With Gus Kenworthy Highlighting LGBTQ Wintersports at the Recent Winter Olympics, There’s an Even Stronger Spotlight on Gay Ski Weeks This Season
In Canada, British Columbia has always been at the forefront of this movement with the Whistler Pride and Ski Festival, attracting people from 26 countries. CEO Dean Nelson says around 3000 revellers turned up last year, the majority from Canada, USA, Australia, UK and Brazil. “About 87% of them enjoyed the slopes of Whistler Blackcomb and nearly 50% of the guests had an Epic Pass,” says Nelson. Out of the wild and wonderful weeklong schedule, the free ski guiding and après ski series typically get the most attendance. “The social aspect of Whistler Pride is still important, though some of our programming has changed over the years to be less focused on the circuit parties and more on social engagement like the comedy show and art gallery wine reception,” says Nelson. “The final weekend is still popular with the Friday night Furrocious Party and the Saturday Snowball.” Due to demand, the schedule has remained relatively consistent for the past five years including the Scandinavian Spa Sip & Dip, final weekend dance parties, and the Friday Pride Parade and ski out. This year, attendees will benefit from a $66 million ski lift investment by Vail Resorts. Dates for the 27th Whistler Pride and Ski Festival are Jan 20-27 this season.
Also in BC, Big White’s Peak Pride weekend is now in its third season. Scheduled for April 5-7, it promotes a fun and playful vibe on and off the slopes. Organizer Dustyn Baulkham says numbers have increased each season: “The Big White weekend has grown over the first two years,” says Baulkham. “We see between 200 to 250 people attend the various events. Some are not ticketed and by donation, so it’s more difficult to count.” Baulkham hopes to grow Peak Pride over a range of ski areas. “I will keep pricing as reasonable and accessible as possible,” he promises. “I estimate that about 60 to 70% of people who attend go to ski or board but most of them also party. I remember last year talking to people who were out skiing on three hours sleep and were having a blast.” He says 75% of attendees are BC residents but with a growing contingent from Montreal, Ottawa and even Seattle. Baulkham says success in Big White has led Rebellious Unicorns Production Company Inc. to expand to Sun Peaks this winter, with an event set for March 1-3. Events Manager, Cara Karpluk says that Sun Peak’s first Peak Pride is adding variety to their activity calendar. “This segment of the marketplace is a valuable one based on the success of other already established events and it also helps promote a message of inclusivity,” she adds. “It should be a fun and engaging time for staff, locals, and visitors – a welcome addition to our already busy calendar.”
Elevation is bringing Mont Tremblant up to date with downhill diversity this season. Quebec’s first LGBTQ ski festival will run Jan 31-Feb 3 with a full schedule of skiing and lively themed après activities including a wine evening, a beach party and onesie event. The flamboyant festival has been gaining momentum over the past 17 seasons at Mammoth Lakes and eight at Park City. Elevation’s skiing weekends have become famous for dynamic DJ dance parties, attracting around 2,500 participants from around the world. There are various pass packages for all the après events as well as discounted lift tickets and lessons.
Event marketer, Tom Whitman has been organizing Elevation since the outset and will now be promoting Elevation Tremblant. “When Alterra consolidated and became the owner of Mammoth, my friends at Mammoth Mountain approached me about expanding to a third location. I took a look at the portfolio and I knew that Tremblant was the perfect choice,” he explains. “It is easy to get to from Montreal, Toronto and New York City, as well as the rest of the East Coast. And it is one of the best resorts in Eastern North America. And, shockingly, it didn’t have a gay ski week yet.” Having visited, he says the whole town is excited to be part of Elevation, with at least 500 attendees expected for the launch year, hopefully doubling in size for year two. The gay community, he explains, is maturing beyond the nightclub scene and wanting like-minded activities in a gay setting. The increasing focus on gay ski weeks is part of this transformational trend. “I also think that it’s because gay ski weeks are a very special type of event: I like to say that it is a place where the city attitude is dropped,” says Whitman. “Everyone is open to meeting new people and making new friends. Elevation Mammoth and Elevation Park City have become mainstays for thousands of LGBTQ people every year, and I have already heard that many of them are excited to check out Tremblant.”
Alberta’s first and only rainbow ski spree revolves around Marmot Basin, Jasper National Park, and the delightful town of Jasper. Celebrating its first decade April 25-28 2019, the annual Jasper Pride Festival attracts travellers, workers, students, ski bums and tourists from all over the world. Originally a one-night event for around 40 people in 2009, it has grown to over 1200 participants in 2018. “During the festival, this quaint mountain town explodes with colour and celebration,” says Festival Manager, Jordan Tucker. Daytime schedules feature spring skiing, including a costumed ski fun run culminating in a BBQ with DJ music at Marmot Basin’s mid-mountain chalet. Other winter s