Since debuting over 40 years ago, Aspen Gay Ski Week has distinguished itself as the country’s longest running gay ski week. It’s also the largest normally with about 5,000 people descending on Aspen for a week filled with pool parties, après-ski gatherings, events at the Belly Up music venue, and a downhill costume competition on Aspen Mountain.
But this year isn’t normal as COVID-19 cases rise, and Aspen Gay Ski Week, Jan. 17-24 will look a little different. Organizers are calling this year’s celebration “Aspen Gay Ski Week Lite,” and the more social components of the annual pride festival will be scaled back to online events as Pitkin Country increases restrictions.
Annual party-goers will be able to virtually attend old favorites, like drag queen bingo, from their homes for this year’s celebration. There’s also an opening night piano bar party—live from Provincetown, Mass.—to kick off the festivities. Going digital, however, has led to some changes in the lineup, like a one-hour video special that will be taped throughout the week and include a message from Gov. Jared Polis. Organizers say there will also be a “pride flag reveal” that includes the transgender community and Black Lives Matter Movement.
“It’s extremely important that everyone be represented,” said AspenOUT executive director Kevin McManamon. “We’re happy to be at the forefront of changing our 130-foot flag to include the entire community.”
AspenOUT hosts the party each year as a fundraiser for LGBTQ outreach and programming. Despite discouraging gatherings for this year’s celebration, McManamon said he’s optimistic the virtual platform will generate excitement for giving back to the LGBTQ community.
“We’re a fundraiser for a nonprofit and not just a party,” said McManamon. “All of the money raised from Gay Ski Week goes back to the LGBTQIA community via scholarships and grants.”
Organizers said keeping a presence through the uncertainties of the pandemic will put AspenOUT in a good fundraising position when Gay Ski Week can hopefully return to the slopes next year. A full schedule of the week’s event is available at Gay Ski Week’s website.