While the economy this winter is frightful, a number of places (many of them in the west) are holding delightful ski weekends for gay and lesbian skiers and snowboarders. When planning your winter getaway take advantage of rock bottom gas prices and air fare wars to attend one of these winter festivals. And speaking of air travel, this is a good time of year to consider buying flight insurance with your ticket, in case your flight is cancelled due to storms, airline bankruptcies or event cancellations.
Fire & Ice 2009: Aspen, Colo. Jan. 11 – 18
Located roughly 425 miles from Salt Lake City (that's six hours by car or an hour and a half by direct flight), Aspen, Colo., the appropriately-named Aspen Gay Ski Week is celebrating its 32nd year. This festival of parties and sking on all four Aspen hills benefits the Roaring Fork Gay and Lesbian Community Fund, which raises money for local high school gay and lesbian clubs and other charities supported by the local gay and lesbian community.
This year's weeklong festival, co-produced by Bryan Gonzales and Pamela Herr, will include fun events off the slopes as well, such as the comedy night A Fag, A Drag, and A Dyke. Hosted by Sister Helen Holy, aka Paul J. Williams, this show also features comedians Mark Allen Smith, Scott Kennedy and Erin Foley.
Along with an opening night party at host hotel The Limelight Lodge, other off-slope events include the annual Downhill Costume Competition, with a $500 prize for best costume, and on Thursday night, a concert by the Las vegas-based Purple Reign Tribute band, fresh from their appearance on Late Night with David Letterman.
For a complete schedule of events, call the reservation specialists at Stay Aspen Snowmass or visit gayskiweek.com or stayaspensnowmass.com/p-gay-ski-week.
Winter Rendezvous XXV: Stowe, Vt. Jan. 28 – Feb. 1
Celebrating its 25th year, the East Coast's largest gay ski event is the annual five day Winter Rendezvous at Stowe Mountain, Vermont. For Utahns, flying into Burlington, Vt. and renting a car would be the best way to attend this event outside of a long road trip.
Put together by MJW Adventures' owner Michael Wilson, Winter Rendezvous includes such events as snowshoe hikes, cross country skiing and a women-only dinner. Discounted tickets for all ski passes, hotel stays, and equipment rental are also available upon registration.
Like most gay ski weekends, Winter Rendezvous also offers nightly entertainment, such as a performance of the Michael Swenson Comedy Hypnosis Show. Commodores Inn Resort, the host hotel, will also host opening and closing night parties featuring local DJs and the Boston Gay Men's Chorus performing hits by ABBA and Rufus Wainwright and from the musical Spamalot.
For couples looking for a more romantic getaway, civil unions are legal in Vermont and most of the hotels in Stowe offer official ceremonies if planned in advance.
Check out winterrendezvous.com or mjwadventures.com for all details.
WinterPRIDE: Whistler, British Columbia, Canada Feb. 1-8
Arguably the largest gay and lesbian ski week in North America, Alpenglow Productions Corporation produces this annual event at the very gay-friendly Whistler Blackcomb mountain resort in Canada. The best way to get there from Utah is to take a flight to Vancouver, Canada, and then either a bus, rental car or a charter plane the 72 miles to Whistler (when booking with American Airlines or AIR Canada, check online for the special WinterPRIDE promotion code).
Alpenglow Productions offers discounted ski packages with larger discounts for booking early. And although the host hotel is The Westin Resort and Spa, WinterPRIDE also has put together deals at other partner hotels. Overall, there are 115 hotels to choose from.
This year, WinterPRIDE will team up with the 2009 International Mr. Gay Competition, and 24 delegates from around the world will compete to take home the title. For the women, WinterPRIDE will also team up with Flygirl, an award-winning, lesbian production and event company from Vancouver, that will produce two all-girl parties: Friday's Pampered Pussy Party featuring burlesque dancers, lingerie models, sex toy demos and hot dance music, and the Shred Betties party on Saturday night. The largest mixed parties are an early, Friday evening party, called the MountianTOP Dance Party and the Saturday night Snowball party.
Other events at this weekend include a Queerly Canadian Comedy show, a Bear Trap Party hosted by Hairrison Bears, the United Colors of WinterPRIDE Fashion Show featuring guest performances from delegates in the International Mr. Gay competition, AbFab Dining Experience, and of course, the Mr. Gay World Grand Finale.
More details are available at gaywhistler.com.
Telluride Gay Ski Week: Telluride, Colo. Feb. 21 – 28
This may come as a surprise, but getting to Telluride, Colo. from Salt Lake City is remarkable tough by plane. Delta airlines offers the only direct flight to Montrose, Colo., which is 68 miles away from the city. A limited number of connecting flights is also available to the Telluride airport (TEX) and the Montrose airport (MTJ). Those driving from Utah should be prepared for a seven hour trip.
The annual Telluride Gay Ski week benefits the Telluride AIDS Benefit, a non-profit organization committed to HIV/AIDS prevention and education. The weekend is sponsored by Telluride Mountain Village Owners Association StraightOut Media and Marketing.
This year, Telluride Gay Ski Week will hold an Oscar Night T-Bag Party and opening reception on Feb. 22nd at the Historic Sheridan Opera House. Other parties include the Fly Naked with Reichen Party, featuring jewelry designed by Reichen himself, Thursday’s White Night Party, and the TAB Gala Fashion Show and Auction followed by a TAB after Party at Noir Bar.
For more information, visit telluridegayskiweek.com.
Lake Tahoe WinterFest Gay and Lesbian Ski Week: South Lake Tahoe, Calif. March 1-8
The drive to South Lake Tahoe is a good eight hours or 565 miles from Salt Lake City, so flying is the fastest way to get to the 14th Annual Lake Tahoe WinterFest. Currently, inexpensive air fares to San Francisco and Oakland abound on Southwest, Delta and United Airlines, but renting a car to get to South Lake Tahoe will be required.
A shuttle will run from the airport to the Lakeland Village Beach and Mountain Resort (located right on the shore of South Lake Tahoe) and to Heavenly Lake Tahoe and the Sierra at Tahoe Resort. Given Lake Tahoe's closeness to the Nevada border, many of this weekend's events and parties will take place in the Silver State's casinos and bars.
This year's Lake Tahoe WinterFest will also feature two days of the celebrated Outlaugh Festival (on March 4 and 5). Dana Goldberg and Alec Mapa will headline this comedy event. Locations are still be secured.
For more information, check out laketahoewinterfest.com or outlaughfestival.com.
Outboard 2009: Crested Butte, Colo. March 25 – 29
In its 14th year, Outboard is an online, 2000-member global community that presents a five-day event of the same name for ardent snowboarders in a location the members pick each year. About five percent of attendees are skiers and the group is inclusive of all regardless of sex, gender identity or sexual orientation.
Getting to Crested Butte by car requires extensive research as some roads to the city close during the winter. Because of this, it may be easier to take a direct flight on Delta Airlines from Salt Lake City to the Gunnison/Crested Butte Regional Airport. While drive time from Denver is about four hours, winter weather may cause delays or rerouting.
This year’s host hotel is The Lodge at Mountaineer Square. Negotiated group room rates can be found at outboard.org after registering and paying a $10 processing fee, for each individual attending Outboard.
As Outboard's emphasis is on hitting the slopes, social events tend to end early in the evening. This year, however, there will be a dinner (limited to the first 100 people who sign up) and a night snowboarding event/torchlight parade. The closing party will feature popular Denver-based DJ Foos, who has been invited back for the last five years.
More information can be found at outboard.org.
Elevation 2009: Mammoth Lakes, Calif. March 18 – 22
In its seventh year, Elevation is known as the ‘Circuit Party’ ski week for good reason: It is presented by Los Angeles club promoter Tom Whitman, who was recently named one of OUT Magazine's 100 people of the year. Whitman knows how to throw a party: This five day event will include seven uniquely themed parties each presided over by a well-known DJ.
To get to mammoth Lakes from Utah, fly into Los Angeles and take a direct flight into Mammoth on Horizon Air. Be warned if taking the five hour drive from Los Angeles: local police along the route are out in force to catch speeders.
Elevation has blocked rooms at The Westin Monache (the host hotel), The Village at Mammoth and Mammoth Mountain Inn. The only way to access these rooms is through Jason at Cassis Travel. But if you miss out, rest assured: Many other lodging options are available, from luxurious condo rentals to budget accommodations.
Event highlights this year include a no cover Welcome Event at Lakanki, happy hours before the main events, The Party at 10,000 Feet (which features a gondola ride to the main lodge)m and the Cliffhanger Party, hosted by Tom Whitman Presents and Clear Channel. Large parties are limited due to size and require cover charges.
For more information, check out mammothgayski.com and tomwhitmanpresents.com.