Winning not just a matter of luck 

Methodical approach to contests lands Maine woman Whistler vacation

“I didn’t know anything about Whistler,” she said, “but it’s - better than we expected." - winner Sandra Chapman, centre, with friend Jean McLeod, left, and Lina Jakobs of Whistler Home Holidays, right. Photo by Bob Barnett
  • “I didn’t know anything about Whistler,” she said, “but it’s better than we expected." - winner Sandra Chapman, centre, with friend Jean McLeod, left, and Lina Jakobs of Whistler Home Holidays, right. Photo by Bob Barnett

Sandra Chapman introduces herself as “the GPW” when she answers the door at a spacious chalet on the Nicklaus North Golf Course. It was her house for only a week but it was a quite a week, one the resident of Naples, Maine will be trying to replicate.

Chapman was the grand prize winner — the GPW — of Fine Living’s Winter Wonderland Sweepstakes. The television network holds a winter and a summer vacation contest every year, each worth approximately $75,000 US. Last year’s grand prize was an all-expenses-paid trip for six to Whistler for a week, and a 2005 Land Rover.

“Most people didn’t believe I’d won,” Chapman said. “Even when they delivered the Land Rover to me at work, people were still thinking it must be some kind of trick.”

Winning contests like the Fine Living sweepstakes involves some good fortune, but it isn’t all a matter of chance. At least not for Chapman.

A couple of years ago she was watching an episode of Oprah Winfrey and one of the guests was talking about all the contests she had won.

“She said she began by cutting out coupons in the Sunday papers,” said Chapman. “She read the rules carefully and entered several contests a week.”

Over time, and with a methodical approach, the woman had won a number of contests.

So Chapman, who works for a company that manufactures casino chips, decided to do the same. For about a year she sent entries to contests, after carefully reading the rules for each. She entered NASCAR contests, country and western contests, vacation contests and local promotional contests.

And she didn’t win anything. Last January she was about to e-mail the producers of Oprah when the people from Fine Living called to tell her she’d won the Whistler trip and the Land Rover.

Contestants were allowed to enter the contest via e-mail every day for 30 days. Chapman checked her log and found she had entered 18 times.

“I didn’t know anything about Whistler,” she said, “but it’s better than we expected.

“I knew it was real when Lina met us at the door and gave us each a big hug.”

Lina is Lina Jakobs of Whistler Home Holidays. Fine Living bought one of Whistler Home Holidays’ packages for the sweepstakes, which included accommodation, catered meals and drinks in the house on the golf course and different activities every day, including snowmobiling, dog sledding, cross-country skiing, spa treatments and a day trip to Vancouver.

Chapman came to Whistler with her friends Jean and Marc McLeod and Joe Rassiccia. Two other friends couldn’t make it but that meant the four got spa treatments for six.

Maine is pretty cold in January — so cold that people don’t even count on going cross-country skiing for an hour after work unless they’ve checked the long-range forecast. Chapman and her friends found Whistler’s “mild” climate and the activities it allowed a welcome winter break.

“We knew it was going to be beautiful,” said Jean McLeod, “but it was more than we expected.”

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