One of the newer gay ski events, Tellruide is developing a hip reputation
Skiing is one of the pricier athletic hobbies around. Take into account the four-cornered necessities of mountains, thick powder, trails and chairlifts none of which you’ll ever find in North Texas and it’s clear why skiing is a true destination sport: You can’t bring the mountain to Mohammed.
Add the cost of air fare, lift tickets, equipment rental, lessons and lodging, and few average Americans (other than those who live in mountain ranges) think of skiing as a daily or even weekend undertaking, something you can do as an alternative to cycling or a trip to the gym.
But that’s also part of its appeal. Skiing is event entertainment on a grand scale: athleticism mixed with hot-dogging and flamboyance, an opportunity for the fashion-conscious to pull out the stops, and in the right circumstances a great time to party and let loose. And there’s no better way to make the most of your vacation than by going to a gay ski week.
For sometime, gay skiing events have offered queer snowbunnies a chance to have fun on the slopes. Aspen Gay and Lesbian Ski Week, which begins Sunday, has been around for 29 years. But the last decade has seen real growth, with at least five new North American ski weeks.
One of them, Telluride’s Gay Ski Week, is entering its third year with a reputation for appealing to adult gay and lesbian travelers who are as interested in fine dining as they are in large, electric parties. (It runs Feb. 26 to March 5.)
Telluride is a cozy and remote little town in southwestern Colorado full of Old Western charm but touched with a hip, edgy sophistication similar to a European resort. Its ski week is unpretentious but loads of fun.
Getting there is half the fun. Located about 90 minutes south of Montrose, Telluride is surrounded by several peaks of about 13,000 feet in the San Juan mountain range. The drive to Telluride cuts through a valley with towering peaks on both sides, with lots of changes in elevation along the way (expect multiple ear-pops).
Keep an eye out for Ralph Lauren’s 19,000-acre ranch (surrounded by a seven-mile long wooden fence) as well as golden and bald eagles roosting in the treetops outside town.
Mountain Village, opened in 1987, serves as base camp for access to the slopes. It’s perched above the town of Telluride, which from above looks like a Bavarian village, but which in reality is fairly cosmopolitan. It was the first city in the world to be electrified (in 1983, a year before Paris), and has a friendly ski-bum attitude: “Live and let live, dude.”
There are numerous lodging opportunities, most within walking distance or which offer convenient shuttles. Mountain Lodge Resort is an attractive, accessible option with lovely details and a homey central room, and the Franz Klammer Lodge, named for the famed skier, has many fans who revel in its luxurious accommodations.
For those who don’t ski often enough to have their own gear, there’s no shortage of ski- and snowboard-rental shops in both Mountain Village and Telluride. Expect to pay $150 per day for boots and skis. There are 84 trails, almost evenly mixed among beginner, intermediate and expert skill levels.
Those who don’t like to get on skis shouldn’t miss the chance to rent a snowmobile for the ride of a lifetime. Mobiles are available for couples or singles (about $100 for several hours, plus a tip for the guide). Don’t think of smowmobiling as a cop-out it’s not an activity for the timid. You get quite a workout without the uncomfortable footwear as the mobiles travel up steep inclines, along narrow passages, through dense, pristine forests and along historic paths (through Alta, a ghost town that was a mining community in the late 1800s). The trip is one magnificent vista after another. It’s not to be missed.
So much activity is sure to whet the appetite, and Telluride is richly blessed with excellent everyday and once-in-a-lifetime dining options.
If you’re looking for a nice lunch between runs, check out the Skiers Union Cafe, which offers a variety of specialty burgers, some with additions like applewood smoked bacon and avocado. For a Swiss Alps-like experience, consider stopping at an outdoor kiosk that sells a variety of crepes, both savory (cheese, ham, mushroom) and sweet (chocolate, banana, raspberry).
For more substantial dining after a day’s skiing, take at least one day to visit Allred’s at the top of the free gondola that connects Telluride with Mountain Village. This four-star restaurant looking over the town of 3,200 has cuisine as breathtaking as the scenery. Try the foie gras, the yam ravioli and the heavenly chocolate gateau with a prune reduction if you can (the chef changes out the menu daily).
During the rest of the week, try one of the many great, more casual joints in town. (The gondola travels between Station St. Sophia in town and Mountain Village in about 10 minutes.) Concina de Luz, an authentic Mexican dinner, serves delicious pesole in a big bowl, as well as yummy soft tacos and chile rellenos. Wildflour, a small bistro and bar, boasts a fun crowd and specialty drinks.
For homier fare, Fat Alley features Carolina pulled-pork-shoulder barbecue and hickory-smoked beef, plus a great peach cobbler. It’s terrific and cheap, and known as a local delight (if you go during peak hours, expect to wait). If you want a drink after dinner, cross the street and walk into the hip Noir Bar.
When you’re done eating and swooshing around the mountain, one of the real appeals of a gay ski week comes to light: The chance to party with likeminded gays and lesbians.
Events scheduled for this year’s week in Telluride include a Mardi Gras celebration as well as parties most night (including a tubing party that speeds you down the slope in a rubber innertube). Dallas-based filmmaker Kelli Herd will be on hand to present a special anniversary screening of her film “It’s in the Water,” and the 13th annual Telluride AIDS Benefit takes place on Saturday
The final night of the event falls the same day as the Academy Awards, so of course there’s an Oscar Watching Party the perfect way to bid farewell to your gay skiing getaway.
GAY SKI WEEKS IN 2006
Aspen Gay & Lesbian Ski Week, Aspen, Colo. Through Jan. 22. The granddaddy of gay ski weeks, it’s been around since 1977. Gayskiweek.com.
Altitude, Whistler, British Columbia, Canada. Feb. 4-13. Includes nightly parties (the biggest are Avalanche and the Snowball with major D.J.s). www.outontheslopes.com.
Vail Gay & Lesbian Ski Week, Vail, Colo. Fe. 4-11. Several different mountains are singled out each day.
Meltdown Gay Black Ski Week, Denver. Feb. 17-20. Skiing takes place at nearby Winter Park. www.denvermeltdown.com.
Ascent: The Winter Party at Lake Tahoe, Lake Tahoe, Nev. Feb. 26-March 5. Queer comics Judy Gold and Scott Kennedy will be performing all week, and a drag queen ski contest, pictured. www.ascentlaketahoe.com.
Telluride Gay Ski Week, Telluride, Colo. Feb. 26-March 5. The annual Telluride AIDS Benefit and an Oscar party are highlights. www.telluridegayskiweek.com.
Winter Explosion, Ker-honkson, N.Y. Feb.17-20. Targeted to queer African-Americans, the highlight is live performance by Faith. www.winterexplosion.com.
Lake Tahoe WinterFest Gay & Lesbian Ski Week, Lake Tahoe, Ne. March 5-12. RuPaul is scheduled to perform. www.laketahoewinterfest.com.
Powder and Pride Gay and Lesbian Ski Weekend, Panorama, British Columbia, Canada. March 24-26. Second year of event. www.ubproductions.com.
OutBoard, Keystone, Colo. April 5-9. This event is targeted to gay snowboarders. www.outboard.org.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition of January 20, 2006.