Park City gay ski week canceled amid worries it would be a coronavirus superspreader event
Organizers say they would have been ‘heartbroken’ if attendees contracted sickness
The organizers of an annual gay ski week in Park City have canceled the event this year, citing the continued spread of the novel coronavirus as the reason.
Elevation Utah had been scheduled for five days in late February. The event typically draws between 1,000 and 1,500 people. Organizers said this year’s attendance had been forecast to drop to between 400 and 600 people prior to the cancellation.
Tom Whitman, the founder of Elevation Utah, said in an online posting plans were underway for the event with the hopes progress would be made in the efforts to curb the spread of the sickness. The posting said the plans envisioned an event with reduced capacity and social distancing, indicating he “wanted nothing more than to gather with my friends and Elevation ski family this year in Utah. (Like everyone, I miss events. I miss mingling with friends. I miss dance floors.)”
“But as COVID has surged, capacities have been further reduced, ICUs are close to full, and some regions have gone back into Stay At Home orders. There is not a feasible way to produce the quality of the events you deserve while guaranteeing the health and safety of my staff, my talent, and the attendees of Elevation Utah,” he said in the posting.
The posting also noted the possibility that a gathering like Elevation Utah may have led to a cluster of coronavirus cases that could have resulted in further transmission.
“I plan to continue to produce Elevation for years to come. But if Elevation was a super spreader event, that negatively affected attendees or our families and friends, I would be heartbroken. Not only does gathering in groups affect those of us there, but we can bring back the virus to our hometowns to the people we care about,” he said.
The posting by Whitman, meanwhile, says the mountain resorts and businesses where Elevation Utah usually hosts events are open. He encourages people who otherwise would have attended Elevation Utah and are traveling to Park City anyway to support those businesses. Whitman in an interview said some who planned to attend Elevation Utah have indicated they want to visit Park City regardless of the cancellation.
Elevation Utah involves skiing in the daytime, apres ski gatherings and parties at night, with some of the activities on Main Street. The event has enjoyed consistent growth, and the 2020 edition was the 10th anniversary of Elevation Utah. The gathering last year was held just weeks before the spread of the sickness became devastating in the U.S.
The Elevation Utah numbers in a typical year add to Park City’s resort-driven economy, but they are not critical to the monthly or season-end tallies. Even at reduced numbers in 2021, though, any business from Elevation Utah would likely have been welcomed during a winter with decreased economic projections.
Whitman said Elevation Utah plans to return to Park City in 2022.
“We’ll be back bigger and better,” he said.
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Park City-area lodging projections for the final month-plus of the ski season point to a solid finish to a winter that has appeared to outperform economically after early worries the continued spread of the novel coronavirus could cut deep into the tourism industry.