ASPEN - Ski. Party. Ski. Party.
If that's the formula for an Aspen ski vacation, then perhaps no group does it better than the one in town this week.
Aspen Gay Ski Week gets under way Sunday for its 36th annual run, and judging from early indicators, attendance will be up. By Friday, hotel and lodging reservations that organizers are able to tie to the event were up 30 percent, and pass sales for Gay Ski Week activities were up 48 percent, according to Pamela Herr, event producer for Gay Ski Week.
Attendance has been on the rise for the past several years, according to Herr, who anticipates 3,000-plus people in town for Gay Ski Week, though a definitive count is difficult.
The event is the largest annual purchaser of group lift tickets, according to Aspen Skiing Co. Herr said $250,000 worth of lift tickets were sold in advance, also a 30 percent increase from last year.
In addition, the $350 Black Diamond Pass, good for admission to various ski week events, sold out before the week began, as did the reserved seating for the ever-popular Downhill Costume Contest, which returns to the Little Nell run at the base of Aspen Mountain on Friday, and this year features Miss Richfield 1981 as emcee.
"It hasn't happened in years - that we've sold out all those tables in advance," Herr said.
Passes and admission fees to Gay Ski Week events cover the cost of producing the week-long extravaganza, but the week is also a fundraiser for the Roaring Fork Gay and Lesbian Community Fund, which supports both local and national causes in keeping with its mission to promote tolerance, understanding and diversity. Last year, more than $25,000 was distributed, according to the ski week website.
"That's really why we're here," Herr said.
This week's schedule boasts a mixture of on-slope and off-slope fun, and for anyone who wants to know what's happening and when, now there's an app for that.
"I'm actually excited about that. We are the only ski week that has a mobile app," Herr said. It's a free download, available for iPhone and Android. "You can have our schedule on the go. You can have it in your back pocket."
A rundown of the events is also at www.gayskiweek.com, but suffice to say it involves daily skiing and riding on the "mountain du jour," friendship dinners, dance parties, comedy nights, a movie night and the traditional Saturday night Gay vs. Straight hockey game pitting local straight guys against the GForce gay team (the series is tied at 4-4) and closing night pool party, both at the Aspen Recreation Center.
"We're not just a big, gay dance party," Herr said. "The focus is really skiing. Most people want to ski. By 1 a.m., people are going home because they want to ski the next day."
That said, this week's off-slope activities include Monday's screening of "Gayby" at the Wheeler Opera House, director Jonathan Lisecki's unconventional comedy about a hunky, gay comic book writer (played by Matthew Wilkas) and his yoga-teaching best girlfriend (Jenn Harris); they decide to fulfill a promise made in college by having a baby together.
Tuesday and Thursday are comedy nights at the Wheeler. Tuesday's bill includes Michael Kosta and Thomas Dale; on Thursday it's the Drew Carey Comedy Gala with Brendon Walsh. Carey, a standup comic also known for TV's "The Drew Carey Show" and the improv comedy show "Who's Line Is It Anyway," might seem an unlikely headliner for a Gay Ski Week show, or not.
"Gay people like straight comedians too," Herr said with a laugh. "It's great when people ask, 'Is Drew gay?' No, but he's funny. It gets back to the basic, people are people."
Most assuredly gay is filmmaker John Waters, the headliner Friday at Belly Up. He brings his one-man show, "This Filthy World," to the nightclub.