Gay Ski Week enters second year | ParkRecord.com

Gay Ski Week enters second year

Gina Barker, The Park Record

Park City is no stranger to urban crowds looking to get away from it all for a ski vacation. So when Tom Whitman, owner of Tom Whitman Presents, Inc., decided to bring back "Elevation: Utah Park City’s Gay Ski Week" for its second year, he said it was an obvious choice to make.

"Park City was at the top of my list when I knew I wanted to expand," Whitman said, about last year when he first brought the event to Park City. "It has great resorts, great access, and it doesn’t already have a gay ski week."

Park City’s Gay Ski Week started Feb. 23 and runs through Feb. 26 and allows any attendee to hit the slopes on their own or with groups in the day and go out at night.

Whitman first started promoting a gay ski week in Mammoth, Cali. Now on its tenth year, the event is one of the largest in the resort town and boasts thousands of attendees.

"The goal here is to create a national brand that brings people from all over the country to Park City," he said.

Elevation: Utah staffing manager John Manelski said the gay ski week concept saved snowboarding for him.

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"When I came out of the closet, I couldn’t find anyone to golf or snowboard with," he said. "Those happen to be two things I love doing."

After meeting Whitman and attending the Mammoth events, Manelski was sold. He started helping by bringing people up for the event and getting things organized.

"I was so happy to find new friends who had the same interests."

Every time he goes to an event, old friends he hasn’t seen since the year before show up. That is the best part, he said.

"I think you’ll see this around for a long time," he said. "We keep growing. This year is bigger than last year and next year will be bigger than this year."

With a brand new, untested snowboard, Manelski was on the hill by the times the lifts were going Friday at Park City Mountain Resort.

"Gay ski weeks are about community and love of outdoors," Whitman said.

In 10 years, Mammoth’s Gay Ski Week has grown exponentially, a fact Whitman believes he can replicate Park City.

"This is going to be the same as what happened in Mammoth," he said. "Last year we had 200 to 300 people, and this year we’re expecting 400 to 500. I want this to be the second biggest event in Park City next to Sundance."

The point of the Park City Gay Ski Week is simple, Whitman said. For him, the event is about bringing like-minded people together, spending time outdoors. As a life-long skier, Whitman first came to Park City when he was on the UCLA Ski Team.

"The gay community has expanded in how it’s becoming more prevalent in different places around the country in the last 10 years," he said. "There is still a need for events catering to the gay community. Guys and girls can come out here and feel comfortable.

"It’s a spirit of community, diversity and having a good time."