Four years ago, I went skiing for the first time in years. It turns out that, unlike riding a bike, you can forget how to hit the slopes — I ended up crashing into the window of one of Blue Mountain’s many lovely cafés. Thankfully, the worst damage I did was to the heart of the old woman enjoying a book on the other side of the glass.
The following year, not to be deterred, I went to Blue Mountain’s Avalanche: Ontario Gay Ski Weekend. With queer-friendly parties and group skiing lessons courtesy of the Toronto Gay Ski and Snowboarding Club, it was the perfect winter escape to get me in touch with my inner ski bunny.
This year, Avalanche will run from Jan 7–10, 2016, making it the third year queers take over Blue Mountain for a weekend. Ian Watson, executive producer of the festival, says the event has only gotten better since its inception.
“In our first year we exceeded our expectations, about doubling [how many people] we expected to arrive, and in the second year we saw about a 125 percent growth,” he says.
The 2016 weekend will feature more than two dozen events as production values have “gone significantly up,” according to Watson. Sound and lighting issues from the first year have been resolved, and venues have been upgraded to accommodate the anticipated crowds. Now the parties feature what Watson calls “a full proper lighting show.”
A weekend at Blue Mountain also means staying at Blue Mountain Village, a perk for any traveller. The restaurants in the village are varied and delicious, and the hotels feature great views. And I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the luxurious outdoor spas.
The festival brings in people from all over Ontario, so it’s also a great opportunity for people to make some new friends from outside their city. “[People] really enjoy that it’s something different. It’s not just another standard party,” Watson says.
But beyond the days full of snow and nights full of partying, queer families will also find Avalanche to be an ideal family getaway. This year’s Avalanche will include a teen dance, a parent’s café and an LGBT family movie in conjunction with the Inside Out film festival.
“One of the primary goals is to try and reach out to as many [youth] as we can and include them, so they’re not facing the same challenges we did when we were young,” Watson says.
If you don’t have any tots in tow, fear not: DJ Sumation, DJ Recklezz, Kevin Bailey, Josh Karmin, DJ Delicious and Devine Darlin will warm up the Blue Mountain Village.
While having fun is definitely at the top of his priority list for Avalanche, Watson wants to create inclusive environments for LGBT people to get involved with sports.
“[LGBT people] shouldn’t have to deal with those issues. They shouldn’t have to fly under the radar,” he says.