Celebrity Ski Race at Canyons Supports Smiles


It was smiles all around for the gang that showed up at Canyons on Saturday; and it wasn’t just the gorgeous spring weather and the Gruv setting up in the Village below. The impromptu idea to have a celebrity ski race and raise a couple hundred grand for a charity called Operation Smile wasn’t long in the making.

Five months ago, a young boy approached the founders of Operation Smile, a non-profit that pays for the operations to repair cleft lips and palates in underprivileged children. The 10-year-old – who just happened to be the son of the president of NBC Entertainment, Jennifer Salke (who, BTW is married to the brother of a girl I went to high school with. Yes, Ryan, everyone from my past is “successful” but me), wanted to give back. Since Henry was born with a cleft lip but had the means to overcome the condition, he decided to help those who didn’t.

Soon Billy Bush from Access Hollywood was on board promoting the event and encouraging his friends from popular television shows to join in. Yesterday, marked the first annual Smile Challenge and you can bet they’ll be back next year. It’s hard to beat a weekend of good fun for a good cause.

The celebs were able to hop a couple of private jets to get to Park City on short notice and many like Lisa Kudrow and Scott Wolf already call Utah, ‘Home #2.’ “I love Utah,” said Kudrow. “We have a place here. Everyone is really nice.”

The former Friends star didn’t ski in the race but said she does know how to ski. She’s just not good enough to have anyone watch her race. Wolf has come a long way since his first days on the slopes during breaks on Everwood. He was schooling Holly Flanders in the course.

Both celebrated the opportunity to support Operation Smile. “It’s so pervasive, the help [kids] are getting,” Kudrow said. “It’s not just a smile, it’s confidence and belonging and feeling like, ‘Yes I’m part of a group and I go to a school and can do well.’ They all just soar afterwards.”

Glee’s Cory Monteith may be the next celebrity to buy into Park City. He gushed with admiration for the Wasatch. “I love this, look at this,” he said. “It’s God’s country. It’s amazing.” The locals welcomed him too. Young girls trembled with excitement to stand next to him for photos. And, no, I wasn’t the one trembling.

A couple of Modern Family stars also turned up for the event. “Our face is our livehood. It’s what everyone judges you on unfortunately; and a great smile is a beautiful thing and to give kids back that confidence is a beautiful thing,” said Jesse Tyler Ferguson (Mitchell). Neither Ty Burell nor Jesse took their chances in the spring slop. They chilled at the Alpine House for the after party. Jesse didn’t know how to ski in the morning but said he had a private lesson later.

Next time, he needs to call me. I’ll be the first to tell him to take a lesson in the morning, not the afternoon, on the last day of March during an excruciatingly hot, dry ski season.

The celebs didn’t have much time to prep before the race. They arrived Friday evening and met their Olympic team leaders Saturday morning before the 11 a.m. start just below and to the right of the Sunrise Lift. Billy Demong, Fuzz Feddersen, Kaylin Richardson, Derek Parra, Holly Flanders, Tracy Evans coordinated the teams of six. Spectators could walk up to the finish area and were treated to a variety of Pro Bar flavors. Good thing too as the gluten-free, vegan nutrition bars would be the best vegetarian alternative to the Schnitzel and corned beef the Alpine House was serving. Unless you have a thing for beet salad.

Food aside, the First Annual Smile Challenge seemed to go off without a hitch and the casualness of the event made it feel like old pals out for a Saturday on the hill rather than some glitzy inauthentic Sundance-ish affair. The smiles were genuine.

Canyons’ Kaylin Richardson smoked the entire field. Billy Demong

Kate Walsh was loving the sun and time with friends and Family.

Tony Hawk, who has his own charity building skateparks for underprivileged kids, gladly came out to ride in Utah for a complementary charity.


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