“Skiing is too swell to talk about,” said a character in Ernest Hemingway’s short story “Cross-Country Snow” as he bonded with his pal, Nick Adams, the two of them getting drunk on wine high up in a little Swiss hut. Although the two skiers were (from a queer reading) never able to acknowledge their feelings for one another in a bygone era, they are a reminder that we are lucky to live in a world full of resorts embracing queer clientele and to have professional skiers out of the closet, on their way to the 2018 Olympics.
But, you do not have to be an Olympian to schuss and huck, be stoked for pow, or hit the fun box with steeze. There are hundreds of resorts (as well as the stunning back and side country pockets) spread across the Northern Hemisphere from the French Alps to the long spine of the American Rockies. Though the upcoming season’s snowfall is not predicted to match last year’s insane pack (which dumped up to fifteen feet of snow on the Sierra Nevada in seven days and set depth records at Wyoming’s Jackson Hole) the season’s current La Niña weather pattern offers a promising forecast of snow predicted to blanket the peaks of western North America throughout the season.
Skiing in the past has been an expensive endeavor, but in recent years has become more approachable with corporate passes covering multiple resorts around North America (and the world.) The two competing passes are the Epic Pass and the Mountain Collective. Both allow skiers to get plenty of days on the mountain for a great price (as many ski resorts now charge over $150 for a day pass). And for queer skiers, every one of the nineteen (and counting) gay ski events offer discounted prices on lift tickets and rentals for their attendees.
There are many ways to go about the ski season, all dependent upon your experience and geography. Below are three itineraries for the die-hard, the social shredder, and the vacationer highlighting our favorite queer-friendly resort towns, accommodations, and events.
Vail’s Expansive Blue Sky Basin.
Experienced skiers looking to truly send are stoked on the Epic Pass for its unlimited days of skiing. Its $899 price tag is steep but allows access to sixteen resorts including some of North America’s biggest like British Columbia’s Whistler Blackcomb, Utah’s Park City, and Colorado’s Vail. The pass is best for skiers favoring Colorado’s champagne powder, the smorgasbord of Tahoe Valley’s resorts, the deep temerity of Whistler, as well as those looking to extend their ski season into the southern hemisphere winter with access to Australia’s Perisher.
Whistler, British Columbia.
The Epic Pass can also be used to access one of the biggest gay ski weeks, Whistler’s Pride and Ski Festival now in its 26th year. The international gay ski week takes place the last week of January and puts a strong emphasis on skiing and snowboarding. It’s a high energy week to meet other shredders, outdoor enthusiasts, and other adventurous queers. Nightly dance parties and daily apres ski events add to the excitement but don’t distract from the skiing as many retire early for long days on the slopes.
When the die-hard wants to take it a little easier, they can check out Park City (the third biggest resort in North America) by day and entertain themselves at night alongside the stars at the world-renowned Sundance Film Festival during the last week of January to see the year’s best independent films.
The Social Shredder
Contrary to popular belief, you actually can have it all. The Mountain Collective is like a flight of from your favorite brewery giving you a tasting of sixteen resorts across North America, as well as New Zealand’s Coronet Peak and The Remarkables, which hosts Gay Ski Week Queenstown, the southern hemisphere’s only gay ski event chock full of the friendliest Kiwis and Aussies you’ve ever met.
At $489 the Mountain Collective is the best pass for Mr. Social because it gives him two days at each resort for thirty-two days of skiing while overlapping with five gay ski weeks, allowing buyers to spend their winter exploring the world’s best mountains at their most queer-friendly times. The pass has two days at any of the four Aspen Resorts perfect for Aspen Gay Ski Week, the world’s longest running premier ski week, now celebrating its 41st year. The week is infused with mountain top drag shows with favorites from RPDR All Stars, an epic indoor pool party complete with waterslide, and advanced skiing with short lines.
Other gay ski weeks overlapping with the Mountain Collective are Telluride Gay Ski Week, which is a smaller event but is hosted in one of the most stunning mountain towns in North America that has kept its original charm. Elevation: Mammoth draws Angelinos and Bay Area boarders for a weekend of revelry that is heavier on the partying, than the skiing, with the feel of a West Hollywood bar, relocated a couple hundred miles north. And lastly, with Alta, Snowbird, and Snow Basin on the pass, skiers can shuttle from the Salt Lake City area resorts to the events of Elevation: Utah in Park City.
You, a fire, some tight fitting long johns, spiked hot chocolate, and a hot tub after some sick turns. Sendddd itttt. For longer stays devoted to skiing and nights in rather than out, there are handsome opportunities for relaxation while in the mountains, all without the temptation of nightlife. There are two ways to go about it, with a tour company, or plan your own vacation to at a popular queer-friendly town.
For those looking to join a group vacation, either with friends or solo, sign up with SkiBums “The World’s Largest Club of LGBTQ Skiers and Snowboarders.” The club organizes overnight vacations across the world in unique locations like Niseko, Japan (one of the snowiest resorts in the world) and St. Anton, Austria with options for back and side country. For beginners, they also accommodate day trips and meetups across the East and West Coast of the U.S. Check their schedule for bar get-togethers across major U.S. cities.
While most ski towns are progressive, cultural bubbles in remote areas surrounded by conservative thought (like Jackson Hole in Wyoming and Big Sky in Montana) there are a few towns that particularly stand out when booking your vacation.
Not only does the Tarentaise Valley contain the “biggest concentration of world-class ski resorts in the world,” but the resort towns are also some of the most queer-friendly ski resorts in the world with legislation prohibiting homophobia in sports, official statements of support for gay marriage, and turning the village of Val Claret into a true “gay village” during Europe’s biggest gay ski week. The mountain of resorts feature the classics of European Alp skiing with long runs high above the treeline wider than the eye can see.
Aspen is easily America’s most queer-friendly resort town with its storied gay ski week and it’s summertime Aspen Holiday Party (a luxury summer camp for queers), which both donate their proceeds to The National LGBT Task Force and the Roaring Fork Gay and Lesbian Community Fund.
Most resorts in town are queer-friendly, but the Limelight Hotel stands out for its attentiveness and trendy decor. While in town, make sure to book a reservation at the Cloud 9 Alpine Bistro, a small ski-in-ski-out restaurant near the summit of the Aspen Highlands Resort. A five-star meal is served while raucous dance music from Journey to Kesha blares. And for some reason, the meal always ends with a shirtless dance party with patrons showering each other in expensive champagne. Make sure to book months in advance.
Cloud 9 Alpine Bistro
There is plenty of skiing east of the Rockies, but the combination of Vermont’s queer-friendly residents and Stowe’s international draw make this little ski town a special escape. 116 runs sprawl across Mt. Mansfield and Spruce Peak depositing at the toes of the European-inspired ski town with luxury accommodations. The town, of course, has its own gay ski festival which runs every year during the third week of January and attracts a heavy east coast crowd from NYC, Boston, and D.C. Skip the stuffy, cramped architecture commonplace in Stowe and stay at Field Guide, a bright and airy mountain modern boutique hotel not far from the slopes.