Park City Gay Ski Week, the largest yet, opens on Thursday | ParkRecord.com

Park City Gay Ski Week, the largest yet, opens on Thursday

A large group of gay skiers plans to arrive on Thursday for Park City Gay Ski Week, an annual event that organizers say grows each year even in one of the nation’s battlegrounds for gay rights.

Park City Gay Ski Week is scheduled from Thursday until Sunday with events on Main Street alongside days on the slopes. The event launches with a welcoming après ski at a Main Street restaurant, according to an online schedule.

A Los Angeles firm known as Flip organizes the gay ski week as well as similar events at other mountain resorts. Tom Whitman, the senior vice president at Flip, said between 800 and 1,000 people are anticipated to attend. The number is expected to increase by between 200 and 250 people from 2014, he said. Whitman said attendance has increased annually.

It will be the fifth Park City Gay Ski Week put on by the organizers. A gay ski week arranged by another group was held previously.

"We get a lot of locals as well who come out to the event . . . It’s really an inclusive event," Whitman said.

He said Park City Gay Ski Week attracts people from across the U.S. and some international travelers. Whitman said a conservative estimate is each person in the group spends between $750 and $1,000 in Park City on lodging, food, beverages and lift tickets. If 1,000 people attend, they would spend perhaps between $750,000 and $1 million in Park City, according to Whitman’s estimates.

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Many of the skiers are expected to head to Park City Mountain Resort on Friday and Canyons Resort on Saturday. Three après ski events are planned on Main Street and one is scheduled at PCMR. Lance Bass, known from his days in the musical act ‘NSync, is anticipated to host a radio broadcast at PCMR. Country singer Ty Herndon is expected to attend but not perform, Whitman said. The organizers reached a presenting sponsor agreement with American Express. Two hotels in Park City and several ski shops are offering reduced prices for people participating in Park City Gay Ski Week.

"Elevation draws a friendly, casual group of guys and girls that create a welcoming, non-pretentious, off the wall fun atmosphere," organizers said in material marketing Park City Gay Ski Week.

Whitman’s firm organizes gay ski weeks in the Lake Tahoe region of California and Nevada and at Mammoth Mountain Ski Area in California.

Utah is one of the states where gay rights have been a pivotal issue. Voters passed a ban on gay marriage in 2004. The Supreme Court overturned the ban as being unconstitutional. Whitman said Park City has hosted the gay skiers each year without issues.

"Park City and Salt Lake City have welcomed us with open arms. We are working with local organizations, including HRC, the Pride Center and others to involve the local charities and organizations in the event . . . The local gays are excited about the event. (They’re wondering why it took so long for this to happen.)," the marketing material says, using an acronym for an advocacy organization called Human Rights Campaign.

The marketing material also lists nine Park City-area restaurants as being the "gay-friendliest," including Silver Star Café.

"I think we’re friendly to everybody," said Jeff Ward, a co-owner of Silver Star Café with his wife, Lisa, adding, "It’s nice to get a mention like that. We appreciate it."