How to Be a Queer-Friendly Ski Town All Year Round

Mountain communities can support LGBTQ+ skiers beyond Pride celebrations and Gay Ski Weeks—here are the best examples

Photo: Keri Bascetta

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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 après-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.

2. Give Back to the LGBTQ+ Community Financially
Who does it well: AspenOut, which puts on Aspen Gay Ski Week (Jan. 15-22, 2023)

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, Aug. 26-Sept. 4, 2022, 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 Pride Colour Run as well as performances such as Life of a Funny Girl with comedian Anita Wigl’it.

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 a couple summers ago in hopes of connecting her local LGBTQ+ community. Now in its third year, the small town pride festival features a parade, local speakers, yoga, a drag show, and a funky dance party. It takes place this weekend on June 18, 2o22.

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.

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 takes place on July 23, 2o22 with 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.

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