Get Back to Work Everybody
The Gwyneth Paltrow ski trial has come to an end, which means our national brain break is over
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OK everyone, show’s over—it’s time to wrap up your Internet gorging. Speed read that tweet thread and play that last Tiktok. We’ve had an amazing two weeks of digital overconsumption, but alas, the Gwyneth Paltrow skiing trial is over (she won!) and it’s time to, ya know, get back to work. I’m serious. U.S. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimando just called, and apparently the country’s economic productivity fell 97 percent last week because most of us were too busy watching the livestream to reply to a single email.
Yes, Paltrow vs. Retired Optometrist Dude Terry Sanderson delivered a gargantuan tonnage of web content, and if you’re like me, you mainlined all of that delicious garbage, from highbrow columns in The New Yorker to insanely dumb listicles about the designer turtlenecks and frilly blouses she wore to the courtroom. I gobbled up content as if it were free kettle corn at a dispensary. I indulged in your gleeful tweets about her humblebrag testimony on the stand (she and Taylor Swift don’t talk “very often”), and I watched the video of Paltrow whispering “I wish you well” to Sanderson after the judge read the verdict. In fact, I’ve watched it enough times to perform the scene at the local dinner theater.
And I know I’m not alone. By my estimation, Paltrow racked up eleventy billion dollars worth of media attention, all because she and Sanderson attempted to argue that a ski crash on the bunny slope was the other person’s fault.
So, why did this ridiculous story capture our collective attention for two solid weeks? I have a theory. The stakes were abysmally low—two wealthy squared off in court with their respective reputations on the line—so it was the rare case of a trial with no real losers (Sanderson does have to cover Paltrow’s court costs.) It involved a ski crash, which is something that many of us in the outdoor recreation world have dealt with. Perhaps most important, the trial’s machinations delivered the temporary distraction we didn’t know we needed from the constant churn of heavy duty news in outdoor recreation, and specifically the skiing world. Yep, following this case was like eating ice cream for dinner after months of slurping spinach soup.
As many of us know, to follow skiing these days is to immerse yourself in the many existential and real problems facing society at large. Climate change has us wondering if our grandchildren will ever enjoy the thrill of sliding down a hill on natural snow. The MegaCorps that now control the industry have made visiting a resort feel like flying coach to Cleveland. Rising prices are making skiing off-limits to a huge swath of society, and demographics research continually shows just how affluent and white it is. Talk to any resort worker about his or her housing situation and you’ll likely hear a horror story about a monster commute, life inside a drafty shack, or of a small condominium packed with roommates. Most chairlift conversations I have these days at my home mountain—Colorado’s Keystone resort—revolve around the abysmal traffic on Interstate 70, and a general sense that, aside from the skiing part, a day at the resort really isn’t that fun.
That’s right, skiing faces serious problems—ones that deserve our attention. But hey, it’s OK to take a brain break every now and then. In that sense, the Paltrow trial was like that compilation of cat videos that Aunt Vicky sent you over the weekend. We watched it unfold, had some laughs, and now it’s time for the whole thing to fade into our collective memories. Like I said before, it’s time to get back to work, to the serious stuff. And for those of us who love and adore skiing, this means again turning our gaze to the problems facing our activity, and more importantly, to the organizations and individuals that are trying to solve them.
Perhaps that means reading up on the latest initiative from Protect Our Winters, donating to a major international climate change advocacy group, or educating yourself with simple hacks to help the environment. It could mean checking out your local Brotherhood of National Skiers chapter, or attending a local town council about building more affordable housing. Maybe it just means volunteering some time for a local candidate with a focus on sustainability, or reading up on the new Outdoor Recreation Act of 2023. Skiing faces challenges, and I invite everyone to donate time, money, or attention to the groups trying to solve them.
With all that said, there are a few elements of the Paltrow trial that I hope are forever engrained in ski culture. I cannot wait to see dozens of wig-wearing Gwyneths bomb down the slopes at Arapahoe Basin on Gaper Day 2024 and beyond. I will keep my eyes open for which snow sports eyewear brand creates its version of the Jeffrey Dahmer specs that she wore on the trial’s opening day. The next time you accidentally bump someone in the lift line, gleefully declare your intentions to sue them for $1.
And if your ski day gets kertwanged by traffic, or an expensive lift ticket, or terrible snow, you can always fire up the video of Gwyneth Paltrow lamenting her lost afternoon of skiing after she and Sanderson careened into each other. It’s totally relatable.