By Lawrence Helman | Photos: Lukas Volk (GaySkiWeek.com) & SAGA San Diego
When one invokes thoughts of Aspen, CO., for some what comes to mind are multi-million-dollar mountain-top homes, wealthy vacationing Australians and South Americans clad in high-end ski garb – replete with sumptuous dining consisting of Wagyu beef and Krystal champagne. In reality, this is mostly accurate. Aspen is a stunning Colorado ski area that offers all of this, but in addition it also is home to an intimate mountain town with four remarkable ski/snowboard ranges with varied terrain, all within a 20-minute free bus ride (Aspen Mt., Highlands, Buttermilk and Snowmass).
Aspen is also the home to Aspen Gay Ski Week (AGSW), which is the oldest annual (43 years) week-long gay ski event in the USA. AGSW is also a fundraising event for AspenOUT (since 1996), a local non-profit organization focused on anti-bullying and tolerance.
This annual LGBT athletic bacchanal is to some a circuit party on the slopes, offering a daily/nightly profusion of events including: Aprés Ski mixers at the welcoming host hotel – The Limelight, and other venues; daily lunches at mountain top eateries; nightly dinners at restaurants; as well as nightly special events.
Highlighted events include:
– Drag Queen Bingo: Hosted by San Diego gender-illusionist Miriam T at Silver City Bar.
– Aspen Fashion and Art Night Out: Boutiques and galleries stay open late and offer sales (?) and refreshments.
– LGBT Comedy Night at the Belly Up: Featuring the dynamite dyke Julie Goldman and the always uproarious Alec Mapa. Each comic was rapid-fire-funny causing my body to ache from laughing.
– A special high-priced fundraiser at the exclusive private Caribou Club: A subterranean restaurant/bar/event space – replete with antler chandeliers, plaid carpeting, hunter green walls adorned with a profusion of landscape and duck paintings.
– Downhill Costume Contest: Featuring costumed skiers/snowboarders schussing and being judged and applauded by onlookers; solo and groups in costume.
– The White Party: Held on top of Aspen Mt. in the café converted to a disco dance and libations filled array of white clad revelers at 11.200 feet.
– Miami Beach Pool Party: The always popular splash at the nearby Aspen Rec. Center – with a no host bar and scantily clad bathing beauties of all genders frolicking amongst pools and hot tubs complete with water slides and large blow up pink flamingos.
Tickets were available for individual events, or 3 levels of passes – ranging from $300 – $5000.
Many attendees and fans attend AGSW annually, making it relatively easy to ski with friends or make new acquaintances while plowing powder at varying proficiencies.
My favorite event – not sponsored by AGSW – was a GREAT party at the home of locals Bert and Walt who open their home every year to LGBT guests with food and drink and a plethora of good will. In addition, a shout out goes to SAGA LA and SAGA San Diego (Russ Fox) – two groups that I attended with, making the trip super fun.
* The assisted living quip refers to a bus ride home after a full day of skiing. There was no seating available so I was standing, apparently looking knackered, when a pair of visiting baby dykes from Asia stood up and offered me their seat. I was initially appalled and shocked, then was delighted and took them up on their most generous offer to this aging gratified skier.