When I talk to friends about potentially attending a Gay Ski Week this year, they still ask, “What is a Gay Ski Week?” Their questions, to me, prove that these slope-side celebrations serve a function as vital and important as ever—to increase the visibility of LGBTQ+ people in the historically very macho, heteronormative world of winter sports. We’re here, we’re queer, we like to ski. Get used to it.
“Gay ski weeks” originated in the 1970s, when queer ski clubs in Chicago and various California cities started congregating annually in Aspen. In those times, these events were not much more than a casual get together over some après-ski beers, gay ski weeks over time developed into more fleshed-out happenings with full-blown parties, drag shows, comedy nights, live music, and charitable fundraising components.Today, they are found around the world, each one offering its own local flavor, and providing welcoming spaces where people of all walks can come together over their shared love of the sport.Of course, you don’t need to be LGBTQ+ to be a part of the fun—everyone is invited to the party.
If you’re interested in learning a bit more about diversity on the slopes this season, here are a few gay ski weeks to check out.
Whistler Blackcomb, Canada
The largest of its kind in Canada, Whistler Pride attracts a fairly international crowd due to its proximity to Vancouver. This festival describes itself as “Fresh mountain air without a lot of altitude or attitude,” because despite Whistler Blackcomb’s enormous size (8,171 skiable acres to be exact), the village of Whistler sits at 2,200 feet above sea level, so there’s no need to worry about pesky elevation sickness. And maybe it’s a Canadian thing or maybe it’s because LGBTQ+ people are awesome, but this festival’s fleet of friendly volunteer ski guides are on hand to lead you through this resort’s massive terrain offering.
Elevation Ski Week: Mammoth
Mammoth, California, USA
“It’s a whole vibe,” said Eric Bogin, a skier from Los Angeles who has attended Mammoth Gay Ski Week multiple times. “When you’re at Mammoth, you really feel like we’re taking over the whole village—there are rainbow flags everywhere, people are having fun, it’s great.” Put on by gay party production company Elevation for over twenty years, Mammoth Gay Ski Week attracts a large Southern California contingent (in part because it’s pretty tedious to get there from the East Coast). “I’ve produced [Elevation Ski Week: Mammoth] for 20 years because it gives me so much in return,” said founder Tom Whitman. “I have made lifelong friends every year at Elevation. The event has become a reunion of old friends bringing new friends to the party.”
Elevation Ski Week: Utah
Park City, Utah, USA
Ask any regular attendee who has visited Elevation’s ski weeks in both Mammoth, California and Park City, Utah, and they may be more inclined to say that Utah is marginally more about the skiing. There will also be a much more geographically diverse crowd because Salt Lake City is so much more accessible to destinations across the country. There’s still a robust roster of parties and events throughout the week—this is, after all, a destination that’s really made for festivals such as Sundance.
Aspen Gay Ski Week
Aspen, Colorado, USA