Aspen Gay Ski Week to host largest event in nearly 40 years

Erica Robbie
The Aspen Times
A.J. Makibbin, a.k.a. Visa D'Kline, skis down Little Nell during Aspen Gay Ski Week's Downhill Costume Contest last year.
Lauren Glendenning/The Aspen Times |

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Aspen Gay Ski Week is today through next Sunday. Events include group ski days, apres-ski, dinners, the Friday downhill costume competition and the Saturday night pool party, among others. Celebrity appearances include Meghan Trainor, Margaret Cho and Lance Bass, among others.

For a list of events or for more information about Aspen Gay Ski Week, visit

Aspen Gay Ski Week is back in Aspen this week for its largest and most colorful celebration to date.

As event organizers celebrate its 39th year, Aspen Gay Ski Week’s 2016 sales — from passes to event tickets to lift passes to lodging — are nearly double from last year, event attendee and nine-year volunteer Jim Guttau said.

This year’s event booked $700,000 worth of hotel rooms, more than double its $300,000 lodging sales in 2015. Celebrity appearances this week include Meghan Trainor, Margaret Cho and Lance Bass, among others.

Aspen Gay Ski Week chair Kevin McManamon said this year’s spike in sales comes largely in part due to the event’s first-time media sponsorship with the “gay epicenter of culture” television channel Logo TV.

The network will broadcast special events throughout Aspen Gay Ski Week.

Aside from Aspen Gay Ski Week’s media sponsorship with Logo TV, McManamon said the event’s sales have experienced a 15 to 20 percent growth each year over the past decade, which he attributed to the event’s marketing team and also the economy.

The host of Gay Ski Week is AspenOUT, a local nonprofit that works to promote tolerance, understanding and diversity through education, community action and service.

The weeklong celebration is the first gay ski week to exist, McManamon said.

Ski towns in countries around the world have since followed Aspen’s lead by hosting their own gay ski weeks, he said, adding that they are typically organized by a company or brand.

“That’s the big difference between us and the rest of them,” McManamon said. “We’re a grassroots, local organization that raises money for LGBT, mostly youth, causes.”

While AspenOUT throws several fundraising events throughout the year — like work days at Habitat for Humanity, pool days at the hot springs and community dinners — Aspen Gay Ski Week is the organization’s claim to fame.

Aspen Gay Ski Week has been a nonprofit for the past 15 years and is the only nonprofit gay ski week in the world, according to McManamon.

All of the money raised during Gay Ski Week is granted to LGBT causes both locally and nationally.

This year, Gay Ski Week also will start a college scholarship fund for high school students in the Roaring Fork Valley from Aspen to Glenwood Springs, McManamon said.

McManamon estimated this year’s Gay Ski Week should bring roughly 4,000 visitors to town.

These thousands of visitors are traveling from across the globe to attend, Guttau said.

For Guttau, the event is an annual reunion for friends who fly into Aspen from all over the country, including Honolulu, Phoenix, and Washington, D.C.

“It’s our favorite week of the entire year,” Guttau said. “We attend all the late-night parties, ski the best slopes on the continent, pop some bubbles at the legendary Cloud 9 and celebrate equality in the best mountain town, Aspen.”

Local resident A.J. Makibbin, perhaps better known by his drag queen name Visa D’Kline, said he thinks Aspen Gay Ski Week is “super important” to the LGBT community not only in Aspen, but all over the world.

“My hopes are that Aspen will become the go-to LGBT destination for years to come,” Makibbin said.“I love when this week rolls around each year because it brings a world of people together for friendship, laughs and good times.”

Makibbin said he is working to organize an Aspen Pride event for summer 2017.