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A Brief History of Gay Ski Week

Gay Ski Weeks across the Western United States feature celebrations, filled with colorful events both on and off the mountain. But how it began is rooted in the fight for Gay Rights.

Aspen Ski Resort claims credit for hosting the first Gay Ski Week, but what the events originally looked like is much different than the festivities you’ll find there today. It all started in 1977–just eight years after the Stonewall Uprisings–when a man named John Busch was confronted and attacked for dancing with another man in an Aspen bar. This event inspired Busch and other locals including David Hoch, Tom Duesterberg, Russell Anderson to fight for Gay Rights in Aspen. The men succeeded in leading Aspen to pass the first legal gay rights protections in Colorado in 1979.

Now, Gay Ski Weeks across the country, led by Aspen’s example of legal action and festivities, continue to celebrate the gay ski community’s right to be who they are.

What to expect

True to form, Aspen still holds arguably the largest Gay Ski Week in the country. And they make it easy to get involved with an entire page dedicated to Gay Ski Week Virgins. What you’ll find there is a full week of ski lessons and tours, daily apres, and nightly DJ sets and clubbing.

Telluride’s Gay Ski Week was founded in 2002, and hosts an opening day party, daily apres ski events, and closes out the week with the legendary White Party that quite literally danced through the floor of a historic building in 2016. Telluride also hosts an aids benefit fashion show gala during the week that raises awareness and generates financial support for HIV/AIDS prevention programs and client care. Telluride, Colorado sits in a largely rural area, making their Gay Ski Week all that much more important, said director Rosie Cusack according to a Feb. 18, 2020, Daily Planet article. She commented, “We are a rural community and just outside our front door are LGBTQ youth who may feel alone or lost. When they hear about Gay Ski Week or see a poster or an ad about it, it makes them feel more comfortable in their own skin. There is a lot going on in our world right now that works to exclude minority groups and cause division, but if we can shine a little light into someone’s life, I am all for it.”

Telluride Gay Ski Week Festivities, as seen in a Feb 2 2017 Daily Planet Article

Popular blog “GayTravel4U” called Mammoth’s Gay ski week “one of the hottest gay ski weeks in North America.” Their event boasts both stellar skiing and lively nightlife, including costumed events both on and off the mountains.

No matter where you decide to spend your Gay Ski Week, you can expect a full slate of events attended by skiers of every skill level. But if you’re looking to get after it with a work hard play hard mentality both on and off the mountain, this is a week that’s hard to beat.

Room for improvement

There’s no denying that Gay Ski Weeks hold an important space for skiers to celebrate their sexuality. And its founding has roots in the revolutionary fight for gay rights in ski towns. But as these events grow, they still seem to be largely geared toward cisgendered men. Individuals in the lesbian and nonbinary communities have critiqued these events, pointing out that their marketing predominantly features bros with abs and the occasional drag queen.

For an event centered in inclusivity, it seems strange there isn’t more of an effort to make space for women and non-binary individuals. Even a thorough look through Gay Ski Week schedules of several high profile resorts will leave you without any indication of events geared toward anyone but men.

Gay Ski Week organizers have a responsibility to uphold the original intentions of the festivities by fighting to create space for and celebrate those who are oppressed and underrepresented in their communities. Let’s hope they continue to do so by celebrating queer women.

About the author

Jacque Garcia is a writer and a recovering dirtbag based in Telluride, Colorado. In her spare time, you’ll likely find her either enjoying one of the many outdoor activities the town is a haven for or slinging cocktails- or sometimes both.

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