The Circuit Hits the Slopes
Written by J. Montgomery Buchanan
In 1993, the Circuit intersected with current politics. Over half of the voters in the state of Colorado had cast their vote in favor of Amendment 2. Sponsored by Colorado for Family Values, this forced the state to overturn an earlier law that banned anti-gay discrimination. Actually, it went even further, to forbid any new laws protecting the GLTB community against any type of threat, including hate crime violence. With the shock of the event still setting in, 3,000 gay partygoers from across the country and around the globe descended upon the town of Aspen for the 16th Annual Gay Ski Week. Would gay vacationers still be welcome, even in one of Colorado’s more liberal enclaves? Where could Gay Ski Week move if we became persona non grata in Colorado, of all places? Would we still be allowed to play The Pet Shop Boys? Wait, if all of us were chased out of the Centennial State, who would be left to plan weddings?
In the end, no one had to worry. The villagers of Aspen didn’t greet visitors with pitchforks. (But if they did, they would have come from Gracious Home, of course.) Gay Ski Week turned out to be a resounding success. Over the years, the concept of gay men leaving the Speedos and donning L.L. Bean has branched out to include a number of celebrations throughout the country — and now, with the addition of Switzerland’s Arosa — the world. Not only does Aspen host such an event, but Vail, Colorado; Whistler, British Columbia; and Telluride and Park City, Utah — just to name a few — all sponsor a Gay Ski Week. These events run anywhere from mid-January to late February.
They are all guaranteed to be a great experience for hardcore ski and snowboarding enthusiasts. However, if you are a skier or snowboarder, mark March 16 to 20, 2011, on your calendar as dates that must be cleared immediately. Because this is the weekend when over 2,000 of your brothers (and sisters) will descend upon Mammoth Mountain in Northeastern California for the Ninth Annual Elevation Mammoth Gay Ski Weekend. The weekend will be packed with après ski socials, great dining and entertainment, and of course plenty of opportunities to hit the slopes. The main event, which promises to be “the biggest dance party they’ve ever seen,” is aptly called Cliffhanger. That poor mountain may never be the same again. And since Mammoth is the closest range that offers good skiing to Los Angeles, expect lots of SoCal hotties.
For the snowbunnies who feel more at home on packed powder than they do on warm sand, Elevation is a dream come true. Pure adrenalin-pumping snowboarding and skiing, mixed with high-powered hot tub hook-ups and a dance floor bound to cause an avalanche or two make Elevation 2011 the event against which all others will be judged. When you are 80 years old and rocking in your wheelchair to “Poker Face” at Stonewall Retirement Home, you’ll be able to reminisce about that weekend when you zoomed down the mountainside. Unfortunately, the stories about what happened once you got to the bottom probably won’t be appropriate for your grandnephews or nieces.
If the idea of careening down the slopes on two french fries does not sound like the best thing for your physical or mental health, there are many relaxing and invigorating leisure options to keep you more than busy while your friends are dodging trees. There are a number of day spas, shopping opportunities, bars and alternative winter sports to occupy even the shortest attention span. In fact, a number of the attendees come for the nighttime activities only. One New Yorker who attended Elevation 2010 summed it up by saying, “Ski? Me? Hell no! I’m kind of addicted to breathing. You don’t have to ski. I slept until 3 every day and got up for the après ski events and acted like I had been on the slopes all day. I didn’t want people think I was a bum. It is what you make of it — kind of like Fire Island.” Trust me: There are plenty of people who just like to soak in a hot tub surrounded by snow and plenty of ski-buffed bodies (ever felt a ski bum’s thighs?) to keep them warm.
Tom Whitman’s Snowy World
Anyone who knows anything about these seemingly unholy unions between tranquil, peaceful ski resorts and the animal roar of the Circuit recognizes the name Tom Whitman. He’s the one most responsible for such a diabolically delicious marriage of snow, dance-floor swirling and après ski hot tubbing.
Known up and down the Pacific Rim as one of the most active and successful gay event producers and philanthropists on the Left Coast, Whitman began in a very different career path, as a producer/director/writer in television. After nine years, he had worn just about every hat in the entertainment industry (or, as they call it in L.A., “the Industry”). He took all that showbiz pizzazz and created Tom Whitman Presents.
Since then, his eponymous production company’s name has become attached to some of the best and most popular nightclubs and social events in the Los Angeles area, including Cherry Pop, Smack and Wonderland, L.A. Gay Pride’s main dance event. He has since gone on to form the Gang of 100, a group of individuals who gather to identify needy organizations and execute fund-raisers for their benefit. The individuals in the group fund the entire event, so 100 percent of all proceeds go to the charities.
Whitman is as well established in mountains that tower above the tree line as he is along the beaches of Southern California. How did a guy based in a land covered with palm trees come up with the idea of getting hot men to trek up to evergreens? How did they get from bathing suits into snowsuits? “We created Elevation to bring people together in a spirit of celebration and diversity and fun,” Whitman says. “It is also about sharing that celebration with the town of Mammoth, which has always welcomed us wholeheartedly.”
And Now, Switzerland
Gay ski events are certainly not confined to the United States. Arosa lies in the southeast of Switzerland, not far from St. Moritz. High in the Alps at 6,000 feet, it has plenty of snow. It also has Arosa Gay Ski Week. Since 2005, this has become one of the biggest events in Arosa. Guests from over 30 countries arrive from the international airport in Zurich, two-and-a-half hours away.
The 2011 week includes cultural events such as classical pianist Michel Dalberto in the village church; and singer LaDiva Live. The organizers provide Champagne tastings and other get-togethers to give participants an easygoing atmosphere apart from the slopes and the dance floor. There’s also a Fondue Party right on the mountain, nighttime sledging and a horse-drawn sleigh ride to a nearby town for a drag queen race. This year, for the first time, a local bed-and-breakfast is offering women-only accommodations.
And what do attendees say about all of these leg-intensive excursions? Lawrence, an Angelino and a Circuit party regular, has been to Whistler, Elevation and a now-defunct event near Salt Lake City. “My experience is that it is fun, but the skiing/boarding itself will basically be with your own group,” he said. “You really won’t see many others on the slopes, although one day at a planned lunch stop there was a small group who had fun having lunch together.” He enjoyed the après-ski events — and apparently so did others. “There were guys I met at the parties who said: ‘What skiing? We just came up for the party!’”
For a complete list of all of this winter’s ski events, check out the Winter Calendar in the back of this issue or online at
http://www.noizemag.com If yo.u are interested in taking other ski trips, consider joining Ski Bums, an organization of gay and lesbian ski bums that has organized trips in the Eastern and Western United States, as well as Europe and South America. Go to http://www.ski-bums.org for more information.
Thanks! Good info here. Had a great time at Elevation a couple years back.
By Peter on 11-03-2010