If you think summer is the only season for fun gay trips, think again. Winter has a special joy of its own. That’s when ski slopes across the globe welcome gay and lesbian ski bunnies with open arms.
From the US and Canadian West, to the European Alps, to South America’s Patagonia, there is a gay ski week to suit every style and budget. Even if skiing isn’t your thing, most of the long-running events offer cultural and entertainment opportunities in the warmth of local ski lodges and bars. Some even include beauty contests, for male and female titles — certainly a way to heat up a cold winter’s night.
We’ve highlighted a few of the major gay ski weeks around the world, making it easy to hit the slopes at home or abroad.
Aspen Ski Week
Jan 13–20, 2013 Aspen, Colorado
Even in a young civil rights movement, tradition has to count for something. The world’s oldest ski week, now in its 36th year, takes place in the Rocky Mountain resort of Aspen, Colorado. It’s also one of the world’s largest gay ski events, with more than 5,000 attending, mostly from the United States, but it attracts visitors from as far away as Australia, Germany and South America.
Aspen Ski Week is a fundraiser that benefits the local Roaring Fork Gay and Lesbian Community Fund, along with national American charities such as The Trevor Project and Point Foundation. The host hotel is the Limelight Lodge in downtown Aspen.
“There are many gay ski weeks worldwide now to choose from, but there’s a reason why people choose to come back to Aspen year after year,” says Jim Guttau, head of public relations. “Of course, one can say the epic skiing will lure you to Aspen, but it’s also the vibrant mix of cultured residents, fine eateries, world-class arts and music events and the historic charm of the city that makes it something outstanding.”
Guttau emphasizes the diversity of opportunities, “from comedy night with Drew Carey to a dance party on top of Aspen Mountain.” All of this means that even if skiing is not your thing, you’ll still have fun.
Guttau says he and his friends “just love the late-night parties and decided to use our mornings and afternoons for spa visits, shopping, snowshoeing and my favourite — après-ski crawls. We gallivant to the many après-ski haunts, like 39 Degrees inside Sky Hotel and The Little Nell, pretending we had a rough day on the slopes. Skiing isn’t a requirement for Aspen Gay Ski Week — with so much to do in Aspen!”
Whistler WinterPride Gay Ski Week
Feb 3–10, 2013 Whistler, British Columbia
Whistler’s WinterPride in British Columbia is one of the oldest and largest annual gay ski weeks in the world, with 2013 the 21st edition. This year’s festival has four major themes: sports, culinary, health and wellness, and entertainment. Among the highlights are dance parties for women and men skiers, dog sledding, culinary classes, bear contests and the annual Mr Gay Canada competition.
“The resort of Whistler itself has a lot to do with how special this week is,” says Dean Nelson, who heads Alpenglow Productions, the force behind Whistler’s gay week. “The municipality has identified WinterPride as one of the four signature events of the year and has also taken the extraordinary step to proclaim Feb 3 to 10 Pride Week in Whistler. The residents, merchants and workers all love this week and celebrate with us in ensuring everyone feels welcomed and embraces sexual diversity and inclusiveness.”
Even if skiing is not your thing, Nelson believes there’s plenty that will keep you busy over the eight days of the festival, which has more than 65 individual events and attracts 3,000-plus attendees.
“Since Whistler is a pedestrian village, everything is within walking distance. The resort has many exciting non-ski adventures to be had, including dogsledding, snowmobile tours, snowshoe tours, luge/bobsled on the Whistler Olympic track, inner tubing, ice skating at the Whistler Olympic Plaza, incredible wellness retreats and spas, delicious culinary adventures, and of course, legendary après-ski parties.”
He adds that Whistler has “unique programming that is attractive to both the skier and non-skier, to the gay man, to the queer woman, to the circuit queen, to the leather/bears and everything in between.”
Telluride Gay Ski Week
Feb 22–March 3, 2013 Telluride, Colorado
Colorado is also home to the Telluride Gay Ski Week, now celebrating its 10th anniversary. This year, the normally one-week happening has been extended to a full 10 days, allowing an expansion of activities that guests can attend over two separate weekends.
Hot cocoa takes on a new meaning this year, too, with Miss Coco Peru, the entertainment highlight, performing on the evening of Feb 26. It’s one reason ski buffs as well as newbies to the slopes will enjoy Telluride, which the organizers call “a spirited and unpretentious ski town” and a refreshing alternative to other ski weeks.
Nighttime activities run the gamut, from comedy shows, to a party hosted by reality-TV celebrity Reichen Lehmkuhl, to an Oscar party, to the annual White Night Party, with DJs Brandon Moses and Casey Alva. The latter is also a fundraiser for the Telluride AIDS Benefit, so you can feel even better on the slopes.
European Gay Ski Week
March 16–23, 2013 French Alps
European Gay Ski Week is now in its fifth year. It’s become so large that it takes place in two countries, using the tagline “Ski in Italy, dine in France. The fifth edition is bi-country.”
Alpe d’Huez, in the Massif des Grandes Rousses ski area in the French Alps, is the resort host and expects up to 1,250 visitors. All this from an event that was started by a group of about 50 friends.
Kevin Millins, one of the organizers, says that whether one comes for skiing or the surrounding events, European Gay Ski Week “is the biggest gathering of international gay clubbing brands, DJs and performers to take place anywhere in the world this winter and possibly ever in one place at one event.”
Last year, Millins says, participants came from more than 49 countries, “including guests from Japan, Australia, China, Saudi Arabia, Russia and South Africa.” North Americans were also in the mix, about five percent of total visitors. The vast majority of attendees, however, come from Europe, with residents of France, the United Kingdom, Germany and Scandinavia topping the list of participants. With pool parties, après-ski events and entertainment of all kinds, this bi-national event is sure to be something that more North Americans will consider for their ski holiday.
Bariloche Gay Ski Week and Gay Snow Party
August 2013 Argentina
Northern hemisphere ski buffs don’t have to wait until winter to get their slope fix, not with San Carlos de Bariloche’s Gay Ski Week and Gay Snow Party taking place in August 2013. The event has been held previously in September and will likely fluctuate between those two months in coming years.
One of the newest festivals on the gay ski circuit, Bariloche takes place in one of South America’s premier ski resorts, set in Argentina’s Nahuel Huapi National Park in central Patagonia, a few hours’ flight from Buenos Aires. It attracts mostly Argentines, along with Peruvians, Chileans and Brazilians, and is becoming better known among a handful of North Americans and Europeans.
“One of the differences lies in that Argentina is a new country for LGBT people,” says Cristian Signorelli, of Bariloche Gay Travel, one of the organizers of the event. “Bariloche is beautiful and it is going to amaze you and all the people who come.”
He adds that South Americans call Bariloche “the Swiss Argentina”; the city is known for its Alpine architecture and chocolate shops. Guides also speak English, so there’s no need to worry if you’re not a Spanish speaker.
Beyond skiing, outdoor activities include kayaking, hiking and other sports. A recent addition is the Fiesta de la Nieve Gay, or Gay Snow Festival, a mix of cultural, human rights and entertainment activities, including the crowning of a Miss and Mr Snow Festival.
Other ski events
Elevation (utahgayski.com), in Park City, Utah, takes place Feb 21 to 23 this year. Austria is home to the Snow Happening in Sölden (gaysnowhappening.com), in Tyrol’s Ötztal Valley, from April 6 to 13, 2013. This year’s gathering includes admission to the annual Hannibal theatre spectacle, in which the warrior’s triumphant invasion over the Alps into Roman Italy is reenacted. In Switzerland, Arosa Gay Ski Week (arosa-gayskiweek.com) celebrates its ninth edition, running from Jan 6 to 13, 2013.
Gay ski weeks are winter fun with a rainbow twist, no matter where on the globe you choose your trail. Our list proves there’s a gay ski vacation for every style and budget.