Aspen Gay Ski Week without Logo TV but still expecting big turnout |

Aspen Gay Ski Week without Logo TV but still expecting big turnout

Erica Robbie
The Aspen Times
Comedy night at Belly Up Aspen is an Aspen Gay Ski Week tradition.
Anna Stonehouse/The Aspen Times |

Born in Aspen in the late-1970s, the world’s first gay ski week this year is expanding its reach to add an international cause to its list of beneficiaries while also making a push to support more local businesses.

Aspen Gay Ski Week organizers say the 41-year-old event, which kicks off today, is stronger than ever despite lacking its major sponsorship with Logo TV. The Viacom Inc.-owned LGBTQ network’s two-year contract as Aspen Gay Ski Week’s media sponsor expired in 2017, event director Pamela Herr said.

“Viacom is a very large media group. If they decide Logo (should) do winter events again, I’m sure we’ll be on the top of their list,” she said. “Things happen on a corporate level that just trickles down to partners like us.”

Gay Ski Week spokesman Jim Guttau said there are no hard feelings between the groups and Logo decided it is “taking a break from winter events and programming” this season.

Logo invested millions of dollars into Gay Ski Week, Herr said, and significantly increased the event’s exposure. Scenes from Aspen were airing everywhere on national television, including on TVs in the backseat of taxis in New York City.

Guttau said that while Logo “elevated Aspen’s presence” into new markets, the sponsorship loss is not impacting numbers for this year.

Aspen Gay Ski Week “has been growing steadily since before (Logo),” Guttau said, using its daily apres ski party at the Limelight Hotel as an example. About a decade ago, he recalled “maybe 100 people” went to the apres gathering. He said these parties now will draw about 1,000 attendees.

“Our bookings are way up over last year,” Guttau added, “and we sold out passes earlier than last year.”

Approximately 4,500 people attended Gay Ski Week last January, Guttau said, and he anticipates around 5,000 people in Aspen this week.

AspenOUT, the nonprofit behind Gay Ski Week since 1996, donates 100 percent of the event’s proceeds to organizations, LBTGQ-centered and not, throughout the valley, country and, as of last year, the world. Gay Ski Week is AspenOUT’s most lucrative fundraiser each year.

In 2017, the organization granted $55,000 to 15 nonprofits and groups as well as $16,000 worth of scholarships to seniors at four area high schools: Aspen, Basalt, Roaring Fork and Glenwood Springs.

New to Aspen Gay Ski Week’s grantee list is the International Gay Lesbian Travel Association and Foundation. The organization works with emerging destinations to help promote and ensure the safety of gay travelers, said Herr, who is on the foundation board.

“The thing is, there’s a lot of bigotry in the world,” she said. “Safety is a big concern. The LGBTQ traveler has a specific set of needs that may be a little different from the mainstream traveler.”

According to a report from the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association, homosexuality is criminalized in more than 70 countries.

Within these areas, the IGLTA seeks gay travel agents, hoteliers and small businesses to work with LGBTQ clients when traveling, Herr said.

While thinking globally, Aspen Gay Ski Week is focusing locally this year more than ever.

Rather than partnering with major names such as Grey Goose and Bud Light as in previous Gay Ski Weeks, Herr said, this year they are working with small businesses, including Woody Creek Distillers, Marble Distillery of Carbondale and Stripped Mixers of Snowmass Village.

“We’re really trying to stay local but think global through these new partnerships,” Herr said.