Love, Steamboat Springs style: Couples share stories of romance, chance meetings
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — In celebration of Valentine’s Day, the Steamboat Pilot & Today invited readers to share their love stories, and these two were among our favorites. One couple met on the slopes of Steamboat Resort and then separated for years before reuniting, and the other pair began their love affair on social media living thousands of miles apart.
It started with a snowboard
It was 1998, and Kimberly Conrad had been visiting Steamboat Springs with her family since she was 10 years old. This was the year she was going to try snowboarding during her college break despite her father’s pleas to bring her skis along.
As fate would have it, young Ben Saari was working the snowboard counter at Terry Sports when Kim walked in with her parents in tow.
“I wanted to rent a snowboard, and I told my dad ‘I’m gonna commit,’” Kim said. “Then Ben asked me if I had ever snowboarded, and when I said ‘no,’ he was like, ‘I’ll see this back tomorrow.’”
Kim quickly whipped her head around to stare her dad down.
“I’m gonna keep this for a week,” she said adamantly.
Not one to pass up a good opportunity to spend time with a gorgeous co-ed, Ben piped up.
“Well, I am off tomorrow. Do you want to meet me at the gondola to help you with your snowboarding?” he asked her with all the “innocence” of a cocky lad in the prime of life.
“Her beauty was captivating enough to stick around on my day off, and we just hit it off,” Ben remembered.
This is when the love story usually ends with “and, they lived happily ever after.” But that’s not quite how life works.
Between Kim, with her outgoing personality, and Ben’s sarcastic charm and wit, the two were never bored with each other. But she was on the Eastern Seaboard attending college in Charleston, South Carolina, and he was finding his way through the ski industry after giving up a college baseball career for snowboarding.
They eventually decided to call it quits, but they never quite gave up phoning each other and catching up with each other’s lives.
“We went from dating to being really good friends and watching each other go through successes and challenges in our lives,” Kim said.
Until one particular night.
“She called one night while I was dating someone … a girlfriend that didn’t like Kim’s approach,” explained Ben.
After that conversation, they didn’t talk for another four years.
By 2004, six years after they first met, Kim’s parents convinced her to meet them once again in Steamboat for Christmas break. By this time, she was attending graduate school at Virginia Commonwealth University. She remembers joking with her parents that they’d probably run into Ben who would be married and all grown.
At about the same time across the country in Steamboat, Ben had just gone through a hellish breakup and found himself wanting to talk with the one person he knew would listen and understand.
With social media still in its infancy, Ben had to track down Kim the old-fashioned way, through her old college directory. His research uncovered three Kimberly Conrads. He left messages for all three, and all three returned his call, including the two who thought this search was quite romantic.
“They both called me and said ‘this is so sweet, I hope you find her,’” laughed Ben.
Kim described getting his message on the old-fashioned answering machine.
“A week after I talked with my parents about Steamboat, I walked in from class and checked my old school answering machine — ‘Hey Kim, this is Ben from Steamboat…’” she remembered hearing as her heart raced just a little.
It’s now in this story that it might be appropriate to say “… and they lived happily ever after.” But not before they spent another year traveling back and forth between Steamboat and Richmond before Ben finally popped the question in May 2005.
Ben teases that it was Kim’s mother who really put the pressure on for a marriage proposal, but in the end, it was Kim who pulled up her roots and came across country to make it official and join the man she knew she needed to make her life complete.
“It’s not always easy to be married” she said, with Ben adding, “You work at it, be a good listener.”
“And pick your battles,” laughed Kim as she completed their thoughts on marriage.
The Saaris say they’re now the typical “Steamboat dog parents” who travel when they’re not working. Ben started the original Door 2 Door Ski Rental Delivery service. He’s the current COO while Kim owned her own art gallery for awhile and is now a broker at Steamboat Sotheby’s International Realty. They also run a wakeboarding business at Stagecoach Reservoir during the summer.
As Ben and Kim approach their 14th wedding anniversary this year, one has to wonder if they kept that old answering machine for posterity. If not, they have something even more endearing as a keepsake: an old photo of the second day they met. Thanks to an old Sharpshooters photographer who was working the bunny slope that fateful day, Ben and Kim’s first embrace was caught on camera. A sweet shot of him holding her as he teaches her to snowboard.
As Kim’s mother likes to describe the photo, “It’s like you’re snow dancing.”
It all started on Instagram
A quote by Lord Byron captures the nature of the relationship between Alessandra “Ale” Fiorini and Allan Rosen — “like the measles, love is most dangerous when it comes late in life.” After all, the Brazilian beauty was already 44 and just surviving one day at a time when she came across a 65-year-old American who had been battling his own demons — cancer and a brush with death after a severe reaction to prescribed medicine.
It was 2014, and through some twist of fate, their Instagram profiles came together.
“We had mutual (Instagram) friends,” Rosen said. “Ale (pronounced Allie) is a breast cancer survivor, and I survived cancer twice, and both our profiles had this information.”
Then there was her love of running and his obsession with triathlons. He followed her exploits from Hawaii, where he was staying with his sister, while she followed his competitions from her Brazilian home 7,400 miles away.
Instagram messages soon turned into Skyping sessions as the two learned of each other’s struggles and heartbreaks.
“I was 44 years old, in a troubling 23-year marriage, living in Brazil, recovering from breast cancer, just running every day trying to be alive,” Fiorini shared.
As fortune would have it, Fiorini was taking a trip to Chicago to visit with family, and Rosen was heading to California where he had a home for years. They decided to meet at the Los Angeles Airport.
“I somehow made it possible to stop in (Los Angeles) on my way to Chicago,” Fiorini said.
But when she got off the plane, Rosen wasn’t there. Her imagination ran wild.
“’Where was my mind setting up a date on the internet with a man I’ve never met?'” Fiorini recalled saying to herself while tears rolled down her face as strangers watched. “‘I’m stupid. I’m in love with this man I’ve never even met. Of course, he didn’t show up.’”
Meanwhile, Rosen had been texting Fiorini to warn her that he would be late due to traffic. The texts never came through on her Brazilian phone. Panic set in for both of them.
“I parked across from the terminal and ran across the lot and into the terminal,” Rosen said. “Amongst all these people, in this big crowd, I see Ale with her back to me. It was like slow motion, and she turned and ran crying to me.”
So with flowers and candy in hand, Rosen took Fiorini on a quick tour of LA before deciding to fly out to Chicago with her on her vacation.
So, where does Steamboat Springs play into this love story?
Rosen had a place in Steamboat for years, and with news that his two children would soon be living on the East Coast and West Coast, he figured Steamboat would be a good location between the two.
In the meantime, Rosen said Fiorini made great sacrifices to see if they could be a permanent couple.
“She sold her home in Brazil, spent two years going through Homeland Security, leaving her older son in Brazil and relocating to another country with her younger son,” Rosen explained.
But for Fiorini, the sacrifice was worth it. Her son is thriving as a soccer player and student, and he’s snowboarding like a kid born in the ‘Boat. She said finding a mate that appreciated life as much as she did made it all worth it.
“With the cancer thing, you don’t take anything for granted. You know you have to live in the moment,” Fiorini said.
Rosen said there’s no real secret to a happy relationship except respecting and caring for each other.
“She has this appreciation for her surroundings,” he said. “Every day I marvel at the things we take for granted, but not her.”
Frances Hohl is a contributing writer for Steamboat Pilot & Today.
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