Displeased with Utah, gays cancel a big ski trip | ParkRecord.com

Displeased with Utah, gays cancel a big ski trip

by Jay Hamburger OF THE RECORD STAFF

A group of gays had planned long ago to be on the slopes of Park City’s mountain resorts last week.

They had been coming each year since early in the decade, and Park City, seen for years as one of the friendliest places in Utah to gays, had been hospitable to the group But the 2009 edition of what had been dubbed Utah Gay & Lesbian Ski Week was cancelled.

An organizer told The Park Record many of the gay skiers indicated they would not visit Utah in order to show solidarity with those who have called for a boycott of the state stemming from the passage in California of Proposition 8, the ballot measure against gay marriage supported by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

The cancellation of the gay ski week, which had been scheduled Jan. 7-11, is the first substantive evidence of Park City’s economy suffering from the boycott. There had only been scattered concern in Park City that gays would refuse to visit. Local leaders had hoped gays and their supporters would consider Park City an open-minded enclave in Utah.

One of the ski week’s organizers, John Harriot, a bisexual who lives in West Hollywood, Calif., said six people had registered for the trip. Approximately 50 would have signed up beforehand in a typical year, and 150 or so people would have attended. The ski week was canceled on Jan. 2. He estimates 20 people from the group might have ended up visiting Park City last week anyway, however.

"In the mind of the boycott organizers, the Mormon Church, basically, equals Utah," Harriot said, describing that the group had "been treated well" during the past trips.

He acknowledged he was surprised the organizers were forced to cancel. He said he had expected attendance to drop by as much as 30 percent in 2009. He said the ski week could return to Park City in 2010. If people do not want to visit then, the organizers may move the event elsewhere, he said.

Had the full group traveled to Park City, Harriot estimated the visitors would have spent between $125,000 and $150,000 on lodging, lift tickets, meals and entertainment. An online itinerary for the canceled ski week lists days at each of the three local mountain resorts, organized lunches and dinners, nightlife options and a Saturday night party.

"The boycott worked and there was not enough people to do the group," Harriot said.

The skiers had planned an evening at Kristauf’s Martini Bar on lower Main Street, where owner Lisa Christoffersen said they had stopped in during the 2008 trip. She said they probably would have spent a "couple grand" at Kristauf’s this year.

"To me, that would provide my payroll for two weeks" and pay several utility bills, she said, adding, "They spend well and they tip well. It’s a big boost for everyone."

The ski week had been scheduled to occur days before the start of the Sundance Film Festival, usually the busiest 10-day stretch on Park City’s calendar. There have been calls by some gay-rights activists for a boycott of the film festival. Others have said gays should feel welcomed at Sundance, which has screened work from gay filmmakers and films with gay themes for years.

Bill Malone, the executive director of the Park City Chamber/Bureau, said the cancellation of the ski week is the first he is aware of based on unhappiness with Proposition 8.

He said he is disappointed and the boycott is "completely out of our control." Malone said he has not heard complaints from gays that they had not been welcome in Park City.

"Obviously, we hate to see groups not feel comfortable coming here as a result of the California proposition," Malone said.

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