Victoria Aitken - Spear's Magazine

Victoria Aitken

GSTAAD DIARY Right off the train I went to the Palace Hotel to meet Ivan Lindsay, my holiday host. I wondered, could the chicest ski resort in the world sustain its reputation when the only thing crunchier than its fresh snow is the economy?

GSTAAD DIARY

Right off the train I went to the Palace Hotel to meet Ivan Lindsay, my holiday host. I wondered, could the chicest ski resort in the world sustain its reputation when the only thing crunchier than its fresh snow is the economy? Gstaad is more famous for its diamonds than its snow, more famous for being famous than the skiing.

Crunch? What crunch? The only crunching was on the Bartholomew’s biscuits the Palace’s guests were nibbling. You will be glad to know that the Marie-Antoinettes of the Eagle Club are not short of cake even in these trouble times.

As for me, having never been a Marie-Antoinette type, I was feeling the revolution. Swiss Airlines had me that my lost bags were scheduled to be on the next flight over and would be delivered to my address that night. My black tie dinner that evening wouldn’t be a bust after all!

The competition in Gstaad to out-glam everyone is fierce. The resort is full of dethroned royals, ex-Rosey students, and billionaire gangsters.

By 8 pm I gave up on hoping my bags would arrive. My generous host, former model Marla Lindsay, kindly suggested I borrow a dress for the night. She was a size 6 and I’m a size 12 – no luck there. The dress wouldn’t even slip over my knees!

What would I wear to the dinner? Everyone else would be decked out in fur, sexy mini-skirts and designer clothing. Gabanna and Galliano are the uniform in Gstaad and all I had was my garbage t-shirt and jeans.

I had no make-up, no hairbrush, I was like Cinderella with no fairy godmother to help me meet the prince, barefoot and naked – and the clock hadn’t even struck midnight! I considered staying home reading Trust Nobody, a memoir of the life of Doris Duke. Since I would miss the Doris Duke-types at dinner I would at least have a Duke of my own to entertain me on the page.

Luckily after some fishing around in Marla’s endless closet (no clothing crunch there) she found she had a few clothes I could fit into.

Walking around town on my way to pick up my bags, I noticed the high street was full of more designer shops than last year. Even the grocer had turned into a Gucci of supermarkets and prices had doubled.

Never had I seen as many five-star hotels in one small town, though only one of them was full of stars: the Palace. Malice in the Palace was in the cards.

There were many more new money types walking around with huge diamonds. Women wore rock-size rings, which spoke louder than their owners ever could: ‘Ha! We have no money problems! See I still have my jewels!’ But is this just an illusion?

The Madoff scandal wiped out a few grand families and some Gstaad faithfuls had rented their chalets. At one dinner I attended, the men almost punched each other over who was paying the bill. They wanted to pay to show their business colleagues that they could pay. Another asked the table if we liked his wife’s emeralds, which he had just bought the other day.

At a gathering for 200, a friend noted in his speech that he had 20 more guests than last year: ‘Of course there’s evidence of the crunch! 20 more yes RSVPs is evidence people were after a free dinner.’

Perhaps this New Year’s week was the end of this year’s good times. Next year could be a different story. Farewell, jet set skiing!

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