For the past 20 years, Tom Whitman has been hosting the annual Elevation event, also known as Gay Ski Week, as a way of providing an alternative activity to the bar and nightclub scene. Starting at Mammoth Mountain Ski Area in California, Whitman added Park City in 2011. The four-day event took place this year from February 22–26
Whitman said that when he added Park City, he had to do his due diligence to figure out whether the town and venues would welcome an LGBTQ+ event. “The response was amazingly supportive,” he said.
Elevation offers a safe space for LGBTQ+ individuals to honor their identities and share experiences through skiing and snowboarding. Whitman creates an outstanding lineup of entertainment, including world-class DJs, drag queens, performers, and dancers, on top of several themed events that are included throughout the week, like the onesie party and neon party. Event venues in each town that have been long-time supporters of Elevation are sought out from year to year.
“Each of our LGBTQ+ ski weeks has become a favorite week of the year for the local communities and ski area employees,” Whitman said. “It is so gratifying to hear, year after year, that they look forward to this event like none other on the schedule. Staff at our venues dress up for the theme parties, locals look forward to the events, the entertainment, and the vibe in town, whether they are LGBTQ+ or allies of the community.”
Gay Ski Week seeks to create a warm, friendly atmosphere for the LGBTQ+ community, inherently encouraging attendees and locals to topple barriers and be open-minded in their interactions. Over two decades of hosting the experience have proven that it creates a vibe superior to any ordinary gay nightclub, he said. Everyone from novice skiers just getting started to advanced ski enthusiasts can feel included with plenty of other activities available if skiing isn’t their thing.
Whitman shared that Elevation has a special place in his heart, not only because it is the longest-running event he has produced, but because each year he meets amazing people from around the world who share at least one of his passions – skiing/snowboarding and gathering with his LGBTQ+ community. “Elevation is populated by friendly, fun, sexy guys and girls. Every year since the first event, I have made new friends that I treasure to this day,” he said.