In Colorado this Christmas, paparazzi from People and the National Enquirer will stake out every ski run and watering hole in Aspen for glimpses of Jack Nicholson, Goldie Hawn, Don Johnson or Donald Trump. But if the folks at Institutional Investor want to photograph the celebrities their readers follow, they should head about 2 1/2 hours northwest to Beaver Creek. There they might bump into Peter Magowan, Roger Peterson, Jere Thompson, Norman Dean, William Coors or F. Ross Johnson. Not exactly household names but stars in the world of high finance. Magowan is chairman of Safeway Stores, Peterson heads the giant Ace Hardware chain, Thompson is president of 7-11's Southland Corporation, Dean runs Hills Brothers Coffee, Coors is president of the beer company and Johnson is RJR Nabisco's former chairman.
Meanwhile, over in Deer Valley, Utah, Forbes Magazine might try trolling the lodges for colorful quotes from Charles Schwab on investments, Edgar Stern on hotels and Roger Penske on his automotive empire.
Inside the small world of American luxury winter resorts, the slopes of Beaver Creek, a former lettuce patch near Vail, and Deer Valley, an old mining camp near Park City, are favored by conservative captains of industry rather than by the glitterati. These ski resorts are today what Sun Valley was to skiing in the 1930s--snowy playgrounds for the quietly rich. Moguls for moguls.
Their guests do not cavort for the cameras. They radiate beige to Aspen's neon, preferring tailored $1,500 Bogner suede ski jackets to chartreuse ski suits and Day-Glo pink accessories. And you can bet no overly enthusiastic animal-rights activist will be tolerated sneering at the sable and chinchilla jackets that their wives don to keep out the evening chill.
Both Beaver Creek and Deer Valley were conceived and built from scratch to cater to Fortune 500 families, not ski bums or Hollywood hotshots. Olympic gold medalist Bill Johnson, who raced at Deer Valley last winter, labeled the place "snobbish," saying racers were told not to hang around in the day lodge. "They didn't want us interfering with their millionaires," he commented. The racers didn't have an alternative night spot--the closest real saloon is in downtown Park City, one mile and light years in atmosphere away.
In fact, these resorts are state-of-the-art vacation experiences where dining, interior decoration and real estate are as important as skiing. At Beaver Creek, the centerpiece is the very exclusive Shearson Lehman conference center, designed under the supervision of Ralph Lauren himself, built for $25 million before the investment house suffered serious losses. At Deer Valley, the daily buffets at the two posh "cafeterias," the Huggery and the Snuggery, are so renowned that Craig Claiborne wrote a whole column about them, complete with recipes for its "uncommon" blue cheese and pear pizza and its "delectable" cornmeal-fried oysters with spinach.
Unlike Aspen, tales of bizarre or unseemly behavior are rare at both resorts. Cyrus (Buck) Allen, the municipal judge in whose jurisdiction Deer Valley lies, presides over far more marriages than felony sentencings. And the most unusual wedding touch he could remember was the casual clothing worn by guests, bride and groom in an open-air wedding involving a whole bunch of people from Arthur Andersen & Co., the accounting firm. "They were all in jeans!" he exclaimed, as if such informal togs were an anomaly.
Nor did anyone fire shotguns at hovering photographer-filled helicopters, as happened at the Don Johnson/Melanie Griffith nuptials near Aspen a few years ago. On the other side of the ledger, unexpected confrontations with your spouse's lover on the slopes, a la Ivana and Marla, are less likely than unplanned business encounters. "I'm always running into my partners," Shelley Seevack of Goldman Sachs, a homeowner at Beaver Creek, complains with a chuckle.
These resorts serve as the ultimate in secure honcho havens, hideaways from the stress of managing millions or preserving world peace. Beaver Creek, which opened 11 seasons ago, features a Christmas tree lighting conducted by no less a personage than former President Gerald Ford. Deer Valley, a year younger, is the spot Vice President Dan Quayle chose last year to hide out for a week with 82 of his closest friends.
The larger of the two, Beaver Creek was built by the owners of Vail as a tonier cousin to that huge resort, which is 10 miles to the east. Unlike Vail, which abuts an interstate, Beaver Creek is located in a lovely valley, bordered by huge gray cliffs on one flank and a forest on the other.