Gay Ski Week causes stir in Telluride | AspenTimes.com

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Gay Ski Week causes stir in Telluride

Several Telluride representatives are expected in Aspen this week to check out the goings-on at Gay Ski Week with an eye toward the future of their resort’s fledgling ski week.Telluride is expecting perhaps 500 attendees for its second Gay Ski Week – as opposed to the 2,000 to 3,000 or so participants who are expected for the 28th annual Gay Ski Week in Aspen – but the Telluride event has not gone unnoticed.A letter to the editor of the local newspaper, the Telluride Daily Planet, questioning why Telluride Mountain Village would sponsor the gay-oriented event, sparked a flood of replies in support of the village’s involvement. Mountain Village is located on the opposite side of the ski area from the historic town of Telluride. The resort is located in the San Juan Mountains of southwestern Colorado.Further stirring the controversy there was the posting of a cautionary note regarding the event on Telluride Cyberguide, a website that offers vacation-planning information for the resort.The furor made the pages of the Rocky Mountain News last week and prompted a slew of e-mails to Telluride Mountain Village – many of them lambasting the village and threatening to keep their family at home.Kerri Cardin, public relations and communications manager for Mountain Village, said she doubts many of the e-mails came from individuals who were actually planning a ski vacation to Telluride.”To think you’re going to change your family’s vacation plans just doesn’t make sense to me,” said Tracee Hennigan, events coordinator for Mountain Village.Still, the extent of the controversy took both women by surprise. The flurry of e-mails dropped off only last week.”What we’re surprised about is the quantity – and the length of time it’s gone on,” Hennigan said.Both Cardin and Hennigan said they plan to visit Aspen this week for a closer look at what has made the original Gay Ski Week so successful. A representative of the Telluride AIDS Benefit is expected to come to town, as well.Though Cardin and Hennigan both resided in Aspen previously, they’ll be paying much closer attention to Gay Ski Week now that they’re involved in organizing a similar event. “It was always a blast,” Cardin recalled. “I’ll bet a lot of the people and merchants in town look forward to Gay Ski Week. It’s lucrative and a lot of fun people come to town.”The Telluride Ski Co. sponsored the inaugural Telluride event last year, which attracted 250 to 300 people, Cardin said. Scheduled Feb. 26-March 6 this year, it coincides with the Telluride AIDS Benefit, an annual fashion show that precedes the resort’s Gay Ski Week.A family warningOnce the controversy over the event erupted in the pages of the local newspaper last month, Telluride Cyberguide, operated by a local resident, offered this advice on its website: “Although this week should be fun for those not offended by alternative lifestyles … we are strongly suggesting that families concerned with exposing their children to the homosexual lifestyle and homosexual behavior schedule their vacations another time.”Events are planned throughout the week in both towns celebrating and promoting the homosexual lifestyle.”Due to the intense controversy this year in regards to this week, the public display of homosexual pride and behavior will most likely be greater than last year. If this offends you, this is not the time to visit Telluride.”Al Heirich, who operates the cyberguide, told the Rocky Mountain News that he posted the alert after visitors to the site asked about the controversy. He said the ski resort responded by asking him to remove a link to its website, which he did.His website defends the caution, noting it has offered a similar warning to families about College Ski Week, when public drunkenness and other raucous behavior may be prevalent.The site also offers this disclaimer: “The Official Cyber Guide to Telluride has no opinion on the issue of homosexuality.”On another site, which Heirich calls Telluride Gay Ski Week and The Non-Controversy, he indicates the cyberguide may have to shut down as a result of the blow-up.Janet Urquhart’s e-mail address is janet@aspentimes.com