As you stroll along Commercial Street or head out to Race Point on your bike, wearing nothing but your bathing suit, chances are the last thing on your mind is snow. In fact, if you were around here this past winter, snow is something you may be trying to forget. But come this winter, snow will be a welcome sight, especially for those of you who enjoy skiing. And when you think of skiing, Aspen, Colorado, is just about the pinnacle of ski destinations in the U.S.
“Aspen is a great small town, a liberal town,” says Jim Guttau, who handles public relations for Aspen Gay Ski Week.
Aspen Gay Ski Week, which turns 39 this January, is the oldest of the growing crop of gay ski events in the U.S. Started in response to discrimination faced by a group of local and tourist gay men back in 1976, the event has become something everyone looks forward to in Aspen.
“I’ve been to other gay ski weeks and some of the other cities don’t embrace the event the way they do here,” Guttau explains. “All the city lampposts have rainbow flags on them; it’s really amazing to see at the actual events, there are locals there, not just Ski Week visitors.”
Not the greatest skier? That’s okay. Aspen Gay Ski Week is full of a whole range of fun activities amid the breathtaking beauty of Colorado’s mountains. Snowshoeing, ice skating, and snowmobiling are some other outdoor activities to enjoy here, as well as Aspen’s famous luxury spas and great downtown shopping. The Ski Week itself hosts parties just about every night as well as a few key events that happen every year. And for those who are concerned about getting lost in the 4,000 acres of ski area, Ski Week offers ski guides to go with you and keep you on track and in one piece.
Traditionally, Ski Week has had a phenomenal pool party on the Saturday night and on Friday, Guttau says, “the whole city of Aspen shuts down for lunch to watch the Downhill Costume Contest, and everyone goes. They have tables reserves and probably upwards of 1,000 people—of all ages—everyone embraces it. One year I had a woman who was 92 years old come, kids come…”
But there’s always something new at Aspen, like their comedy showcase, which features a top standup comedian (“We always want to have a top comedian… doesn’t have to be gay,” Guttau says). And if you’re missing Provincetown, good news: Miss Richfield 1981 performs every year at Aspen, as well!
Guttau recommends you start thinking about Ski Week now even though it doesn’t happen until January 17 – 24, 2016, because the host hotel, Limelight Hotel, and other area lodging options will fill up fast this fall as everyone books their vacations. He also says there is currently a special pass you can only purchase for a limited time called the Blind Date Pass, which gets you into all the events for just $250, a price that will go up significantly later in the year when the full lineup of events is revealed.
All of the money raised from Ski Week goes to a nonprofit organization called AspenOUT, which has programming to help the GLBT community and youth, as well as giving grants to other GLBT organizations in the area.
“Aspen may have that ritzy, celebrity reputation, but it’s still down home; it’s the best of both worlds,” says Guttau.
For more information about Aspen Gay Ski Week visit gayskiweek.com.