Gay skiers and snowboarders have a variety of Gay Ski Weeks slated for 2011. Some offer early season price breaks.
These special weeks range from the "biggies," Aspen in its 34th year, and Whistler/Blackcomb, to a brand new one at Crested Butte, and a weekend in North Carolina.
Chris French, president of Ski Bums, which is the largest organization in the world for gay, lesbian, bi-sexual and transgender (LGBT) skiers and snowboarders, is the one who used the term "biggies" to describe the Aspen and Whistler/ Blackcomb events.
Aspen was first, French noted. It is also the largest LGBT winter event in the world.
Bryan Herb, chief marketing officer for Zoom Vacations and a past chair of the International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association, and Dane Steele Green, head of Steele Luxury Travel, said the same thing about Aspen and Whistler: Aspen attracts an older, money crowd, while younger, more party-oriented skiers and riders head north to Whistler.
Herb said these ski weeks provide "a great venue for gay people to get out in the great outdoors. Gays often live in cities. You can make friends, and get to be a little rugged and adventurous."
Green, who has "been to most gay ski weeks around the country and taken groups to them," said any gay person, whatever his or her skiing or snowboarding experience, can have fun.
"We welcome everyone in, from beginners to experts, all different types of people. Some go just for the social events, and don't even ski or snowboard at all."
Green is a snowboarder. He learned at the Aspen Gay Ski Week four years ago, and now tackles black diamond runs. "I love the camaraderie and community."
French said gay travelers should try to talk to other gay skiers and riders who have attended one of these events because "sometimes marketing people (at a resort) throw up a reference to gay ski week on their Web site," and there's minimal planning and few or no organized parties and other activities.
Check the relevant Web sites to get an idea of what to expect, because another variable is whether "gay" is being used to mean all of the LGBT community or just men.
Mike Stommel, an expert on Elevation, the Mammoth offering, said it "is mostly guys but is open to the rest of the GLBT community and friends of the community. With that said, the turnout is usually 95 percent male."
Aspen Gay Ski Week spans four mountains, Aspen, Buttermilk, Aspen Highlands, and Snowmass, and promises "daily après ski parties, nighttime events with world class DJs, comedy night and a downhill costume parade and party."
There are also spa and fitness discounts, a boutique night stroll, drag show, pool party, friendship dinners, and designated spots to meet on the mountain and have lunch on the mountain, "skiing, snowboarding, cross-country skiing, dining, shopping, dancing, comedy, films, and ice skating."
Dean Nelson, producer of 2011 WinterPRIDE Festival at Whistler puts it this way:" We are so excited with this coming season as we head into what appears to be an El Nino year which means to us: Colder than normal temps, big snow, big crowds, and lots of boyz & gurrlz wanting to have some fun OUT on the Slopes!
"Some of the usual events will be returning including our legendary Apres Ski Parties, The Comedy Show, Shred Betties (Women's Party), Furrocious (Bear Party) and the huge dance party Snowball Saturday, Feb. 5th. Some new events will be produced including building on last year's successful Pool Party and new this year, a "Drag Party" on Wednesday night."
Tom Whitman is organizing Elevation 2011, the 9th annual Mammoth Gay Ski Week, which he said is the third largest in North America, "bringing more than 2,000 guys and gals up to the High Sierras" for a variety of programs, including what he called seven "major" parties and "zero attitude."
Here are some of the major Gay Ski Week events:
Jan. 16-23, Aspen Gay Ski Week
Jan. 19-23, Stowe Winter Rendezvous
Jan. 20-23, Summit Ski Weekend, Blowing Rock, N.C.
Feb. 1-6, Whistler
Feb. 26- March 5, Telluride
March (Dates t.b.a.) Vail
March 6-13, Lake Tahoe Winterfest , Lake Tahoe South Shore
March 16-20, Elevation, Mammoth Mountain
March 19-26, Butte '11, the Matthew Shepphard Foundation Memorial Ski Week, Crested Butte
Ski Bums has chapters in New York, California, Washington, D.C., plus chapters for women and for college students
Steele Luxury Travel, New York City
Zoom Vacations, Chicago