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Gay skiers return to Park City

by Jay Hamburger OF THE RECORD STAFF

A group of gay skiers is expected in Park City this week for a ski trip, a return to the city one year after the 2009 edition of the gathering was cancelled amid the fallout of a California ballot measure against gay marriage.

Utah Gay & Lesbian Ski Week is scheduled from Wednesday until Sunday at various spots in the Park City area. The group plans to ski at the three local mountain resorts, hold social hours, dine at restaurants like the Wasatch Brew Pub and throw a party on Saturday, according to a tentative schedule posted on the ski week’s Web site.

The schedule suggests the skiers bring rainbow items to lunches at The Canyons and Deer Valley Resort.

"They’ve always greeted us with open arms in Park City," said John Harriott, one of the organizers of the ski week.

He expects between 50 and 100 people will attend the ski trip, down from the numbers the event once drew. In the years prior to the cancelled 2009 event, Harriott said, between 150 and 200 people would attend.

The organizers scrapped the 2009 ski week after there was little interest in the weeks leading up to the scheduled dates. At the time, Harriott told The Park Record six people had signed up for the trip in advance. Normally approximately 50 people would have put their names on the list in advance, he said at the time.

Harriott said then many of the skiers indicated they wanted to show solidarity with those who had called for a boycott of the state after the California ballot measure passed. The boycott was based on what gays and their allies saw as the role of the Utah-based Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the ballot measure’s passage, known as Proposition 8.

"Proposition 8 equals Mormons equals Utah," he said in describing the underpinnings of the cancellation in 2009. "That was the word around the country."

He had estimated the group would have put between $125,000 and $150,000 into the Park City economy in 2009, with the money spent on lodging, lift tickets, meals and entertainment.

It was difficult, though, to estimate the wider effects of the boycott calls last winter, which extended to some who wanted people to skip the Sundance Film Festival in 2009 as well.

Harriott said he has received a few e-mails in the time leading up to the 2010 trip from people who remain indignant about the decision to return to Utah. He said he has tried to reassure them that Park City’s political sentiments typically do not reflect the rest of the state. Park City is generally seen as being one of the pockets of tolerance toward gays in the state.

Harriott said the skiers did not encounter resistance during their previous stays in Park City.

"We’ve never had any problem one way or the other," Harriott said, adding, "We have not felt any discrimination at all in Park City."


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