Aspen Times Weekly: Ski Town Reality
Ski towns, with all their drama and high altitude intensity, would appear to be ideal terrain for good (which is to say, of course, bad) reality television. Funky mountainfolk! Insane rich people! Fur coats! Trail-toned, fit bodies! This is the stuff reality TV is made of.
Yet nobody’s quite done it. Let us not speak of the horror show that was VH1’s “Secrets of Aspen,” so bad (and not so-bad-it’s-good bad) that it spawned the Aspen Skiing Co.’s in-house “Mind Body Spirit” series in retort. There have been rumblings since the short, bruising run of “Secrets” five years ago about other reality programs in development in Aspen, but none have made it onto the screen.
Bravo, with a successful reality pedigree and the popular “Real Housewives” franchise to its credit, is entering the fray with the Whistler-based “Après Ski.”
The show, which premiered in early November and runs on Monday nights, centers on Joey Gibbons’ start-up luxury après company and his team of seven concierges. Housed together in a slopeside Whistler mansion, it’s their job to sweep away uber-rich tourists on extravagant, bottle-popping mountain adventures. Based on the first episode, it’s part workplace drama, part “Real World”-esque strangers-in-a-house and hookups-in-the-hot-tub spectacle, and part “Real Housewives” rich diva trainwreck, with lots of luxury and mountain scenery to ogle and a dash of ski town spirit.
The premiere shows them taking a recent divorcee and her girlfriends for a helicopter ride to a remote spa, and dog-sledding into the woods (where naked men serve lunch), and planning a gondola dinner for a quartet of adrenaline junkie skiers, while introducing the cast.
Gibbons, a local mogul dubbed “the Donald Trump of Whistler with better hair,” isn’t on screen much. The boss — and clearly the villain — is Elise, who struts the mountain in 5-inch heals scolds her staff for wearing ski gear into the office.
“I’m an East Coast chick from the city,” she says. “I stick out here like a sore thumb.”
Then there’s Bobby, the gay guy who aims to convert the start-up’s resident mountain manly man, Jim, and boasts “I’ve been partying with rich people for years, except now I’m getting paid for it — you could say I’m going pro.”
Jim, for his part, looks destined to bed some clients and break some hearts in the concierge house.
The resident good girl appears to be Jackson Hole-based big-mountain skier Lyndsey Dyer (most recently seen in Aspen in last year’s fantastic ski flick “Pretty Faces”). She’s using the concierge gig to reconnect socially – and maybe romantically — after a life on the road as a pro skier, she says: “Skiing is such a loner sport and relationships have suffered because of it.”
Based on the debut, “Après Ski” looks like a big step up for ski town reality TV from the inane and gross “Secrets of Aspen.” With its tourism industry focus, it’s not looking to tell the story of a town or a mountain, though I think we’d all love to see somebody try that. It appears instead to be combining a lot of what’s worked in reality before — coupling up housemates, office battles, raging 1-percenters — and setting it against the colorful backdrop of a posh ski resort, where attractive people cater to the outrageous requests of attractive rich people. Rest assured, before the season’s done, it’s all going to go boom.
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