Aspen Times Weekly: Turning Gay Ski Week Inside Out | AspenTimes.com

Aspen Times Weekly: Turning Gay Ski Week Inside Out

by Barbara Platts

I've never attended a soiree quite like this one.

The Living Room at Hotel Jerome is filled to the brim. Music is playing, smiles and laughter abound, and everyone appears pleasantly buzzed off of a specialty vodka drink called Sex on the Mountain. All appears relatively normal, with one exception: I'm fairly certain I'm one of the only ladies in the building.

Living in a mountain town, a girl gets used to being outnumbered by men, but they aren't usually ones this nicely dressed or meticulously well-groomed. And, to top it all off, none of them are even glancing my direction. Or if they are, they have an expression that one might carry if they saw a toddler stumble into a bar and ask the bartender for a cold one. It's overwhelmingly obvious that I'm immersed in a sea of gay men, which can only mean one thing: Gay Ski Week has arrived.

This is my fourth ski season in Aspen and technically my fourth Gay Ski Week. But I've never before made it a goal to attend the parties and check out the scene. I've always known the week to be one of many lively and entertaining events that occur in Aspen during the winter. It looks like loads of fun, but at the end of the day, no matter how you twist it, I'm a straight white girl with a heterosexual partner. Gay Ski Week has never been mine to experience, and I accepted that.

However, this all changed a couple of months ago when my gay uncle, Tanner Flynn, decided he was coming up to Aspen with a few of his friends to experience the week. Tanner moved to Denver eight months ago and befriended three other men who consider themselves Gay Ski Week veterans. Per their enthusiasm, he decided to buy a pass and attend the week with them. Now, in my family, if we see another relative having unfair amounts of fun, we tend to flock that direction in order to make sure the wealth is shared properly. Tanner's announcement that he was attending Gay Ski Week was no exception. I quickly cleared my week, and a couple of my cousins booked flights out to join in. We were ready to party.

The event

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Gay Ski Week runs for seven full days, but many say that things don't really get popping until mid week. None of my fellow party attendees would arrive until then, but I felt the need to get out sooner and learn the lay of the land, so I enlisted my friend Jimmy (a seasoned Gay Ski Week attendee) as my tour guide. We hit the town with gusto, ready for whatever was

to come.

Aspen Gay Ski Week is considered to be the nation's oldest and largest gay ski event. The hoopla started 39 years ago when a group of friends made it an annual ritual to get together in Aspen and ski every January. As the years went by, the gathering grew larger, obtained sponsors and developed a loyal following. By 1996 they had acquired the Roaring Fork Gay and Lesbian Community Fund (also known as AspenOut) as the nonprofit beneficiary. This week, nearly 4,500 people are expected to attend, which is double the amount from last year.

To say this week is just a party would be a dramatic understatement. At this point, Gay Ski Week is an institution, and it's one that locals and visitors alike plan their year around.

Glenwood local Solomon Liston told me he recalls taking the RFTA bus up to Aspen to check out Gay Ski Week when he was a teenager.

"I knew there were other people I could identify with," Liston said about discovering Gay Ski Week. "I mean, what rural boy has an international gay event 40 miles down the road?"

Years later, Liston still makes Gay Ski Week an annual ritual because of the people he's met and the friendships he's formed.

"This is a place to come together," he said. "It's great because you see a lot of friends you've gotten to know."

Billy Wheelan, a seven-year Gay Ski Week veteran, said he comes back each year because he likes reconnecting with friends he typically only gets to see that week every year.

"It's a great chance to see old friends, both locals and ones that come from other places," he told me over a Friendship Dinner at HOPS Culture. These dinners occur each evening of Gay Ski Week at a different restaurant and are a way for people to congregate and dine together.

As for my first-timer uncle, he's looking forward to experiencing what draws thousands from the LGBTQ community here each year.

"I'm obviously looking forward to the skiing, but also to the breadth of activities that are planned and sponsored," he said. "I'm really looking forward to the casual get-togethers like aprés-ski at the Limelight, as well as the Caribou Club Benefit. It's great that this is not just a week about having fun but that it also gives back to the community."

And what about the fact that he will have his straight niece and two of his heterosexual nephews following him around the rest of the week? He said he is honored that we want to participate.

"There was a long period of time that gay people's families didn't have any interest to participate in our unique celebrations," he said. "We've participated in our family's lives but it's only been in the last few years that our families are starting to participate in our rituals and that's really exciting."

What's left

As the Sex on the Mountain libation begins to take hold of me in the Living Room of the Hotel Jerome, I find myself settling into my surroundings. Yes, I'm still the minority. But the crowds around me feel right at home here and, after some shaking of hands and verbal exchanges, they welcome me in as well.

By the time this issue hits the stands, there will be three days left of Gay Ski Week. Some of the best events take place at the end, such as the Women's Cocktail Reception at Casa Tua on Thursday, the wildly popular Downhill Costume Competition on Friday and the Top of Mountain Saints and Sinners party that night. Plus, we can't forget the notoriously wild Saturday Night Pool Party to finish things off with a bang (I'll probably let the boys play on their own for that one). No matter your sexual orientation, I hope you partake in some part of this jubilant celebration that descends on Aspen once a year. For me, the experience has certainly been one that will go down in the books.

Why wouldn't it? After all, there are over 4,000 attractive men in town. How can a girl say no?

Classifications

In the LGBT community, there are plenty of subcultures that help to characterize a person. We talked to Gay Ski Week attendees and supporters and came up with a few examples for both gay men and women. Please note that this is not meant to be an exhaustive list, nor is it meant to cover all tribes in the GLBT community.

Men

Bear: A large, almost husky guy that typically has a plethora of body and facial hair. He’s proud of his hyper masculine swagger and isn’t afraid to show it.

Otter: He’s similar to the bear because of the amount of hair that has accumulated on his person, but he’s smaller in frame and weight. An otter can be any age and while he’s usually thin, he’s not considered to be particularly athletic.

Wolf: Not as hairy as an otter, but known to be muscular, lean, hot and probably a bit aggressive sexually. Grrrr! A wolf can be any age or height, but he almost always has

facial hair.

Gym Bunnies: He’s probably under 50 with muscles so fine it’s obvious he spends the majority of his time at the gym. He’s not really a jock because he works out for face value. But he’s so pretty you won’t care how he got that way.

Twink: These guys are the younglings of the gay community, ranging in age from late teens to early twenties. A twink is boyishly attractive with a slim build and little to no body or facial hair. If they’re more muscular than your average twink, they are often referred to as a twunk.

Women

Lipstick Lesbian: A feminine women who cares about her looks, usually wearing lots of makeup and prepping her hair even if she’s just hitting the gym. She may almost seem straight…but don’t let those long batty eyelashes fool you.

Butch Lesbian: This woman is super masculine to the point where she doesn’t typically identify with her feminine side. Her hair is short and she probably has some pretty impressive guns under that flannel shirt.

Soft Stud: This type of lady is somewhere in between Lipstick and Butch. She has masculine qualities and may often wear men’s clothes, but she also embraces her feminine side, wearing makeup or getting her hair done up on occasion.

Agressive Femme: She’s a lipstick lesbian that wears the pants in the relationship. Dominant and always in control, particularly in the bedroom, she’s the lady in charge.

Sporty Lesbian: Her favorite Spice Girl was most definitely Sporty Spice. She identifies with being an athlete and is most often seen in sweatshirts, jeans and a baseball cap, because it’s much more comfortable than a pencil skirt and stilettos.

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