Monday, November 07, 2005

Four Passes

About 15 years ago Carol and I decided to take our (then) teenage girls out to Colorado for a winter ski vacation.

What really planted the seed was a local sporting goods store that offered a spring 75%-off sale on all their ski apparel. We’re talking about jackets, pants, thermal underwear, socks, hats, gloves, goggles, and more. Now that stuff can be really expensive, but at those sale prices we were able to outfit 4 people for the price of one. So we bought the whole shebang in May of one year and planned our trip for the following winter.

(Kinda like buying all your Christmas decorations in early January at the clearances.)

Anyway, we’ve gone skiing for one week every winter since then. And yes, we’re still wearing much of the same stuff we bought 15 years ago. (Well, think about it. We live in South Texas. We only wear the stuff 5 days a year!)

As the years have passed, the price of an all-day lift ticket has escalated to upwards of $75. Per person, per day! Do the math... we’re now a family of 6 adults, times 5 days of skiing, times $75... let’s see... that’s... WOW!! THAT’S A LOT OF MONEY! And that’s just for lift tickets!

Then, three years ago, the resort (Winter Park) came to our rescue. In an effort to promote skiing by Denver-area residents, they began to offer what they call a “Four Pass.” This pass is FOUR all-day lift tickets, to be used almost anytime during the season (very few black-out dates), and it only costs $89 each! That averages out (calculator...) to $22.25 per day, instead of over $75 per day. Hmmm, is that a good deal? DUH!!

So what’s the catch? There’s ALWAYS a catch, right? Right.

The catch is, you must buy them in person, BEFORE the season starts (this year by October 17).

Two years ago Amy knew someone in Denver, and he bought the passes for us (we sent him the money).

Last year he was no longer there.

Dilemma: How do we manage to buy these things long-distance? I tried calling the sales locations and offering them a credit card. No dice. You HAVE to buy them in person.

“Well, can I pay for them NOW with a credit card and you can HOLD them for me until I get there in person?” No.

Damn. Who do we know in Denver? Nobody!

Then Carol had a brainstorm. (Hey, I was first attracted to her because of her looks, but I married her because of her brains! And no, I still don’t know why she married me. You’ll have to ask her.)

For years we have driven into Denver after our last day of skiing, had supper, spent the night at a motel, delivered some of our travelers to the airport the next morning and then driven home. But that night in Denver we always (here picture Topol in his role as Tevye in “Fiddler on the Roof,” holding aloft his right forefinger and saying, “Tradition!!”) go to eat at a specific Romano’s Macaroni Grill restaurant. We love their Italian food. Of course, we all show up in our matching, hand-made (by Carol) ski sweaters!

Well, four years ago we had a WONDERFUL waitress/server named Katie. She joked with us and took wonderful care of us. She even talked her manager into giving us a free dessert to sample and pass around. Of course, we tipped her lavishly.

The next year we asked for her, and sure enough she was on duty. She was thrilled that we remembered her and we again had a wonderful time with her serving. She just happened to give us her email address.

Carol’s brainstorm was this: Email Katie, tell her about the Four Passes, and ask if she would be willing to buy us a handful if I sent her a cashier’s check for the full price plus $100 for her? She said she would, and we did, and so we saved HUNDREDS and HUNDREDS on our lift tickets!

In addition, Katie asked what night we’d be eating at the Macaroni Grill and said she’d make us a reservation for 7:00 p.m. that evening. Yes, she got another big tip!

This year I emailed her again with the same result. She knows us all by name now, and has already bought my Four Passes and made my reservations for dinner. For February!

She’s looking forward to meeting Trevor.

The moral? Be kind to, and make friends with, servers in out-of town places. You never know when that relationship can become very valuable to you!


Christina said...

Oh, yes, I am so looking forward to this year's trip! I look forward to the Macaroni Grill almost more than skiing - it's a tough call.

And I can't wait to see Trevor's first reaction to snow! Bring the new digital camera (hint hint).

shyloh said...

What a delightful story. I am so happy it works out for you.

kenju said...

Amazing story! You are living right, apparently.

Karyn Lyndon said...

'Tis the season for matching sweaters
Fa la la la la--la la la la!

Hale McKay said...

It's true. It's not what you know...

Duke_of_Earle said...


Amen, brother!