To mark WinterPride’s 20th anniversary, the mayor of Whistler, Nancy Wilhelm-Morden, has proclaimed Feb 5 to 12 Pride Week in the ski resort town.
“It’s the first official civic status and proclamation that the municipality is giving us, which is great,” says Dean Nelson, executive producer of GayWhistler, which puts on the annual gay ski week. “We are one of the first ski resorts in the world that’s actually having the government proclaim Pride Week.”
Wilhelm-Morden was not available for comment before press time, but her office issued a statement on her behalf.
“The Resort Municipality of Whistler embraces the diversity that the LGBTT community represents,” the mayor said in the emailed statement. “The municipality is committed to working with community partners to continue making Whistler an inclusive mountain resort. Thanks to GayWhistler, the WinterPride week has become an iconic annual event that adds to the vibrancy of Whistler in the winter season. Now in its 20th year, WinterPride attracts about 2,500 visitors to Whistler and contributes several million dollars to the resort’s economy. Council was pleased to officially proclaim February 5-12, 2012 as Pride Week in Whistler to mark this important milestone in our community,” the statement concluded.
Nelson says the event has always had government’s support in principle, but granting it civic status has great symbolic import. “This is being very public about it, and actually flying the Pride flag at the municipal hall, so when our international guests are coming in and seeing this type of proactive action, that’s really meaningful,” he adds. “It just signals to the LGBT community that Whistler takes our community very seriously, and they appreciate our community and want to make sure that everybody understands that they embrace diversity and it’s not just a marketing ploy — it’s actually in the fabric of our community.”
After the November civic election, Nelson says, he decided to sit down with the new mayor to discuss civic status for WinterPride.
“She was just surprised it hadn’t happened before,” Nelson recalls, “but she was like, ‘Absolutely, we need to make this happen, and let’s just discuss it with the rest of the councillors.'”
The motion passed unanimously at council’s first sitting, says Nelson, who notes that in the past there has been resistance from some councillors when WinterPride organizers requested special considerations, such as liquor licence extensions, for the festival.
Mayor Wilhelm-Morden will present the official Pride Week proclamation to WinterPride organizers at the Whistler Conference Centre on Feb 9, designated Pride Day, following the first official Pride Ski Out and Pride march through the village.
“We’ll have the skiers coming down off the mountain with rainbow flags. They’ll meet us down at the village and then we’ll continue on walking through the village. In concept, it’s really exciting,” Nelson says.
WinterPride 2012 features 65 events, including daily ski and snowboard excursions, nightly theme parties and Snowball 20, the closing dance party.
For the full schedule of events, visit gaywhistler.com.