in one trip. It was amazing. I didn’t want any surprises of my own on the morning of, so my prep was crucial.

I contacted my friend and professional photographer, Rachael Zimmerman, whom I hired to capture our special day. I explained I only had one request and it was for “The Proposal Shot.” She had the creative reins for the rest of the day and Rachael absolutely nailed it! She captured the moments beautifully.

Everything was going smoothly and in place, I was just in the middle of projecting and painting a sign with the help of friend, Allison. The sign read “Will You Marry Me.” I stopped at one point and asked her if I spelled “marry,” correctly. She was in charge of the “Denver Crew,” getting everyone up to Beaver Creek, together and on time. Allison headed back to Denver and I took a break while the sign dried in the makeshift studio I set up in Clay’s garage. Everything was going smoothly, Skylar had no idea. I was so nervous I hadn’t slept in days. I just kept telling myself “one thing at a time.”

We were home that night and Clay came over to say hi. He did a great job of acting like we hadn’t been planning the biggest day of our lives and surprise of hers. Skylar was being particularly difficult. First, she almost refused to go snowboarding on Sunday. “Why can’t we go on Saturday instead,” she said. I explained that it wasn’t her weekend and my sister will be in town. I continued to say that the mountain will be less busy and more comfortable for a beginner skier. She wanted to take my sister to do something else on Sunday. Then, as the sign is drying in Clay’s garage, she asked him if she could go use his shop vacuum, out of his garage, to vacuum her Jeep. I was thinking to myself “Skylar, GIVE IT UP,” she was trying to sabotage her own proposal! He said, “Well I’d rather you didn’t, my shop vacuum is buried. You should just use the one at Costco.” She finally let it be.

On Saturday we took my sister, Jaclyne, who flew In from Chicago, snowshoeing and had an absolute blast. Skylar mentioned afterward that she thought that maybe I was going to propose while we snowshoed.

After Skylar discovered on social media that some of our friends from Denver came up and skied Vail that day without telling her and she was bummed not to get in the invite. Our friend Angelica called me and I answered in front of Skylar and put her on speaker. Angelica apologized for not getting ahold of us to ride Vail and suggested we meet for dinner that night. I quickly text Angelica and told her I didn’t think it was a good idea to see them before Sunday(the next day) because I didn’t trust this secret mixed with the alcohol that would be consumed. She agreed. I told her she needed to ditch us and that she needed to come up with something. Angelica’s solution- she turns off her phone. Skylar called, and it went straight to voicemail. (Angelica has a hard time lying.)

After a sleepless night, the morning came, and our day was here! The biggest task of the morning was getting Skylar out of bed on time to get my sister, Jaclyne, a practice run in before heading up to the Rose Bowl Deck” to propose. She had NO IDEA. We had to park in an unusual place because the lot we normally use was full of our friend’s, unmistaken vehicles. Skylar actually listened to me when I suggested we park somewhere different (why didn’t I drive in the first place?) After getting Jaclyne a pass, we headed toward the beginner hill to get my sister on her skis. I look up and I see a friend skating on his skis passing us as he raced for the gondola to head up to the deck. He was trying to get there before the cut off time with his boots unbuckled, coat dragging, poles and book bag hanging all over the place. Skylar didn’t see him. I was dying laughing inside. The “crew” texted me saying that the deck was ready, and they were ready for us. Everyone was there!

As we headed up the gondola, I grab a beer out of my backpack and crack it open to split between the 3 of us. I take one sip and had to hold back from vomiting. I said “here, you two finish it, my stomach hurts.” Yes, I almost vomited in the gondola. We arrive at the top and I told Skylar I needed to use the bathroom and Jaclyne did too, as Skylar waited outside chomping at the bit to get some laps in. I was getting the ring out of my book back and into my pocket and putting a mic on my inside collar trying to keep the wire hidden. I came out of the bathroom and said: “OK, I’m ready.” Jaclyne gave me a quick pep talk and hug and it helped calm my nerves.

We get our gear on and I whispered in the mic that we were ready. My friends from Capture the Action insisted on filming and they gave me the mic the night before. I needed to get down to the deck first. The only way Skylar will follow me on the mountain is if I’m going to show her a new jump. I told Skylar to sit at the top and wait for me and Jaclyne to ride down to get posted up, so I could film her going off a “SICK JUMP,” I recently found. As I tried explaining where the make-believe jump was, she looked at me in confusion and I just told her to watch where we go, and I would text her when I was ready.

Jaclyne and I ride down to the deck, I quickly chuck by backpack, rip off my helmet, goggles, gloves, and unstrap from my snowboard. Jaclyne came in hot, stopped at the deck where a friend ejected her quickly from her skis and she joined all 50 people on the deck. I stood on the X that Rachael made out of sticks to make sure the shot would be perfect. I then texted “READY.” Moments later and Clay yells, “MANDY, WRONG TEXT!” I’m an idiot and sent the text to Clay. Re-send to Skylar, she reads,” READY.” Then 10 seconds later, Skylar comes riding down around the corner totally confused and thought “oh man I sure am interrupting something.” Skylar then sees me waiting for her with all my gear off. She stopped uphill from me while trying to get her board off. I held the ring box up and yelled, “Well, get over here!” I had to remove her goggles and buff so I could see her face.

I dropped down to one knee and she proceeded to fall to hers as I said, “Skylar Abigail Phillips, I would love nothing more than to spend the rest of my life with you. Will you marry me?” She said “YES!”

It was the most amazing day of my life. I’d never felt so much love and support from so many people at once, she was blown away and her expressions are forever engraved in my mind. There was so much love on the mountain that day. We are both so thankful for you all.

Special Thanks

Rachael B Zimmerman
 | Photographer