Whistler’s Gay Ski Week Celebrates 20 Years
Yes, the Telus World Ski &Snowboard Festival is legendary and certainly Crankworx turns the Village into a giant party, but neither festival has been around Whistler as long as Whistler’s Gay Ski Week, which celebrates its 20th anniversary this February 5-12.
Formerly known as Altitude and founded by the late Whistler local Brent Benaschak, the festival is now known as GayWhistler’s WInterPRIDE and recently surpassed Aspen Gay Ski Week as the largest Gay ski week in the world. Back in 1992, inaugural year of the now-legendary “Snowball” (the end of week all-night dance party) Gay Ski Week attracted 300 people. Last year it drew over 2,500.
“Whistler has become a favourite playground for the LGBT community in part because of its close proximity to Vancouver, the world class restaurants, spas and hotels, and perhaps more importantly because the resort of Whistler is a safe, welcoming destination for everyone,” says Dean Nelson, owner of Gaywhistler.com and one of the producers of WinterPRIDE.
2012 marks a milestone for Dean and co-producer Ken Coolen, as the Resort Municipality of Whistler extends civic status to the festival marking Feb 5th-12th as Pride Week in Whistler with the first ever official Ski Out/March on Feb 9th. Participants will ski, en-mass, down Whistler Mountain and join pedestrians at the Skier’s Plaza at 3PM for a group march to the Whistler Conference Centre.
Dean says that having a community and municipal government working to ensure diversity is an important part of the fabric of the resort is a key to WinterPRIDE’s success and future. “That interaction with resort guests [and locals] helps to foster an energy that signals to the visitor that Whistler is a place they can be themselves,” he says.
With the rainbow flags flying high, the 8-day event promises to be packed full of sold-out parties and events to keep the LGBT community and friends occupied. Some of my favorites include the pool party at Meadow Park Sports Centre, the Gender Bender at Garfinkels, and the fabulous Snowball party, a local tradition and legend.
Other events range from dance and après parties (the line-up of DJ’s is impeccable), ski guides and snowmobile tours, tubing, skeleton and a plethora of food and wine events. Not to mention the crowning of Mr. Gay Canada on Saturday, February 11 (with special guest appearance by Tyrell Witherspoon!)
GayWhistler’s WinterPRIDE will truly feature something for everyone, (regardless of your skiing abilities) and, for the 20th year in a row, Whistler will be full of smiling gay individuals who truly feel warm and welcomed in an open-minded, inclusive and diverse resort.