Betty Diaries: Colonel Sanderson v. Gwyneth Plowthrough
The goop hit the fan when both Sanderson and Paltrow were skiing at Deer Valley seven years ago
Last week, I had better things to do than to get sucked into SkiGate. And I hereby submit my primary piece of evidence: storm totals of nearly 40 inches in just one week. I was more concerned with pow than Powtrow.
But today, I’m not gonna lie. I’m officially obsessed with the civil case of Colonel Sanderson v. Gwyneth Plowthrough. And I’m not alone. The trial is making headlines in major news outlets around the world from The New York Times to the BBC. It has amassed thousands of livestream viewers. It’s become the subject of TikTok memes and fashion commentary. (Don’t get me started on the $250 Smythson notebook Gwynnie’s been hiding behind. Or the so-called serial-killer aviator glasses she’s been wearing.)
In case you’ve been living in a snow cave for the past week or so, I’m referring to Gwyneth Paltrow’s civil trial over a collision with another skier at Deer Valley in 2016. The plaintiff is 76-year-old Salt Lake City retiree Terry Sanderson, a dead ringer for the Kentucky Fried Chicken icon.
The goop hit the fan when both Sanderson and Paltrow were skiing at Deer Valley seven years ago. Sanderson alleges that Paltrow crashed into him on Bandana, one of DV’s most notoriously congested green trails. Sanderson is suing Paltrow and seeking $300,000 in damages. For her part, the Academy Award-winning actress and wellness guru alleges that Sanderson crashed into her and is countersuing the retired optometrist for a symbolic $1 plus attorney fees. As she claimed in her turn on the stand, “You skied directly into my effing back!”
I started to notice the trial last week while my friend Sally was visiting from Manchester. Sally is an actual wig-wearing English barrister and arrived in Park City just as the trial was starting up. In between epic pow days at Park City Mountain, she was glued to the YouTube livestream of the trial. I could hear her cackling in my guestroom as I suited up for the day’s turns. I found her curled up on my couch with her laptop the moment we returned home from High West apres. I swear she was watching the trial on her iPhone between sips of Old Town rose at the Spur.
In short, Sally was transfixed. With the American judicial system. With Gwyneth’s courtroom attire. With Sanderson’s doctor’s expert testimony. And especially with the hilarious random comments section that accompanies the livestream. This was one ski wreck that made it impossible to look away.
“No friends on a powder day,” I called while setting my playlist and sorting my layers for the day. “I’m coming, but I’m litcherally dying at the comments people are making,” she cried from the other room in her proper British accent. “This is just brilliant.”
This morning, I finally decided to see for myself. I turned on the YouTube livestream and was immediately drawn in by the image of Paltrow’s lead attorney Steve Owens wearing a mask. He announced he had a cold and warned that he might even have a bloody nose due to the Utah dry air. I then watched as he dabbed his nose over and over again with the same tissue.
I watched the awkward exchange between Sanderson and the tissue-clutching Owens. I saw Eric Christiansen, the grandfatherly Deer Valley ski instructor who was guiding Paltrow’s son Moses on that fateful day. I studied the expressionless faces of the courtroom spectators. Who are these people, I wondered. The defense presented a controversial animation illustrating Christiansen’s alleged POV of the crash. It was all so ridiculous — rich white people problems. So boring — and yet so riveting. Is riborveting a word?
And the best part: the comments were scrolling down the YouTube sidebar faster than Mikaela Shiffrin.
UNTIL I SEE A TAP DANCING PENGUIN IN THE ANIMATION I WON’T BELIEVE ANYTHING TERRY SAYS.
Sanderson: I broke 4 ribs and have permanent brain damage.
Gwyneth: I lost half a day of skiing.
They’re gonna break for lunch now. Time for G’s bone broth!
Nice judge — very calm and a nice energy.
When I was a kid, you could run into people on a ski slope for free.
Soon Terry will sue the snow for not having enough friction to slow down Gwyneth ‘the destroyer’
WHEN DOES TAYLOR SWIFT TESTIFY???
It made me think of my own big ski crash in 2014. Arcing one last turn at the end of a trail, I suddenly saw another skier come barreling toward me. It was like a scene from Hitchcock. There was nothing I could do, no time to stop or swerve out of the way. I put out my hands in a desperate attempt to block the other skier, a man about twice my size. As it turned out, he was fine, but I had two broken hands
At the ski patrol clinic, two girls came in and said they’d seen the whole thing from the chairlift. That guy was trying to outrun you, they said. They offered to be witnesses if I needed them. But I didn’t want to sue. I was just mad that the guy never even asked if I was OK. Never even apologized.
The back of every lift ticket tells you all about the inherent risk of skiing. But every lover of skiing also knows about its inherent joy. Its inherent connection to nature, to our friends and family, to our own humanity. And for all of that, we should be happy to take the risk.
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