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Gay ski week grows in 2nd year

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In its second year, the Elevation Utah gay ski week, Feb. 23-25, will attract hundreds of gay men and women from around the country. Much like its sister event, Elevation Mammoth, a ski week in Mammoth Lakes, Calif., that attracts more than 5,000 people, the Utah rendition will have all the traditional skiing events as well as private parties in Park City and Salt Lake City.

The event was launched last February and attracted more than 300 people, and about twice as many people are expected this year, said Tom Whitman, event organizer and president of Tom Whitman Presents.

“Our 2011 debut year for Elevation Utah totally reminded me of our first year of Elevation Mammoth – we had a great group of about 300 to 350 guys, all of whom had an amazing time and couldn’t stop talking about how they wanted to come back and build the event each year,” Whitman said. “That’s what I wanted for our first year in Utah. With an event like this, we don’t make money the first few years, it’s all about delivering a great event, attracting a core group to the event from out of town, and introducing the event to the locals.”

After visiting the local ski resorts several times and meeting locals, Whitman said Utah was his obvious second choice after starting Elevation Mammoth. Terrific local bars, an excited population and a need for an event like Elevation Utah helped him decide to launch the program.

“I think the local gay population is hungry to have an event like this,” Whitman said.  “I want this event to feel like it’s not only an event for people traveling to Salt Lake, but an event for the local guys as well.  And as it grows, I want it to be a part of the community, and that includes it benefiting local organizations.”

In addition to all the events, fundraisers for local queer charities are held and the activities provide an opportunity to lend a hand in the community while having a great time.

For parties and events, local and California-based disc jockeys will be spinning at bars in Park City and Salt Lake City. Performers include California DJs Brynn Taylor and DJ Josh Peace, and Salt Lake City DJs Harry Cross Jr. and Chris B. Plus, male dancers from California will add to the club scene of Park City.

“I want to grow Elevation Utah to be an even bigger event than Elevation Mammoth.  The potential for Utah is huge, partially because it is so easy for East Coast, Midwest and international guys to get to Salt Lake City,” Whitman said. “But just like Mammoth, I want the Utah event to feel intimate and friendly.  One thing I’m most proud of with Mammoth is that the event still feels like a group of extended friends getting together to have fun.  Everyone is super friendly, in a good mood and no one has an attitude.  That’s what I’m going for.  It just happens to be an extended group of 3,000 friends.”

The first Elevation event was held in Mammoth in 2002, and has grown to, well, mammoth proportions. The week has separate groups for lesbians, enormous dance parties and other events as the gays take over the town. As the city streets are lined with pride flags and local businesses advertize their excitement and acceptance for the gay week, it’s almost a winter pride festival in Northern California.

To preview the week, the Queer Utah Aquatic Club will be hosting Ski-n-Swim the weekend before, Feb. 17-19. The swim meet will be held on Feb. 18, 10 a.m., at Fairmont Aquatic Center and the skiing event will be held Feb. 19 at The Canyons resort.

The QUAC Skin-N-Swim is an official United States Master Swim Meet event, and last year it attracted swimmers from around the state. The weekend also includes a group dinner on Feb. 17, 7 p.m. at Frida Bistro, 545 W. 700 South, and ice skating and dinner at the Gallivan Center, 239 S. Main St., on Feb. 18, 5:30 p.m.

Tickets to the Elevation Utah weekend lineup starts at $120 for general admission and $160 for VIP. Go to UtahGaySki.com for more information and to purchase tickets.

For information about how to register for the swim meet or join QUAC for skiing, go to quacquac.org.

Seth Bracken

Seth Bracken is the editor of QSaltLake

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