Combining the extravagant parties and festive atmosphere of a Pride celebration with unmatched winter scenery and challenging terrain, LGBT ski weeks are popping up at the best-known ski areas across North America. We’ve chosen the following fests for their wide array of activities and their appeal for the girls. The best part about these cool-weather carnivals? You don’t have to be a champion athlete to take part.
Utah Gay Ski Safari, January 4-8, 2012
Two LGBT ski clubs from decidedly warmer climes—SAGA San Diego and the San Francisco-based SAGA North—join Ski Out Utah in sponsoring the second annual Utah Gay Ski Safari, a five-day excursion in the Salt Lake City area. From the home base in the city, skiers and boarders can fan out to four resorts in the region—Alta, Snowbasin, Snowbird and Solitude—which combine for more than 9,000 acres of snow-covered trails and groomed tundra. Alta, a ski-only facility, provides 116 runs for beginners through advanced skiers with a maximum elevation of 10,550 feet, while nearby Snowbasin is home to the Grizzly and Wildflower downhill runs seen in the 2002 Winter Olympics. In addition to its 85 runs and full-service resort amenities, Snowbird’s award-winning Cliff Spa has a menu of 30 treatments administered in a Scandinavian style setting—ideal for post-slalom rejuvenation. Tucked into picturesque Big Cottonwood Canyon, Solitude offers 65 named runs as well as a Nordic Center with 30 kilometers of trails groomed for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. The Utah Gay Ski Safari price per person includes airfare from Oakland to Salt Lake City, four nights at the Sheraton in downtown Salt Lake, a hearty breakfast each morning, transportation to the slopes and four lift tickets. Don’t forget the all-important après ski parties, sponsored by the three clubs and several local watering holes, for socializing. For additional information and tickets, see saganorth.com/events.
Aspen Gay Ski Week, January 15-22, 2012
One of the country’s oldest gay ski weeks celebrates its 35th anniversary in 2012, enticing adventurers to the premier LGBT winter travel event in Colorado. Aspen Gay Ski Week practically originated the formula of world-class winter sports with a nonstop social calendar, and this year’s theme, Aspen through the Years, looks back at this successful recipe. The frosty festival raises money for the Roaring Fork Gay and Lesbian Community Fund (RFGLCF) for LGBT programs in Colorado. Skiers stay at Aspen’s elegant Limelight Lodge and have the choice of zooming down four different area slopes managed by Aspen Skiing Companies: Aspen, Highlands, Snowmass and Buttermilk. But the off-mountain itinerary may be the week’s biggest draw. Group lunches and dinners, late night parties at local gay clubs, drag comedy shows and a downhill costume contest pack the schedule. Don’t miss Boutique Night, a frenzy of late-night retail therapy at downtown Aspen’s coolest shops—the scene at Western outfitter Kemo Sabe could rival Barney’s semi-annual sale. Despite the event’s name, Aspen Gay Ski Week attracts a significant crowd of women (hello, it’s called dining, shopping and Lindsay Vonn lookalikes), so don’t be shy! Passes can be purchased as all-inclusive deals or for a la carte lift tickets, party admission and equipment rental. For more info, see the event’s awesome 70’s themed website at gayskiweek.com.
Winter Rendezvous, January 18-22, 2012
Not all gay ski weeks are out west—Winter Rendezvous has taken over the postcard-perfect village of Stowe, Vermont for the past 27 years. Produced by MJW Adventures, the five-day fest’s headquarters is the Stoweflake Resort and Spa, an AAA four diamond luxury property in the heart of Vermont’s Green Mountains. Passes are available for the entire week, including discounts on lodging, spa services and dining; or a la carte for individual parties, lift tickets and gear rental. Skiers and boarders congregate at the nearby Stowe Mountain Resort for a trip down one of its 116 trails. Catch a gondola transfer between the summit of Spruce Peak and Mt. Mansfield, the state’s highest peak at 4,395 feet. If you’re not the downhill type, try the organized cross-country ski excursion, a snowshoe hike led by Umiak Outdoor Outfitters, or a thrilling dogsled ride courtesy of Stoweflake’s 10 strong Huskies. After hours, relax at a wine and cheese reception (we hear the cheddar is to die for), the comedy show starring Varla Jean Merman and Tom Judson, outdoor hot tub parties or the Back2Basics tea dance with DJs direct from Boston’s Club Café. For additional details, see mjwadventures.com.
WinterPRIDE, February 5-12, 2012
Another legendary LGBT ski event, WinterPRIDE celebrates its 20th anniversary in gay-friendly Whistler, British Columbia at the world-famous Whistler Blackcomb resort. You may recall seeing its twin peaks (Whistler and Blackcomb, of course) at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics’ downhill competitions, where the average snowfall of 33.6 feet per year creates the perfect conditions for hardcore outdoor sports. WinterPRIDE’s producer, GayWhistler .com, chose the elegant Hilton Whistler Resort and Spa as its base camp for the week. From there, snowbirds can tackle the peaks or 99 acres of terrain parks for acrobatic snowboarding, moguls or aerials if you’ve got the guts. Don’t neglect the mountain biking, zipline, snowshoe or heli-skiing facilities. Save a little energy for the full slate of après events for socializing, from martini tastings to comedy showcases to two signature events for the ladies: Purrlesque (Feb 10), a burlesque cabaret; and the massive Shred Betties Bash (Feb 11), the WinterPRIDE closing night party that attracts thousands of women. Women’s passes (cheaper than the guys’ tickets!) are available for full week, midweek and weekend levels from gaywhistler.com.
Telluride Gay Ski Week, February 25-March 3
Code named T-12, this year marks the ninth installment of StraightOut Media & Marketing’s gay ski week in stunning Telluride, Colorado. A fundraising event for the Telluride AIDS Benefit, T-12 ups the luxe factor at the newly chosen host hotel, The Peaks Resort and Spa in the neighboring hamlet of Mountain Village, which boasts indoor and outdoor heated swimming pools, three dining options and the nerve center for the week’s roster of activities. The Telluride Ski Resort provides the 13,000-foot peaks and 2,000 acres of skiable terrain, while local resorts and restaurants offer après events. Highlights of the week’s jam-packed schedule include the inaugural Wig Run, a downhill contest in which skiers wearing homemade headpieces compete for prizes; drag star Nuclia Waste’s Get Wasted! Party; and a charity fashion show for the Telluride AIDS Benefit. Bundled with Telluride’s unpretentious attitude, its charming historical downtown and beautiful location in the shadow of the San Juan Mountains, T-12 draws a fair number of local skiers as well as those from Denver, Albuquerque and points west. Check telluridegayskiweek.com for the latest details.
Ski Bums Women’s Weekend, March 1-4, 2012
City girls hankering for a quick n’ dirty getaway shouldn’t miss the Ski Bums’ annual Women’s Weekend at Okemo and Killington ski resorts in central Vermont, at the edge of the Green Mountain National Forest. A worldwide social club for LGBT skiers and snowboarders, Ski Bums sponsors daytrips and overnighters at the best resorts in North America and Europe, and this Women’s Weekend is the premier girls-only trip of the 2012 season. Stow your gear at the host B&B Good Commons in Plymouth, an eco-conscious charmer with meals prepared by a French Culinary Institute-trained chef. In addition to accommodations, most meals and local carpools, weekend passes include three days of lift tickets with two days at Killington Ski Resort and one at Okemo Resort. Women of all skill levels are welcome to strap on skis and snowboards to test Killington’s six-peak range or Okemo’s 2,220-foot vertical drop, the highest in the region. Unlike other gay ski weeks, this trip focuses on outdoor fun rather than up-all-night ragers, but the social itinerary does include group lunches, après cocktail hours and dinners at the inn. Free time is also built into the schedule. Take a detour to the Plymouth Cheese Factory for a sample of artisan cheeses; founded by the father of our 30th president, it’s part of the Calvin Coolidge State Historic Site. The Women’s Weekend also raises money for Boarding for Breast Cancer, a youth-oriented charity focusing on education and early detection of breast cancer. For more info, see ski-bums.org or b4bc.org.