Attending an LGBTQ+ ski week celebration gives visitors a brief look into what a mountain town would look like if Lady Bunny was mayor and Jack Frost was her trusty advisor. During the festivities, rivers of rainbow flags parade down ski slopes, go-go dancers dressed as yetis gyrate to bass-heavy apres-ski DJ sets. Most importantly, life-long friendships are formed—something many queer skiers never believed possible in the ski community.
While Pride Month and Gay Ski Week festivities happen all over the world from rural Maine to Hakuba, Japan, there are many ways for ski towns to extend their support of the LGBTQ+ community beyond gay ski weeks.
1. Fly a Pride Flag Year Round
Who does it well: Arosa, Switzerland, which hosts Arosa Gay Ski Week
Yup, we mean literally. Arosa is one of the most queer-friendly ski resorts in Europe and is well-known for proudly flying the rainbow flag all year long—not just for its famous week-long Gay Ski Week. The rainbow flag is a symbol that shows respect for the LGBTQ+ community and is a small but powerful message of acceptance to queer locals and visitors.
A 2016 study showed that the symbol of the pride rainbow was a useful tool for navigating social and physical surroundings and helped form “positive feelings about themselves, different communities and their futures.” It is a wonderful addition to the ones that already host LGBTQ+ events.
While some LGBTQ+ ski weeks are for-profit, the first and longest-running gay ski week, Aspen Gay Ski Week, is a massive fundraiser for the Roaring Fork Gay and Lesbian Community Fund—aka AspenOut. The long-running event draws over 5,000 participants every year to amass funds for the nonprofit to put on year-round community events, sponsor local high school Gay-Straight Alliances, give grants and scholarships, and more. Telluride Gay Ski Week is another event that gives back with their annual AIDS Benefit Gala Fashion Show that raises money for HIV and AIDS education, care, and advocacy in Colorado and several countries in Africa.
3. Organize Diverse Programming During LGBTQ+ Ski Weeks
Who Does it Well: Queenstown, New Zealand which hosts Queenstown Winter Pride
Many queer ski weeks are beginning to offer event programming for a more diverse set of attendees after years of events catering specifically to gay, cisgender men. Queenstown Pride is a 10-day long festival featuring on and off-mountain events in “the adventure capital of the world.”
Throughout the event, there are parties specifically for queer female-identifying attendees as well as free cocktail events for trans attendees and allies. On top of offering events for many within the LGBTQ+ acronym, Queenstown Pride also puts on events that welcome families like their free 5k Park Run as well as a free dog fashion show called, “Woof! The Rainbow Dog Show” that will entertain the entire family.
4. Host Pride Events Designed for Locals
Who Does it Well: Avon, Colorado who hosts Eagle County’s Pride in the Park
Sensing a serious lack of queer representation and events in Eagle County, Britny Rose launched Eagle County Pride in the Park last summer in hopes of connecting her local LGBTQ+ community. Now in its second year, the small town pride festival features a parade, local speakers, yoga, a drag show, and a funky dance party.
This year’s event organizers plan to bring a more queer-oriented program to the valley throughout the year, but like many small ski town LGBTQ+ organizations, they need help from local sponsors to make it a reality. One of the organizers for this year’s event, Matt Ortiz, voiced to the Vail Daily that one of the main reasons the event was being put on was to support and celebrate the queer youth of Eagle County.
5. Get TAG Approved Lodging
Who Does it Well: Whistler Blackcomb who hosts Whistler Pride and Ski Festival
The Travel Advocacy Group (TAG) is a collection of hundreds of hotels around the world that meet strict qualifications to support queer travelers and hotel employees. Launched in 1998 by the International LGBTQ+ Travel Association (IGLTA), TAG properties enforce non-discriminatory policies and provide diversity, equity, and inclusion training to their staff.
Whistler hosts six-approved TAG properties including Aava Whistler and Evolution Lodge. Ensuring all hotel staff receive adequate LGBTQ+ training and have anti-discrimination policies is an important step for ski towns looking to welcome LGBTQ+ guests. Resorts committed to improving their properties will employ similar DEI training, support, and education to their employees across their entire resorts from lifties to upper management.
6. Build Year-Round Programming (Not Just Parties) for Your Local Community
Who Does it Well: Lake Tahoe Pride and Northern Nevada Pride
Lake Tahoe Pride and the greater Tahoe community help organize numerous events throughout the calendar year with the many different towns and resorts across the Lake Tahoe region. In winter, events like Homewood Mountain Resort’s Pride Ride feature on and off-slope events including their exciting ‘Dual Slalom Drag Race’ and ski parade down Rainbow Ridge.
Last summer during the pandemic, the South Tahoe Running Team put together a virtual running race called the Loop of Love to raise money for the Lake Tahoe Pride Equality Scholarship for local LGBTQ+ students. In the spring, film festivals like Reno’s OutWest Film Fest pass through town.
This summer, Northern Nevada Pride reconvenes after last year’s virtual Pride event for a large parade and lively festival. On top of the seasonal programming in the area, Reno also has a small handful of LGBTQ+ bars and nightclubs that offer weekly events, like the Drag Bingo! at The Emerson Bar.