Friday, February 24, 2006
In search of snow, slopes and sparkle
From the glitterati in Switzerland to the adventure seekers in British Columbia, this month the Art of Life team went searching for the sparkle and shine the ski slopes had to offer.

Diamonds in the Snow is a lavish, star-studded de Grisogono event in the Swiss ski resort town of Gstaad. Guests are invited to get a sneak peek of the latest creatons by jewelry company president and designer Fawaz Gruosi.

It has become such a hot ticket that Gruosi has had to field complaints from socialites for not being on the list. This year, French actress Emmanuelle Beart (of Mission Impossible fame) and Miss Europe were among the famous faces in attendance.

For us though, the draw was Gruosi himself. His love for jewelry and gems began at the age of 18 when his mother told him to go out and get a job.

After working for some of the biggest names in the business (Harry Winston and Bulgari), Gruosi started de Grisogono. And in just a dozen years, he has manged to make de Grisogono a name that rolls off the tongues of the very rich and the famous.

With supporters like actress Charlize Theron and model Naomi Campbell, de Grisogono pieces are seen on the runways, red carpets and exclusive parties around the world.

While Gruosi's claim to fame is the use of the Black Diamond, his personable manner is what keeps his clients loyal to him. And it was that personal style that allowed us to really have an open and honest conversation with him.

We were invited for dinner at Gruosi's home in Geneva. Sitting at the long Tuscan-style dining table with his daughter Allegra and his wife Caroline (who is the heir to the Chopard fortune), we ate delicious food and drank great wine (he has quite the extensive wine collection. All housed in a state-of-the-art wine cellar).

And while this was a loving family scene, Gruosi admits his "obsession" with work has taken him away from having a close relationship with his loved ones.

His regret for not having had a tight relationship with his son (who died two years ago), to not being around much for his daughters (both in their 20s), and his love for his wife who is his "best friend, critic and partner", were honest admissions from a man who had none of the airs normally associated with the wealthy and powerful.

As we walked around Gstaad, I jealously watched even young children swish down the slopes without a care (or fear) in sight. Watching them left me with a twinge of regret for not having learned how to ski when I was growing up in Canada.

That said, my first attempt was one perfectly choreographed for a comedy skit. With skis strapped on and ready to go, I took a deep breath and pushed myself down the slope.

Ok, so I was on a tiny man-made slope in Kent, England where I took my first ski lesson, still, it was exhilarating just being able to do something when just an hour before I was unable to balance on skis.

Gordon, our ski instructor was patient (and I'm sure amused) as my producer Andrea and I grappled with the simplest of skills. It was comedic just watching Andrea trying to grab hold of the ski lift only to fall flat on her face because of the sudden tug. Trust me, I wasn't much better.

Andrea and I thought it would be best to prepare ourselves for our trip to British Columbia in Canada where we profile a company that caters to the most passionate of skiers.

For around $20,000 per person, you get your own chalet with a view of Lake Tyaughton, a chef to take care of your meals, a massage therapist, your own hot tub, and the piece de resistance, unlimited use of a helicopter to take you to the best powder in the area.

Heli-skiing is not for the faint-hearted. You need to know your stuff and be good at it. So needless to say, I was out of commission for that assignment. That said, Clayton our cameraman was up early the morning of the flight and was with the group of Russians who had flown to Canada for their ski adventure.

For them, the draw to this package is the freedom to do as many runs the day will allow and they say that is a luxury you can't really find anywhere else. The surroundings aren't too shabby either. Some three hours outside of Whistler you are in the wilderness. Forget your mobile phone because there's no signal. Forget about doing any shopping -- there are no stores in sight. But it is beautiful.

I may not have gone heli-skiing but I certainly did enjoy myself speeding around the frozen lake on a snowmobile. When it comes to winter sports, I may not be able to ski but doesn't mean I'm down for the count.

Next month, we'll see you at the Oscars!
Posted By Leetlegirl: Friday, February 24, 2006
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CNN anchor Monita Rajpal blogs about her experiences filming the "Art of Life" show.

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