Winning a winter dude ranch vacation

Back in the fall, we agreed to offer a winter vacation to Sur La Table for a holiday baking contest.  We have a connection with one of the board members of the company, and we had co-oped with them in the past so were happy to do it again.   When I was contacted by the winner, he kindly included a photo of the winning creation.  I was blown away, and taken by the story.  So, I asked Jeffrey to share it with me, so I may share it with all of you.  Enjoy the fun adventure that led them to their winter stay next week.
“We had started a small holiday cooking decorating party for other children when my daughter was in elementary school. (The moms got to visit over and have refreshments while the children were busy!). Over the years, we had a succession of gingerbread houses as centerpieces. In later years, we also had each attendee decorate some cookies for donation to a shelter.

So for weeks we were always baking holiday cookies!
As a family project, we started the cathedral one Labor Day weekend, starting from a description in Rose’s Christmas Cookies. The initial effort was just to organize the templates for all the over-200 pieces.
My daughter Charlotte researched stained glass in European cathedrals. The stained glass is made from pulverized Life Savers and similar candies, which are melted in the oven with the gingerbread. Charlotte also used a color-coded computer spreadsheet to track the various stages of fabrication of each of the 200-plus pieces. My wife Marilyn Mery is responsible for all the piped exterior royal icing decoration. Our dog Sasha also ate a few of the pieces one day, which was an awkward moment!
The gingerbread is all fastened together using royal icing. The cathedral is illuminated from inside using LED lights used in dollhouses. Some of the exterior, such as the piping around the rose window) is gilded, using a mixture of gold and vodka (the vodka evaporates, leaving the gold!).
I entered the project as team leader, but it was truly a family effort. (Charlotte, of course, could not enter it, since the entrant had to be over 21).
Charlotte is very excited at visiting Vista Verde!! We are all nervously trying to make sure we have appropriate gear, and hoping you have great snow.”
If any of you want to share tips or suggestions for Jeffrey and his family on their first foray into our winter wonderland, please share them here.  We’re excited to introduce them to our Colorado winter resort!