Gay ski week, 1,000 strong, arrives in Park City
It was ‘easy choice’ to hold event locally, organizer says
A group of gay skiers plans to return to Park City this week for the seventh consecutive year in what could be one of the largest-ever gay ski weeks in the city.
Elevation: Utah is scheduled to open on Thursday and end on Sunday. Tom Whitman, the producer of the event, said approximately 1,000 people are anticipated to travel to Park City. The number is a little larger than 2016, he said. Whitman said Elevation: Utah in 2017 is expected to draw a record crowd for the Park City events.
“It was an easy choice to choose Park City, I think. It’s what a ski town is supposed to look like,” Whitman said, noting that the city is close to an international airport, is renowned for snow conditions and offers two mountain resorts. He said Salt Lake City, meanwhile, has a “vibrant gay population.”
He said people in Park City have been welcoming during the previous gay ski weeks. There is a “liberal acceptance” in Park City and Salt Lake City, he said. Whitman said gay ski weeks in Park City have been held without incident over the years. He said managers at venues and nightclubs used by gay ski week have supported the event without exception.
Whitman said people who are gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender want to support each other amid the national politics. It is important to hold events in places that are not “liberal bubbles,” he said, referring to Utah. The other gay ski week Whitman produces is located in Mammoth Lakes, California.
“Community’s important when it feels like it’s being attacked in some ways,” he said.
There have been various gay ski weeks in Park City for years, but the cancellation of one of the events received attention in 2009. That event, staged by a different firm than Elevation: Utah, was canceled just before it was scheduled to start. One of the organizers at the time said the cancellation was a result of calls for a boycott of Utah after the passage of a California ballot measure against gay marriage. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints supported the ballot measure.
Elevation: Utah later started another gay ski week and it has been uninterrupted since it began. The event typically draws people from across the U.S. as well as international visitors. In past years, the organizers have estimated attendees would spend at least $1,000 each while they were in Park City.
“When we were looking to expand the brand to a new resort, Park City was at the top of the list from the very beginning. It is an amazing world class resort. The town of Park City has a multitude of venues for events, as well as great restaurants and hotels,” organizers say on the event’s website.
Gay ski week includes apres-ski gatherings along Main Street, and nightclub events and parties afterward. A few Main Street businesses sometimes fly gay pride rainbow flags in honor of the event, but the gay ski week does usually does not appear to be widely marked in the community.
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Park City officials on Tuesday are scheduled to reconfigure a key stretch of road in Old Town. The alteration involves the section of Park Avenue between the 9th Street and Deer Valley Drive intersections.