Gay ski week returns to Park City with increased numbers |

Gay ski week returns to Park City with increased numbers

Elevation Utah, the gay ski week held annually in Park City, opens on Thursday with what is expected to be one of the largest-ever crowds.

The event is in its eighth year after another organizer staged a different gay ski week in Park City. Elevation Utah, ending on Sunday, is expected to draw between 1,000 and 1,200 people this year, up between 10 percent and 15 percent from 2017, said Tom Whitman, the founder and producer of the event.

Elevation Utah mixes days on the slopes with après ski affairs and events at nightclubs later on. The schedule this week includes events with deejays lasting until the early morning hours on Main Street.

"Park City's been nothing but welcoming," Whitman said.

Elevation Utah more aggressively marketed the 2018 event on the East Coast and in the Midwest, Whitman said, explaining that more people from those regions are expected to attend as compared to previous Elevation Utah gatherings. He also said more attendees from outside the U.S. are expected, including those traveling from Brazil, Germany and the United Kingdom. Organizers have said in the past attendees would spend $1,000 or more while they were in Park City.

The scheduling of gay ski weeks in Park City over the years has been notable. One of the events, produced by a different organizer, was canceled for a year after attendance was projected to drop sharply. The projected drop was attributed to a boycott of Utah stemming from the passage of a ballot measure in California against gay marriage. The boycott organizers saw The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, based in Utah, as having a key role in the passage.

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Elevation Utah in the nearly 10 years since has successfully staged a gay ski week in Park City, drawing a national crowd. A few businesses on Main Street have flown rainbow-colored flags representing gay pride in support of the event. The organizers list businesses partners in Park City like Park City Mountain Resort and several Main Street nightclubs.

"Move over, Sundance! You're not the gayest event in Park City any longer," Elevation Utah said in a social media posting in January.

Whitman also produces Elevation Mammoth, a similar event, at a mountain resort in California. It is scheduled in March and the 2018 event will be the 16th annual Elevation Mammoth. The organizers say Park City was the top choice when a second location was selected, pointing to the community's accessibility, skiing and venue options. It also notes Park City's lodging offerings and restaurants.

The Utah Pride Center, a Salt Lake City-based not-for-profit organization that supports the state's gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and queer population, is another Elevation Utah partner. Carol Gnade, the organization's executive director, said the Utah Pride Center has never been informed of problems arising from Elevation Utah. Gnade said the event shows people are comfortable vacationing in Utah.

"It shows the progress we've made," Gnade said, noting the work on equality issues that has been undertaken over the past 20 years. "It's just a matter of fact we have it here."