ELEVATION | Race You to the Top

By Ethan Laird

Trade your sunglasses for goggles, your flip flops for snowboard boots, and your jockstrap for… more jockstraps.  It’s that time.

Once a year, thousands of queers descend upon two small mountain towns, raining men (and drag queens and go go boys and lesbians and twunks and twinks and bears and otters) onto the unsuspecting population.  This deluge of neon and glitter and harnesses and muscles onto slopes of fresh powder can only be the Elevation gay ski weeks.

(Okay, the population is not unsuspecting – Mammoth Lakes and Park City look forward to the return of Elevation all year long.)

Whether it’s Mammoth or Utah, you know exactly what you’re getting into with an Elevation event: superb slopes for shredding, DJs for dancing, drag queens, go go boys, performances, a friendly crowd of sexy queers, and of course, a theme party or two.  Though there’s no pressure to fit the theme, many attendees definitely dress the part.

The Onesie Apres-Ski is an ELEVATION Gay Ski Week tradition that somehow manages to be sexy without losing its sense of humor. Where else can you find a collection of burner boys in rainbow bodysuits, gaymers in unicorn-horn hoodies, circuit boys in ass-less onesies and lumberjocks in wool socks?

The Saturday night event, GEAR, is the most overtly sexy party of the week, but again, doesn’t take itself too seriously.  It’s like a warehouse party at altitude (don’t think about it too hard). The dress code is gear – leather gear, sports gear, ski gear.  Just put some THOT into it.  (What’s the difference between a straight ski week and a gay ski week?  A harness.)

Event producer Tom Whitman, a former racer on the UCLA ski team turned big-gay party promoter, created Elevation Mammoth 22 years ago.  “I’ve loved Mammoth since I was in college.  It’s a gigantic mountain with terrain for every type of skier and snowboarder,” he says.  “It’s a mountain you can ski for years and always find something new.”

He’s not the only one who sings the praises of Mammoth Mountain.  USA Today Readers’ Choice Awards voted Mammoth “Best Ski Town of 2022 in North America.”  Travel & Leisure says “Mammoth Mountain is a dream ski destination for many reasons, but it’s perhaps best for those traveling in groups with varying abilities. It not only has amazing backcountry terrain for experts but also one of the best lesson programs in the nation.”

Every season comes the question: “Will I still have a good time at Elevation if I’m not a great skier?”  Hundreds of first timers and beginners come to Elevation each year to learn to ski or to get better.  And, if all else fails, everyone knows how to hot tub, and the apres-ski parties start at 4pm every day.

14 years ago, Whitman added Elevation Utah to the gay ski week family.  “Park City is world-famous for a lot of reasons – it’s the largest resort in the US, the Utah snow is epic, the historic mining town is filled with fine dining options and lux shopping, but also…the Utah boys are darn cute.”

I’ve attended Elevation many times over the years, and regardless of which Elevation I pick (and yes, sometimes I do both), I have a different experience at ELEVATION. You can ski all day and crash early, party hard and sleep in, or be the first-chair-last-call hero we all wish we were.