The Daily Telegraph

That’s snow business!

What really goes on at Davos

- Joe Shute reveals more

Avalanche warnings are currently in place around the Swiss ski resort of Davos, and it is not immediatel­y clear whether that it is to do with the record snowfall or the deluge of money about to come its way. For one week each January, this hitherto peaceful resort town nestled at 5,100ft (1,560m) in the Alps gets subsumed by the global elite for the annual World Economic Forum. From today helicopter­s will thrum overhead and the narrow streets are clogged with an endless procession of limousines as the population swells from 11,000 to an estimated 30,000. And that is before Donald Trump and his travelling retinue pitch up on Friday.

This year, the theme of the week is “Creating a Shared Future in a Fractured World”, with the official programme packed with worthy speeches and delegates ranging from the aforementi­oned “leader of the free world” and Prime Minister Theresa May, to Princess Beatrice (picking up the baton from her father, the Duke of York), Hollywood stars such as Cate Blanchett and singer

At night, however, Davos typically shrugs off the mantle of responsibl­e capitalism. While ostensibly being here to talk business and network, with so many high net-worth individual­s clustered into one place, the potential for bacchanali­an excess is endless. And the bar bills are from another planet altogether.

The global elite’s talent for obfuscatio­n – and the cocoon of 5,000 Swiss security forces drafted in for the week – means what happens behind the scenes at Davos is a complex warren to

explore. Discreet dinners and lunches in remote mountain chalets are de rigueur, where world leaders and captains of industry rub shoulders with the likes of Bono and Leonardo Dicaprio. Then there are the evening drinks parties, known in Davos-speak as “nightcaps”.

But before any of this, one requires the right pass. Aside from footwear – note Theresa May’s shopping trip for a chic pair of £120 Sorel snow boots last week – the other two prized social indicators in Davos are the colour of badge hanging around your neck and the calibre of party invite in your pocket.

White with a hologram is the coveted access-all-areas badge that opens any door in and around the conference, which companies pay around £450,000 to be affiliated with. Beyond that are orange badges for assistants and journalist­s used to rattling the golden cage, if not actually stepping inside it; green is for the entourage of the famous.

As for the parties, chief among the perennial hot ticket events is the bash thrown by Russian billionair­e Oleg Deripaska and British financier Nat Rothschild at the oligarch’s palatial chalet, a 15-minute chauffeur-driven car ride up the mountain from Davos.

A former assistant to US economist Nouriel Roubini has described Deripaska’s parties as “endless streams of the finest champagne, vodka and Russian caviar amid dancing Cossacks and beautiful Russian models”. In 2015, things became so raucous that the police were called in to calm it down.

Then there is the shindig hosted by Matthew Freud, the British PR guru, in a private chalet behind the art nouveau Schatzalp Hotel, a former sanatorium reached by a funicular from the centre of Davos. Last year, David Cameron, George Osborne and Bill Gates were all spotted rubbing shoulders there.

Prior to his spectacula­r downfall last summer, Anthony “The Mooch” Scaramucci, the investor turned short-lived adviser to Donald Trump, hosted a regular reception at the Hotel Europe, which was renowned for the eye-wateringly expensive bottles of Krug and Bordeaux he served.

A modern theme of Davos is corporatio­ns taking over its high street shops for the entirety of the week to host their own parties. This year the social network and digital currency firm Hub Culture has rented a hair salon and built a temporary “Ice House” on its roof – as well as flying in five chefs trained by the Michelin-starred chef Alain Ducasse, who runs a restaurant in London’s Dorchester hotel.

Facebook, meanwhile, is hiring a plot of land belonging to the Kirchner Museum and building a specially designed three-storey house to host events put on by founder Mark Zuckerberg.

Last year’s hottest party was hosted by

the US tech communicat­ions giant Salesforce, which was attempting to outdo Google, which had previously hired the Ameron Swiss Mountain Hotel where guests sipped Roederer champagne and nibbled on shark canapés while the actor Idris Elba took to the decks.

“It is getting more decadent with each passing year,” says one Davos regular, who has attended for the past five. “More money is spent and more companies want to promote themselves.”

However, the best parties, he says, often sound far more exciting than they actually are. “I would describe the atmosphere at some of these things as pretty random. It is a lot of middle-aged men in suits dancing around awkwardly. A lot of people don’t actually really know each other. Some people obviously hit it pretty hard, but most of us have to get up the next day at 7am.”

The Swedish economist Prof Erik Berglof, who is director of the institute of global affairs at the London School of Economics, and has been coming to Davos for the past 18 years, agrees.

“There is an element that you have to be seen to go there,” he says. “But the partying is for me a very superficia­l part of the whole thing. I have been to the Google and Facebook ones, and they are what they are; it is just pure partying. Frankly, if you have been to a few of those, they are quite repetitive.”

While this year’s event will be chaired entirely by women for the first time in 48 years, the World Economic Forum is largely an event dominated by men. Indeed, “Davos Man” has become a damning sobriquet in its own right.

There are numerous power couples to be spotted – George and Amal Clooney were among the stars of last year’s event – but aside from the occasional white-badge-clutching spouse in Chanel skiwear, most masters of the universe choose to come to Davos alone.

The Belvedere – a long-standing favourite haunt of Tony Blair – is chief among the Davos heavyweigh­t venues, and this year will be hosting around 320 events and swelling its workforce by 300 to cater for the incoming crowd.

In previous years, the hotel reportedly served guests with lobster specially flown in from Boston, but yesterday general manager Tina Heide was remaining tight-lipped around the specific details of any parties.

According to Joe Landon, chief finance officer at the Us-based space mining firm Planetary Resources, who is attending his fourth Davos, there is a growing awareness among some that firms should tone down the extravagan­t spending. “Companies and people are very conscious of conspicuou­s expenses and going over the top,” he says.

“People spend a lot of money but are conscious of the appearance to make sure it doesn’t undermine the credibilit­y of what they do there.”

One constant fixture in the Davos calendar that doesn’t depend on the colour of your pass or cut of your boot, is the late-night singalong to the pianist at the Tonic Bar in Hotel Europe. Anyone who is anyone in Davos circles has been through here at some point, and supposedly Billy Joel songs are the favourite request. Which would best surmise Davos 2018? Perhaps his convenient­ly titled number one hit: We Didn’t Start the Fire.

 ??  ?? In-crowd: at Davos last year were, below, Tidjane Thiam, Amal and George Clooney, Tina Brown and George Osborne
In-crowd: at Davos last year were, below, Tidjane Thiam, Amal and George Clooney, Tina Brown and George Osborne
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 ??  ?? No business like showbusine­ss: Head of the IMF Christine Lagarde talks with Elton John, above; Theresa May, right, is due to speak at the World Economic Forum, and, below Cate Blanchett yesterday received an entreprene­urship award
No business like showbusine­ss: Head of the IMF Christine Lagarde talks with Elton John, above; Theresa May, right, is due to speak at the World Economic Forum, and, below Cate Blanchett yesterday received an entreprene­urship award
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