Platts: From the Outside Looking In
Yet another Aspen Gay Ski Week is in the books. I think it’s safe to say that we are all entirely exhausted, have a collection of new hilarious stories to share and made at least a few valuable connections.
I, for one, am beat. Not only did I party hard, trying to keep up with the best of them, but I also tried my best to immerse myself in the entire scene for the sake of research. I wrote the cover story on experiencing Gay Ski Week as a straight person in last week’s issue. However, the story was due on Tuesday in order to get it in Thursday’s edition. But Gay Ski Week doesn’t really get hopping until Wednesday. I was just at the tip of the iceberg.
The day after I turned in my story, my gay uncle and his two friends arrived on the scene. I met them at the end of my work day at Moncler, where they were meticulously analyzing each ski jacket, trying to find the perfect one that would display not only their impeccable good looks, but also their natural athleticism on the slopes. Right after that, it was time for a drink. At around 5 p.m. during Gay Ski Week there’s only one acceptable place to be: The Limelight.
At first, the scene was quiet. All the lobby furniture had been pulled out in order to make more room for dancing and/or mingling, making the place feel almost empty. But that didn’t last long. Within 15 to 20 minutes the place was jam packed. I stood with my uncle and his friends, taking in the massive crowds and their first impressions of the Week.
I’m not sure if it was the scene or all of the booze they’d been consuming that day, but as the place filled up, they looked almost star struck. I asked them what they all thought and they said they were mesmerized by the scene. That suddenly it was entirely OK to be there and be gay. That, in fact, I was the outsider as the straight person and that felt so strange to them.
“We’ve always been on the outside looking in,” my uncle Tanner Flynn said. “Now it’s the other way around. That’s amazing to me.”
This feeling continued into the evening when a group of us went to the Caribou Club benefit for the Tyler Clementi Foundation. My boyfriend, two of my boy cousins and I (all straight) went with my uncle and his friends. We danced the night away, not minding that we were obviously out of place. At one point we were sitting on the couch and a couple of men came up to start a conversation with my younger cousin (blond hair, blue eyes, definitely a “twink” type). They soon realized that we were all there with our uncle and that not one of us (except me) preferred the male gender.
“So you’re trying to tell me that all of you are straight?” the man asked as he pointed to me, my boyfriend and both of my cousins. We all nodded our heads. He looked as if he had seen a ghost…or four of them. And then he started laughing. “I can’t believe that. You’re all straight and you’re here right now, during Gay Ski Week with your gay uncle?” We all nodded again. Yes, perhaps it wasn’t the norm, but that evening turned into one of the most entertaining I’ve had in a very long time. My boyfriend and cousins were in agreement. We had a blast.
A phenomenon like this is possible in other places besides Aspen. People go to gay clubs and participate in Pride events in big cities. But how often do a few straight individuals living in small town like Aspen get to be on the outside looking in like this? How did we get so lucky to experience this opportunity? As the events continued, from the costume parade to the pool party, I continued to ask myself that question. The answer I kept returning to was one that the secretary of the AspenOUT board (the nonprofit beneficiary of Aspen Gay Ski Week), Karen Kurt, gave me the first day of the Week without even knowing what my question was.
I was talking about how amazing it was that Aspen had an internationally known gay event and how wonderful it was that the community embraced it so fully. She responded by saying, “Aspen is truly a diamond and a diamond has at least 64 facets. Aspen is not a monolithic community. We are a diverse community and that diversity is what creates the sparkle.”
Gay Ski Week is one of the many facets of the Aspen community, which makes it another reason I love living in this town so much. Even if there are times when I’m the outsider. In fact, that’s often when the experience becomes the most memorable.
Until next year.
Barbara Platts loved last week’s experiences but is now prepping for the next facet: X Games. She hopes all of you have your game faces on because things are about to get cray. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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