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Downhill drag race raises funds, brings deeper meaning to Gay Ski Week

Patrick Fort
Aspen Public Radio

Gay Ski Week had many elements it had in the past. Lots of hotel reservations. Lots of people in town. Organizers from Aspen OUT, the group that puts on Aspen Gay Ski Week, estimate that, collectively, attendees spend almost a million dollars on hotels.


But economic impact aside, the event is also a fundraiser. An event with a cause, something that might be easy to forget about with all of the parties held each day.


Friday featured one of the most fun events of the week. One that involves the crowd, skiing and the community. The downhill drag race.


At the base of Aspen Mountain near the Gondola, a literal television set was staged for the judges of the contest. Here’s the format. Groups ski or snowboard down the mountain in their costumes. They get scored from 1-10. Highest total score wins.


One group dressed as giant mushrooms came down with a message.


Each of the guys had names like Penny Cillin, and She Take (like shiitake). They wore three foot wide mushroom caps like hats. A tube of felt with purple stripes slipped over like a suit. The outfit was completed with sunglasses.


But as goofy as the whole thing sounds, they really are here to make people aware of issues the LGBTQ community is facing. And Aspen is a good place to do that.


“At the end of the day, we’re in Aspen," said one of the mushrooms. "It’s a beautiful place. It’s beautiful weather. The snow’s great. People in town have been so friendly and welcoming, and that’s one of the reasons why Aspen Gay Ski Week is such a success, because of the community here.”


Kevin McManamon is the president of AspenOUT. He says that he is looking forward to the coming years of Aspen Gay Ski Week.


“It's the most fun year yet," he said. "LOGO TV has just put us right over the cliff with success. The exposure helps us a lot. For 2017, the media exposure is priceless.”


McManamon says over 4,000 people came to the event this year, a number that he expected. All of the events raise money for LGBT issues in the Roaring Fork Valley.


In addition to that, LOGO TV, the network that broadcasts RuPaul’s Drag Race came on to record some of the events. That’s why the costume contest is a television set.


And a former Drag Race competitor is the host of the event.


There were the mushrooms we talked about, a ninja turtle, disco unicorns. A bedazzled batman. After a few hours of skiing, snowboarding and falling down the hill, it was time to announce the winners.


One man dressed up as the famed bus from the film “The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert”, took second prize. The movie tells the story of  two drag queens and a transexual who travel across the country in their bus to perform their own style of cabaret. But there had to be a winner.


The winner was the Aspen Club. Ten people came down the mountain dressed up as firefighters. The group’s theme got better when they got to the bottom. Each person was assigned a month - just like a firefighter calendar. Two people doubled up on months.


Dirk Schultz was a member of the winning team. He’s been competing for 18 years.


“It feels great. These guys from the Aspen Club, and supporters of the Aspen Club have been great.”