The eyes of the nation and pop culture connoisseurs the world over are on a Park City courtroom for the trial between Gwyneth Paltrow and retired optometrist Terry Sanderson. Sanderson claims Paltrow hit him on the slopes and is suing her for $300,000. Paltrow claims Sanderson actually ran into her and has filed a countersuit.

It sounds like the premise of a mediocre rom-com I would absolutely watch. If only Paltrow hadn’t hung up acting to sell $80 candles and promote disordered eating.

I have no idea who is actually at fault, and am not in any way qualified to comment on anything about this trial beyond the looks Gwyneth has been serving:

But the proceedings, which seem to suggest someone did run into someone at Deer Valley in February 2016, do have me questioning the merits of the entire concept of skiing.

Skiing is a sport that dares its participants to strap two long strips of wood to their extremely uncomfortable footwear and try to remain upright while falling down a mountainside. It’s a miracle any of us survive.

The closest I’ve ever come to death was on a Utah ski slope. I turned on to what looked like a soft, powdery run through my foggy goggles. It was actually a sheet of ice. I immediately fell and slid, on my back, headfirst, gaining speed, down the entire run and into another before I managed to maneuver my body into a perpendicular position and slow to a halted, painful stop.

Twitter mocks Gwyneth Paltrow’s Park City ski trial, compares to an SNL skit

I’ve had to sidestep down hundreds of yards of ice and rocks. I’ve had to hike up steep inclines to retrieve skis and poles that went flying after nasty spills (locals call this a yard sale), sometimes digging through feet of powder to find them. I’ve had to sit and slowly slide on my rear to get through especially dicey terrain.

Another time, I tumbled down a different sheet of ice, and a kind man tried to fetch my abandoned pole from the top of the run, but he also fell and it took a third skier to retrieve my pole and the second man’s lost ski.

I’ve witnessed others suffer serious injury. Knees ruined for life. Legs broken. On my most recent ski day, I watched a woman get concussed by a rogue snowboard.

One would assume that it’s the advanced runs where the most egregious collisions and injuries occur. And yes, there’s a reason the bowls, 40% inclines and tree runs are marked expert-only. Skiing expertise is required to make it down one of these runs in one piece. But for my money, the most terrifying portion of any mountain is the bunny hill.

It is on the beginner runs that chaos reigns. And it’s where the Paltrow incident occurred.

On the bunny hill, tiny humans in huge helmets, evoking bobbleheads come to life, weave in and out of nervous first-time skiers focused on keeping their skis in pizza formation, zooming past the SLOW SKI ZONE signage with not so much as a passing thought for skier codes of conduct or right of way. Sometimes they travel in packs, led by an exhausted instructor earning not enough money. Some lose control completely, mowing over any unsuspecting patrons in their path.

I know this because I was once one of those out-of-control bobbleheads, but without the bobblehead since no one wore helmets back in the ’90s. I underestimated the width of my turn and took out the woman skiing in front of me. She ran into the man skiing in front of her, and the three of us became a human tumbleweed of legs and skis and poles bouncing down the mountain face. (I do not know the statute of limitations on ski collisions, so if the woman I hit is reading this, that wasn’t me.)

The good news is, skiing is affordable.

Oh, wait. Sorry. I meant it’s not at all affordable. A weekday lift pass at Deer Valley costs $269. Nearly $300 for the chance to break a few limbs.

Gwyneth Paltrow found not at fault: An in-depth timeline of the Park City trial
Gwyneth Paltrow leaves the court during the lawsuit trial of Terry Sanderson vs. Gwyneth Paltrow at the Park City District Courthouse in Park City on Tuesday, March 28, 2023. | Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

So why do we do it? Why do we pay what was a full month’s rent for my college apartment to ride in the open air over cliffs in freezing winds and white-out conditions to the top of a mountain? Why do we willingly navigate hip-height moguls and ice tunnels while trying to avoid manic bobbleheads hopped up on hot chocolate and the false sense of immortality only youth provides?

Because it’s the best.

There’s nothing like a bluebird day after a fresh snowfall when your skis glide through soft powder as you fly down a mountain at an unnatural speed. The adrenaline of a perfect, gravity-defying run could power an entire city block. And the falls we survive make really great stories. (Or at least I hope they do. Otherwise this column is a bust.)

I love the sound of skis turning in the snow. I love sitting down to an overpriced plate of nachos after a few hard runs. I love the feeling of relief when I take off my ski boots and put on tennis shoes after a full day on the hill.

And I love living in a place with the best snow on earth. Snow so good that celebrities travel here to experience it, and sometimes collide in it. Skiing is our one joy in this never-ending winter.

Yes, it’s absurd and dangerous, and costs way too much money. But it’s also irresistible.

When Paltrow was asked about the losses she suffered from the incident, she responded, “Well, I lost half a day of skiing.”

It’s an obtuse statement worthy of derision, no doubt. But also, I get it. She may have missed the best run of her life. Or the best fall that makes the best story. Both are a loss.