Queer the slopes

Winter resorts welcome gay skiers all season long, but many plan specific gay ski weeks that appeal to every taste

SNOW BEAR?  |  Elevation, the gay ski week in Mammoth, Calif., celebrates its 10th annual event — which, if anything like last year’s (above), will be cold and hot.

SNOW BEAR? | Elevation, the gay ski week in Mammoth, Calif., celebrates its 10th annual event — which, if anything like last year’s (above), will be cold and hot.

ARNOLD WAYNE JONES
Life+Style Editor

jones@dallasvoice.com

There are some notable anniversaries among the gay ski weeks this season — Aspen turns 35, and Mammoth celebrates a decade — but queer skiers have plenty of choices, starting right after New Year’s and extending into April. The Shoot the Butte extravaganza from last year won’t be back (too bad! Read about Crested Butte in Dallas Voice soon), but from Canada to Colorado, Utah to Vermont and over to California, skiing to snowboarding, choose your favorite.

• Utah Gay & Lesbian Ski Week, Park City, Utah. Jan. 4–8. The season kicks off, as always, in the home of the Sundance Film Festival. Gayskiing.org.

• Aspen Gay & Lesbian Ski Week, Aspen, Colo. Jan. 15–22. The forerunner of gay ski weeks brands itself “Through the Years” this year, with the retro look of ’70s porn in its marketing materials (the ski week began in the 1970s; this is its 35th annual event). It truly is a weeklong event, starting with an opening party, continuing with the Downhill Costume Contest and wrapping up with a pool party, with parties like Demented Divas, Boutique Night and Late Night at Hunter Bar thrown in. GaySkiWeek.com.

• Winter Rendezvous XXVIII, Stowe, Vt. Jan. 18–23. Competing directly with Aspen — albeit on the opposite side of the country — is Winter Rendezvous in Stowe, Vt. The 28th outing includes performances by DJ Harrison, the team of Amy and Freddy and drag diva Varla Jean Merman. Winterrendezvous.com.

• WinterPride, Whistler, British Columbia, Canada. Feb. 5–12. Whistler’s big annual ski week bounced back to a week later than last year for its 20th party where Queernadians are joined by their neighbors to the south (that’s us). Comedian Jason Stuart hosts a comedy night, DJ Ted Eiel will be there for the Furrocious party, for bear lovers and Manny Lehman spins the closing night Snowball Dance. GayWhistler.com.

• Telluride Gay Ski Week, Telluride, Colo. Feb. 25–March 3. Named the U.S.A.’s top gay ski week by Gay.com, the Mountain Village event is back with T-12. Events include the Wig Run, the Telluride AIDS Benefit fashion show (and several preview parties). American Airlines, the official airline for Telluride Gay Ski Week, offers directs from DFW to Montrose, plus a discount code (9121BB) when booking at AA.com/rainbow. TellurideGaySkiWeek.com.

• Elevation Mammoth X: Gay Ski Week, Mammoth Lakes, Calif. March 14–18. For the milestone 10th party, Elevation welcomes a string of DJs, including Brynn Taylor, Beau Dasher, Drew G, Josh Peace and DJ Pornstar at some of the nine scheduled parties. The big closing party Avalanche features headliner Roland Belmares. MammothGaySki.com.

• OutBoard Gay and Lesbian Snowboard Week, Steamboat Springs, Colo. March 27–April 1. OutBoard is unique among gay skiing events: It changes out its location every year or so. Not a bad idea — it caters to snowboarders, who are always looking for new challenges. Events planned for the 17th annual winter wonderland include an opening night cocktail party and western-style hoedown. Yee-haw! OutBoard.org.

• Vail Gay Ski Week, Vail, Colo. Dates not yet announced. Vail is excitedly touting its next ski week in 2012, but as of press time, the dates hadn’t been released (last year it was March 30–April 3, though the previous year, it was in late January). Keep an eye on VailGaySkiWeek.com for updates (and we’ll follow up on the website as soon as we learn anything concrete).

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition November 25, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens

Boards, BOYS & beers: Man, nature are in accord at Whistler’s gay ski week event WinterPRIDE

HILLS ARE ALIVE | Even a fab party schedule shouldn’t keep you off the slopes at WinterPRIDE.

NICK VIVION  | Contributing Travel Writer
gaytravel.com

Moments after arriving at the Whistler resort in Canada, I find myself walking down the main drag in a harness, with straps dangling and my crotch scrunched up in a tidy triangle. Boys are staring at me as I walk down Skiers Approach towards the slopes.

“Who knew that I would be in a harness so fast,” I joke, marking the official start of my WinterPride.

The First Nations peoples in Whistler have a striking moniker for their traditional home: Where mountains, rivers and people meet. That’s an apt description not only of the British Columbia region but also of WinterPRIDE, one of North America’s largest and longest-running gay ski weeks.

WinterPRIDE celebrates the intersections of nature and people in the gay community, providing a solid base of parties and events to whet the appetite of even the most avid circuit partier or event-monger. On top of this base, just like the fresh powder that falls on the mountains here regularly, the organizers have layered a multitude of experiences that shake things up and allow gays to meet in contexts beyond nightlife.

The dual mountains of Whistler and Blackcomb are the anchors of Whistler Village, the two omnipresent elders watching over their flock. The Lower Village is home to the majority of the shops and restaurants, while the Upper Village is mostly the higher-end resorts and hotels.

The town itself is small, with a permanent population of roughly 10,000. There is also an army of seasonal workers who man chairlifts, cash registers and guide positions for the many activities.

The Whistler Blackcomb resort spans the largest skiable acreage of any resort on the continent, so it’s no surprise that WinterPRIDE is a marquee event for the area, bringing in gay men and women from all over the world to take advantage of the fabulous terrain. In addition, the breadth of the resort affords non-boarders an abundance of activities to stoke any passion.

So, back to the harness: Nothing really gay about it; we are simply going ziplining.

Whistler’s Ziptrek has one of North America’s original zip courses, and one of the best. The guides are well-spoken and passionate about conversing on issues affecting the area, which is one of the last remaining temperate rainforests on earth.

There is nothing quite like zooming along at high speeds, hands-free and spinning, watching the winter wonderland of babbling brooks, snow-capped stones and stately pine trees laid out.

There’s a sensuality to a week in B.C., and not just because it is gay ski week. The bonding over physical activity in a locale remote from everyone’s comfort zones allows for significant connections among gay travelers, as well as between nature and man.

After an active day on the mountain, there were plenty of après-ski events: A comedy night, a pool party, a drag party, a bear party, downhill ski races, dog sledding, brewery tours and more.

The apex of Whistler’s WinterPRIDE lineup is Saturday night’s Snowball. The party goes on until the sky lightens, revealing the soft outline of the towering peaks of Whistler Blackcomb Mountains. The party thins out after the booze stops around 3 a.m., but the remaining crowd is full-tilt.

WinterPRIDE turns 20 in 2012, and the Snowball is the centerpiece for the festivities. This year, a robust performance lineup, combined with an impressive conversion of the Whistler Conference Center into a nightclub to make it a hit, with DJ Eddie Baez grinding out his signature tribal-
inflected beats and keeping the crowd moving.

As we wandered out in a daze, the morning was settling in and the WinterPRIDE week was coming to a close. Staggering to bed, it was going to be a sleep-in kind of morning — even if a fluffy layer of powder was glistening, beckoning for some fresh tracks.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition March 25, 2011.

—  John Wright

The grand ol’ après ski

You don’t need to be a devout snowbunny to enjoy a mountain ski vacation, as a trip to Beaver Creek, Colo., proves

ARNOLD WAYNE JONES  | Life+Style Editor jones@dallasvoice.com

WALK ON THE WILD SIDE | A snowshoe hike is one way to get exercise in the mountains. (Arnold Wayne Jones/Dallas Voice)

Almost everyone can enjoy a summer by the beach: Even if you can’t swim, you can still look good in a Speedo by the pool or on the sand, thread your toes through the surf, sip cocktails and slather on the cocoa butter while working on your tan.

Yet those who can’t ski (or can’t ski well — and trust me, I’m in that category) tend to avoid the mountains during the winter. Add to that the proliferation of gay ski weeks out there, and the cold months can seem lonely, too.

But the winter deserves equal time for the talentless athletes among us. A snow-topped crag isn’t just for skiing down — it can be a social setting as easily as a pool party. So forget about skiing — it’s après skiing that we’re looking forward to this season.

Colorado’s Beaver Creek is an excellent location for doing ski-ish stuff without actual ski-ing. Just down the road from Vail (and accessible through a direct flight from DFW), this is a lesser-known Rocky Mountain resort, but it offers countless opportunities for a winter wonderland vacation. And leave those bulky boots at home.

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Outdoors

Consider a swim in the Westin Riverfront’s outdoor heated pool. (Arnold Wayne Jones/Dallas Voice)

Like most ski resort areas, Beaver Creek is centered around a base of lift chairs clogged with hotels, boutiques and restaurants. Just walking around the village requires you to bundle up and you can sweat up a storm, but you can plan your exercise, too. Have the hotel concierge set you up at the Beaver Creek Nordic Center, where you can book cross-country skiing adventures or better yet, a guided tour on snowshoes.

Don’t be fooled: Snowshoeing is an exhausting workout; going from an elevation of 9,800 to 10,000 feet on foot takes a lot out of you, but the exercise and scenery are both incomparable. Guide Alex Spaeth makes the trek fun and educational and will stop to allow photos and let you blaze your own trail. Halfway through the tour, you can take a breather at a yurt for a big lunch in totally unfancy digs but with awesome views of the Gore Range Mountains.

Tubing is less physically taxing than snowshoeing, but just as much fun. The staff here place you in an inner tube and hurl you down a bunny slope at surprising speeds. In Vail, about 45 minutes away, you can also rent a snowmobile for a few hours and tour the backwoods, which works out a lot of muscles as well.

Even if you don’t want exercise, you can always buy a lift ticket just to enjoy a 10-minute ride to the top of the mountain (it’s prosaically majestic) and there’s a complimentary Riverfront Express lift for some bird’s-eye viewing of the town. In fact, the Centennial Express Lift is accessible to non-skiers who just wanna go to lunch at the huge cafeteria Spruce Saddle, which you can follow with a performance at the Crystal Grotto. This unique concert hall is remade every year, carved entirely out of ice: The seats, the ceiling, even the musical instruments. Talk about cool jazz.

You might not think to bring a bathing suit to the mountains, but you should: The Westin Riverfront Resort at the foot of the mountain is a fabulous, modern facility that offers an outdoor Olympic-size, heated swimming pool and hot tubs.

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Indoors

MOUNTAIN FOOD | The cuisine throughout Beaver Creek, including the 1800 Mountainside Grill at the Park Hyatt, is exquisite.

You can stay inside at the Westin, too, especially if you want to squeeze in a workout. The trainers at the Riverfront Club (a well-equipped co-ed gym) will tailor a regimen to suit your needs (and adjust it to the thinner atmosphere), then give you a written assessment to continue your exercise on your own. That can help you justify a therapeutic sports massage at the hotel’s Spa Anjali, a soothing, full-service day spa that cocoons you in comfort away from the snow.

Of course, just walking up stairs can leave you short of breath and that altitude plays havoc with your sleep patterns and digestion — especially when you partake in alcohol and rich food. And you’ll want to partake at the Westin’s Avondale restaurant. It enjoyed a $2 million renovation, with more than half spent on the spacious modern kitchen. The style of cooking is reminiscent of Craft — fresh, local/organic cuisine in a cozy setting. The foie gras torchon on gingerbread with blood orange was lovely, as was the falls-off-the-bone lamb shank and totally yummy apple croissant bread pudding.

There are other great places in town to eat, as well. Vin 48 is a buzzy restaurant and wine bar with tons of by-the-glass options. The antipasti platter, at only $11, is a steal, with selections composed by the chef daily: cheese, dates, chutneys, raisins, salmon on potato galettes, chicken confit on a risotto cake and could this be the best carrot cake ever? Yeah, pretty much. The space is dark and romantic but bristling with conversation.

For more affordable mountainside accommodations, The Osprey is convenient, clean and cozy with a nightly happy hour and breakfast buffet but no in-house restaurant. That’s a perfect excuse to combine your dining with some adventure with a trip to Beano’s Cabin. Open only during the winter, this spacious lodge at 9,500 feet is accessible only by a snowcat trip up the darkened mountain in 18-degree chill. For that kind of suffering, the food better be worth it. It is.

SNOWCAT  STRUT | The Crystal Grotto hall re-made every winter totally out of ice, including all of the musical instruments. (Arnold Wayne Jones/Dallas Voice)

Kick off the meal with a copper pot filled with tomato-basil soup, followed by a bite-sized salad, before the chef lets loose with seared tuna, rabbit liver wrapped in pancetta with tomato coulis and an exquisite duck confit with huckleberry gastrique. The meats are fantastic and earthy: Elk, buffalo and of course Colorado lamb, but the New York strip kobe is heavenly (and very expensive).

8100 Mountainside Grill at the Park Hyatt is also just off a major redo. Its six-foot grill in the open-air kitchen looks out on the slopes and serves surprisingly good Colorado wines paired with a roasted beet salad, scallops (wow!) and filet mignon and buffalo strip.

The Park Hyatt is a mammoth facility and positively gorgeous with luxe rooms and services. A treatment at the Allegria Spa is accompanied by a beverage and a relaxing tour of the baths and relaxation rooms. Try the foot relief massage — even for non-skiers, your dogs will thank you for it. Who knew sitting inside a lodge drinking alpines could be so exhausting?

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 3, 2010.

—  Michael Stephens

Queering up the slopes

A new gay ski event joins winter wonderlands already catering to gay sportsmen (and chill partiers)

ARNOLD WAYNE JONES  | Life+Style Editor jones@dallasvoice.com

SHOOT THE BUTTE | Crested Butte, Colo., is home to two gay winter events next year: OutBoard and the inaugural Matthew Shepard Gay Ski Week.

The landscape of gay ski weeks is changing faster than the view from a waxed Telemark swooshing down a double black diamond.

The African-American-centric Winter Explosion enjoyed its last slalom earlier this year, but there’s a new gay ski week founded in conjunction with the Matthew Shepard Foundation — and it’s closer by! And some of the big ones changed their dates in a big way.

Of course, there are many more reachable resorts that don’t have gay ski weeks per se (read about some next week in the Voice), but here are the ones that plan entire weeks around getting queer skiers (and just people who like to cuddle up in the lodge with a furry fellow) to hit their slopes.

Utah Gay & Lesbian Ski Week, Park City, Utah. Jan. 5–9. The season kicks off, as always, in the home of the Sundance Film Festival. Gayskiing.org.

Aspen Gay & Lesbian Ski Week, Aspen, Colo. Jan. 16–23. The 34th annual granddaddy of gay ski weeks brands itself the Wild Wild West this year, and all we have to say is, yee-haw! Dallas-based comedian Paul J. Williams returns to host the Drag Downhill comedy night and performs with Emmy winner Leslie Jordan. GaySkiWeek.com.

Winter Rendezvous XXV, Stowe, Vt. Jan. 19–23. For those who prefer the powder of the Northeast,  Winter Rendezvous returns to the home of U.S.-based gay marriage — Vermont — for its 27th outing. Comedienne Shawn Pelofsky, who recently stopped by the Rose Room, headlines. Winterrendezvous.com.

WinterPride, Whistler, British Columbia, Canada. Jan. 30–Feb. 6. Earlier this year, WinterPride got bumped later in the season because of the Winter Olympics (a fair trade — one town can only handle so much gay at one time), but it’s back to early in the season for the 19th annual party where Queernadians are joined by their Anglo-Gringo supports across the border for this skier and snowboarder party. DJs like hot bear Ted Eiel keep the fun going. GayWhistler.com.

Telluride Gay Ski Week, Telluride, Colo. Feb. 26–March 6. Named the U.S.A.’s top gay ski week by Gay.com, the Mountain Village event is back with T-11. Returning to the party are The A-List’s Reichen Lehmkuhl, who will hosting the pool party Wet, and dragcomedy legends the Kinsey Sicks. (Big  news for the Dallas-based traveler: A new nonstop direct flight on American from DFW to Montrose/Telluride Airport.) TellurideGaySkiWeek.com.

Lake Tahoe WinterFest Gay & Lesbian Ski Week, Lake Tahoe, Nev. March 6–12. Organizers insist WinterFest XVI is on the calendar for the first weekend in March, though no details have been released yet. LakeTahoeWinterfest.com.

Mammoth Gay Ski Week, Mammoth Lakes, Calif. March 16–20. Not that boarders aren’t welcome everywhere, but for the biggest gay ski event in California, you just know they are gonna turn out in droves. The 9th annual event kicks off with DJ Josh Peace (who also hosts The Party @ 10,000 Feet) and yummy DJ Escape spinning at the Avalanche party. MammothGaySki.com.

Shoot the Butte (Matthew Shepard Gay Ski Week), Crested Butte, Colo. March 19–26. The newcomer to this year’s ski family is both an ambitious party and a benefit for the murdered teen’s foundation. Reichen pulls double duty (here and in Telluride) with an appearance, and there will be daily skier “hook ups” (meet-and-mixers), a pub crawl and several late dance parties. Be the first to check out this one.  MatthewShepardGaySkiWeek.com.

OutBoard Gay and Lesbian Snowboard Week, Crested Butte, Colo. March 29–April 3. If you like Shoot the Butte, why not just hang around a few days — OutBoard begins just three days later. (In the last three years, it has moved from Crested Butte to Steamboat Springs to Breckenridge and back again to CB this year). You don’t need to snowboard, either — there are ice-skating and wall climbing adventures to be had as well. OutBoard.org.

Vail Gay Ski Week, Vail, Colo. March 30–April 3. Vail, which this year had its event in late January, bumped it two months into the late winter, capping off the gay ski season. This version brings back the Vail Splash Club hot tub and pool party as well as the beer bust and daily après ski socials. VailGaySkiWeek.com.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition November 26, 2010.

—  Michael Stephens