For many, skiing and snowboarding epitomises self-expression and feelings of freedom. for the gay community this is especially important. Over the past four decades, inspired by the Aspen Gay Ski Week in 1977, mountain resorts around the world now compete to host gay ski weeks.
Whistler’s WinterPRIDE in Canada is the longest running event in the resort’s calendar, attracting 3,000 gay and lesbian winter holidaymakers and generating C$9M (€5,8M) for the British Columbia economy. European Gay Ski Week reports that its 1,000 attendees spend 30 per cent more per head than average holidaymakers to Alpe d’Huez in France, while in Austria, Sölden’s Gay Snow Happening is smaller, attracting around 600 gay holiday makers, but still draws €1M to the resort. However, economic benefits aren’t the whole story. Many spectators – heterosexual and homosexual – also attend these events that have many on and off mountain activities, downhill costume contest, pool parties, comedy and burlesque shows, wine and local food tastings and top club brands and DJ talent.
While attending this event at l’Alpe d’Huez this weekend, we had a feel that despite all these fun ski and after-ski activities, ski terrain was number one for the overwhelming majority of attendees and the parties were number two. The country and culture were also factors for them, but it was the different experiences and doing this with ski buddies made at other gay ski weeks. The mountains are all the better for it.