The 2020 LGBTQ+ Ski Guide
Which mega-pass to buy to make the most of this season and more
Many ski towns and resorts go out of their way to actively welcome queer snow enthusiasts with ski weeks, winter Pride fests, and other LGBTQ+ events. Want to partake in the fun? This guide breaks down where to ski and which mega-pass to use.
If you’re not interested in a pass, any of the events below can be accessed directly through the independent event organizers, and many include discounts on lift tickets.
Access to LGBTQ+ Events: 9
Not only did Ikon Pass add Colorado’s Arapahoe Basin Ski Area, Australia’s Mount Buller, and Switzerland’s Zermatt this year, it now also gets you lift access to the inaugural Winter Summit at Vermont’s Stratton Mountain, which takes place from February 21 to 23. Hosted by Get Out and Trek (GOAT), it’s one of the first outdoor-industry-sponsored gay ski weekends. On top of lodging and event packages (from $435), the summit offers a two-day lift-ticket, rental, and lesson package ($220) as well as a two-day cross-country-skiing, snowshoeing, and ice-skating package ($150).
The king of this pass, though, is Aspen Gay Ski Week (from $375), the first and longest-running LGBTQ+ ski week. From January 12 to 19, the Colorado event features a downhill costume competition, a comedy show at BellyUp with Julie Goldman and Alec Mapa, and a South Beach–themed pool party at the Aspen Recreation Center. After joining a daily Highland Bowl hike, be sure to stop by Cloud Nine Alpine Bistro for lunch, a rowdy tradition. The event raises funds for AspenOut, a local nonprofit committed to ending bullying and improving tolerance toward the LGBTQ+ community.
Can’t swing a full week? The pass also offers lift access to three weekend events elsewhere. In Maine, there’s Sugarloaf Together (January 10 to 12) and Sunday River’s White Out Weekend (February 7 to 9), and in Ontario, Canada, there’s Blue Mountain’s Rainbow Ski Weekend (March 28 to 29). All feature wild parties, like White Out Weekends’s Studio 54-meets-Area 51–themed Booty Bash at Planet Funktar, complete with a live disco band. WOW also provides free telemark-skiing lessons and demos with FreeHeeler’s Demo Tour, where participants can test gear from brands like 22 Designs, Crispi, Liberty Skis, and Meidjo.
Farther north, in Quebec, the second annual Elevation: Tremblant (January 30 to February 2) at Mont Tremblant Ski Resort is a great introduction to the Canadian province, with activities like dogsledding and ice climbing alongside Scandinavian-bathing sessions. The Elevation series also visits Mammoth Mountain, California, for Elevation: Mammoth (March 18 to 22), known for its exuberant après-ski parties. It draws close to 2,500 participants every year.
If you’re looking to plan a more far-flung ski trip, head Down Under for Winter Pride Queenstown at New Zealand’s the Remarkables and Mount Coronet. The ten-day festival begins August 28 and has a robust set of off-mountain outdoor activities, like zip lining and boat tours, in addition to a Pride Party Series, with packages from $60. Just across the Tasman Sea, in New South Wales, Australia, Rainbow Mountain: A Heaps Gay Snow Week kicks off at Thredbo in the country’s Snowy Mountains in early September with a jam-packed schedule of dress-up ski competitions, spa sessions, and karaoke nights.
Access to LGBTQ+ Events: 7
The season begins with Winter Rendezvous, at Vermont’s Stowe Mountain Resort, from January 22 to 26. The longest running of its kind on the East Coast, Rendezvous entertains attendees after a day on the hill with performers like last year’s headliner, legendary drag queen Lady Bunny. Next up, in British Columbia, is Whistler Blackcomb’s Whistler Pride and Ski Festival (January 26 to February 2). Its highlight is an enormous parade of skiers and boarders decked out in Pride flags and costumes, slaloming down the mountain, and then marching through Whistler Village.
At Telluride Gay Ski Week (February 22 to 29), be sure to check out the Telluride AIDS Benefit Fashion Show, billed as Cirque du Soleil meets New York Fashion Week, with proceeds benefiting HIV and AIDS organizations in its home state of Colorado as well as in Utah, Swaziland, and Ethiopia. Elevation: Utah, now celebrating its tenth year, overlaps with the Telluride gathering, running from February 26 to March 1 at the Park City Mountain Resort. Utah residents receive 25 percent off Elevation party packages (from $70), while all attendees receive up to 30 percent off rental equipment through partnering local businesses.
Japan’s original gay ski week, Hakuba Gay Ski Week (March 6 to 16) is just what you’d expect: next-level costumes and daily onsen parties. Budget-friendly packages, like the Kyoshi (from $678), which includes seven nights of lodging and five days of lift access, make the schlep across the Pacific well worth it. In late spring, Breck Pride at Colorado’s Breckenridge Ski Resort (April 1 to 5) features an on-mountain Pride parade, a Sunday drag brunch, and a charity ski race. The year’s events culminate in early September at Falls Creek and Hotham Alpine Resorts in Australia’s Victorian Alps for Gay Ski Week Australia, host of the highest-altitude LGBTQ+ film festival in the country, the Queer Shorts Film Fest.
Access to LGBTQ+ Events: 4
With the addition of Arapahoe Basin Ski Area, Mount Buller, and Chile’s Valle Nevado, the Mountain Collective now provides access to 18 international destinations, four of which host LGBTQ+ events. For the best value (and 50 percent off on additional days), spend two free days at California’s Elevation: Mammoth, Colorado’s Aspen Gay Ski Week, New Zealand’s Winter Pride Queenstown, and Australia’s Rainbow Mountain: A Heaps Gay Snow Week.
Powder Alliance and the New England Pass
Access to LGBTQ+ Events: 3
Powder Alliance grants three days of weekday access (with half-price tickets on weekends) at Marmot Basin in Alberta, where the four-day Jasper Pride Festival commences on April 23. While not on the slopes, check out the festival’s burlesque shows, line-dancing workshop, and glacier tours of the Columbia Icefield.
The aforementioned ski weekends in Maine—Sugarloaf Together and White Out Weekend—can also be accessed using the New England Pass, which provides access to Sugarloaf, Sunday River, and New Hampshire’s Loon Mountain.
Queer Ski Events Not on Specific Passes
Europe also has its own extensive circuit of events. At Switzerland’s Arosa Gay Ski Week (January 18 to 25), partake in the high-altitude Drag Race Competition, where contestants dress up in their best mountain chic before flying down the slopes for the crown and grand prize: a five-day stay for two at a luxury resort in the Bahamas.
European Gay Ski Week, at Paradiski in the French Alps, runs from March 21 to 28 and hosts an exclusive set of programming specifically for queer women, with guided ski and snowboard groups, a fondue dinner, a spa party, and live sets by female DJs. Other notable European gay ski weeks include Switzerland’s GaySki Lenzerheide, which takes place from March 8 to 15 and offers a six-day ski pass for $186, as well as France’s European Snow Pride (March 14 to 21), with a five-day lift and event pass from $439.
Closer to home, Oregon’s Mount Bachelor hosts Winter PrideFest from January 30 to February 2, while Peak Pride features two separate events in British Columbia: one at Sun Peaks Resort from February 26 to March 1, and one at Big White Ski Resort from April 1 to 5.
LGBTQ+ Ski and Snowboard Clubs and Outing Groups
Another way to celebrate Pride on the slopes this year is through regional and national organizations, like Get Out and Trek, Outryders, Ski Buddies, Ski Bums, and many others. These clubs organize small groups of LGBTQ+ snow-sports enthusiasts for trips to local and international destinations. In the case of the nonprofit group Ski Buddies, you can register for a free membership and choose from a selection of trips, including a week in Lech am Arlberg, Austria, from January 18 to 25 (from $1,630). The trip provides seven nights of lodging at Hotel Stülzis, daily breakfast and four-course dinners, and six days of lift access at the largest interconnected ski area in Austria, where you can shred 190 miles of ski runs and more than 124 miles of off-piste terrain.