How Gwyneth and her A-list chums ruined ski holidays
This week, actress, lifestyle guru and leading conscious-uncoupler Gwyneth Paltrow persuaded a court that The Other Guy was at fault for the tangle of limbs and skis at a Utah mountain resort that he had alleged left him with permanent traumatic brain injury.
But despite her legal victory, Gwyneth seems somehow to have done for snow sports what she’d previously done for vaginal candles: sinking something that was already waist-high in disrepute right up to its neck in the stuff.
I’ve been skiing in Utah this week myself, and in a country where the flags are still at half-mast after the recent school shooting in Nashville, Paltrow’s testimony that she – get your thoughts and prayers ready – “lost half a day of skiing” as a result of her collision, is considered almost as offensive as, say, charging $895 for an ear cuff (yep, $1,790 if you want a pair) or naming your child after a fruit.
In fact, it’s just one more example of the 1 per cent’s entitlement issues – and how the super-rich have taken the simple, open-to-anyone pleasure of sliding down a hill on a pair of planks, and turned it into an elite pastime open only to world-leading hedge-funders, absolute A-list movie stars and people who are neither but were once in a terrible David Schwimmer romcom called The Pallbearer.
True, skiing was never a great bastion of egalitarian principles, but what was once a plausibly affordable annual treat for the middle classes and upwards is becoming the preserve of the proper-rich faster than you can say “Gin and tonic? 30 euros please, Madam”.
In fact, the Park City-based trial revealed that Ms P was dropping $8,800 a day to ski at the nearby high-end Deer Valley resort (and probably the same again for her sunglasses). It’s almost, you might think, as if they don’t want ordinary folk clogging up their slopes – and, indeed, they don’t, because then there wouldn’t be room for the skiing butlers and nannies and chefs the very wealthy need in order to enjoy themselves. It also means more elbow room for spraying Moët & Chandon over each other at après. Merely sipping the stuff is so middle-class, darling.
The irony, of course, is that in pricing out all the actual skiers in favour of the posers, great resorts like Courchevel and Val d’Isère have now rendered themselves almost unpickable for the truly discerning snow-sport enthusiast because, well, who wants to fight through a sea of fur-trimmed, Prada-furled fools snowploughing down the red runs because they didn’t get out of bed in time for their expensive private lessons?
Those self-same super-rich types never have to wade through a crowd themselves because, in a final affront to the now-dead democratic camaraderie of the slopes, lift queues these days increasingly come with VIP lanes for those who can afford to pay the premium.
So what can we do about it all? Well, if you can’t join ’em, beat ’em. Deer Valley, I learned through discreet whispers from local ski mavens in Utah this week, is not even the most exclusive mountain in the state. Get a few quid together and buy yourself a house at Wasatch Peaks, a private resort where only property-owners are allowed to ski – and you, like your ultra-rich new neighbours, can look down your nose at the merely mega-rich.
Paltrow and pals wouldn’t even get past the gates. There now; that Moët & Chandon tastes a bit better suddenly, doesn’t it?
Celebrities’ favourite ski resorts
Five places to swerve if you’d rather no A-list drama on your ski holiday.
Deer Valley, Utah
Gwyneth’s resort of choice and nearby Park City have long been popular celeb-spotting playgrounds – both a stone’s throw from the convenience of Salt Lake City and often revelling in some of the world’s best powder snow. Other A-listers reportedly familiar with the slopes, where snowboarders are banned, include Gwen Stefani, Lady Gaga, Bruce Springsteen, Jane Fonda, John Travolta and Jimmy Osmond – not necessarily all at the same time.
It’s hard to find a resort with a longer roster of celebrity patrons than Aspen, Colorado’s glittering bolthole. In 2017 the resort hit headlines when then President Donald Trump and his family visited with an army of 100 security staff in tow.
Continuing the presidential theme, the Obamas are reportedly fans, as is American media princess Paris Hilton, who announced her (failed) engagement to actor Chris Zylka on the resort’s slopes in 2018. Mariah Carey, Heidi Klum and Seal, Jay-Z and Beyoncé, Kate Hudson… the list is endless.
Europe’s best-known five-star resort is no stranger to the A-list – from the slopes skiers can watch private jets arrive at its own mountain airport. In 2016 the then Duke and Duchess of Cambridge chose the resort for their first family ski holiday with Prince George and Princess Charlotte, aged two and 10 months at the time.
This winter, the Beckham family visited during the February half-term holidays – David was pictured wearing a £25,000 Prada ski outfit. Gordon Ramsay is also reportedly a fan – maybe attracted by Courchevel’s roster of Michelin stars – and rumour has it that the Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich was once considering buying the whole of Courchevel 1850.
Aspen’s neighbour, Vail, attracts its fair share of big names. Formula One star and snowboarder Lewis Hamilton owns a home in the resort and often posts videos of himself ripping up the slopes on a snowmobile. Olympic Hall of Famer Lindsey Vonn is a long-standing fan and ex-resident too – she listed her home in the resort for sale in 2019 for $6 million.
The Kardashian family are regulars – often taking to the slopes in chic designer outfits, with their growing brood of children, splashing their five-star hangouts across social media and in episodes of the family’s reality television series.
While King Charles is famously loyal to the Swiss resort of Klosters, the rest of the British royal family have a long-standing relationship with the gnarly Swiss resort of Verbier – Prince William was once famously filmed ‘dad’ dancing in one of its nightclubs and the Duke and Duchess of York owned Chalet Helora in the resort until 2022 – which sold for a reported £19 million. Alongside the bluebloods on the resort’s guest lists are Leonardo DiCaprio, Madonna and Jude Law.