Aspen Gay Ski Week organizers might broaden reach | AspenTimes.com

Aspen Gay Ski Week organizers might broaden reach

John ColsonAspen, CO Colorado

ASPEN The organizers of Gay Ski Week said this week that they wont know for some time whether a beefed-up marketing effort paid off for this years event.But there are signs that the organization behind the annual event soon will broaden its work to include more than simply holding a big party every January.Anecdotally, some participants said this years Gay Ski Week drew the biggest crowd they had seen in several years, but the numbers wont be in for a couple of months.It felt bigger, said executive director Bryan Gonzalez, adding that as far as numbers, and all that stuff, were still working on it.

Organizers planned to boost attendance for the event, billed as the oldest of its kind in the United States, through a marketing partnership with Gay Days Inc., the company behind Gay Days in Orlando, Fla.Taking place in June, Gay Days bills its event as one of the top three gay and lesbian events in the world, and cross-promotion of Aspens Gay Ski Week was expected to entice a bigger crowd to Aspen this year.According to Gay Days Inc., the Florida event is 15 years old and regularly attracts 150,000 people. Aspen, which celebrated its 31st birthday this year, has remained flat at about 3,000 or 4,000 participants each year.The economic effects of the Aspen event, though, are significant attendees spend between $1 million and $2 million, and the city is said to collect as much as $250,000 in sales tax receipts as a direct result of Gay Ski Week.As of 2006, the last year for which an Internal Revenue Service Form 990 is available, the Aspen Gay and Lesbian Community Fund (AGLCF), the nonprofit, financial arm of the event, reported a total income of $239,730, of which $54,552 was from direct public support and $185,178 was generated by the Gay Ski Week activities.The form also reports that Aspen Gay Ski Week that year cost $175,491, and that it attracted more than 3,500 attendees at a range of social gatherings, athletic contests and a human rights summit [which] fostered a strong community alliance.Gonzalez reported that this year the festival cost closer to $200,000 to put on the weeks activities this year. He declined to discuss how much the AGLCF paid Gay Days Inc. under a contract signed last year, but noted the arrangement was necessary because [Gay Ski Week] has gotten too big for one person to handle. Its very difficult to throw this party.It was the beginning of a beautiful relationship, he said of the partnership, indicating the exact relations between the two organizations may undergo some changes before next year, and that the national and international marketing effort will begin much earlier this year.Gonzalez also served as AGLCFs executive director in 2006, and earned a salary of $42,000 for the 30 hours per week he was expected to put in to organize the Gay Ski Week events. That was broken down to $33,600 for program services, $6,300 for management and general, and $2,100 for fundraising, according to the statement of expenses. However, Gonzalez said this week that the organization runs on a shoestring budget and that sometimes we cant even pay our executive director.Other expenses in 2006 included $4,905 for telephone service, $7,168 for office rental, and $3,213 in payroll taxes.In addition to putting on Gay Ski Week, the organization handed out a total of $4,000 in grants $2,000 to the Western Colorado AIDS Project in Grand Junction, and $2,000 to the Youth of Vision Scholarship at the University of Colorado at Denver.Chronicling the AGLCFs pattern of income for the last few years, the Form 990 indicated that 2003 was the best recent year in terms of revenues, when the organization took in $107,772 in gifts and grants and $167,132 in receipts from Gay Ski Week itself.Sources within the local gay community have said that a schism has developed among the membership of the Aspen Gay and Lesbian Community Fund. One faction, according to sources who asked to remain anonymous, would like to see the organization begin to donate more money to other regional gay-activism causes, while another believes the AGLCF should focus on its roots and make Gay Ski Week the biggest and best party of its kind in the United States.Gonzalez rejected the idea that there is a split in the organization. I think were all pretty much on the same page in believing that the organization needs to provide greater amounts of funding and support to the area gay community, he said. We would like that to be the case, Gonzalez added, to raise enough money to sustain the organization and be able to give to organizations that provide services we cant provide, such as the Western Colorado AIDS Project.Theres much need, Gonzalez continued, referring to coming out issues in which families must figure out how to contend when a son or daughter declares himself or herself to be gay.We need to be the first contact in helping these folks, he said. Our greater goal is to be a support group for the gay and lesbian community. That is very much more important to me than throwing a party every January, helping people succeed in their lives and getting everything together.As difficult as it is to put the annual Gay Ski Week together, with one director and a core of volunteers, Gonzalez said there are no plans to shelve the event because, Without the event, there isnt a community fund.jcolson@aspentimes.com


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