Aspen Gay Ski Week’s parties, dancing, and comedy help fund LGBTQ+ teen scholarships
January marks the 47th anniversary Aspen Gay Ski Week Returns when the annual celebration returns Jan. 14-21. Organizers expect to welcome 3,000 attendees to an inclusive celebration that is also AspenOUT’s big fundraiser.
In 2024, some of that money generated by parties, drag queen bingo, mountaintop dances, high-speed costume contests, and comedy will help support a new scholarship program for Roaring Fork Valley LGBTQ+ teens. Since 1996, AspenOUT has supported regional and national LGBTQ organizations like the Matthew Shepard Foundation, and it funds hundreds of hours of free mental health counseling in the valley.
But this year, it also launched a scholarship and leadership program for LGBTQ+ students in Aspen, Basalt, Roaring Fork, Colorado Rocky Mountain School, and Glenwood high schools. Applicants must be involved in their school’s GSA Club (or Diversity Equity and Inclusion Club or similar if no GSA Club exists). Applicants write and submit an essay online. An in-person interview required.
AspenOUT’s program rules state that “selection will be based on past involvement in their Gender and Sexuality Alliances and/or past efforts to promote inclusivity, compassion, and LGBTQ rights. As GSA Clubs are composed of LGBTQ+ and allied youth.”
A student need not identify as LGBTQ+ to win a place in the program.
“AspenOUT promoted the program through social media and posters that were distributed to (valley) GSAs,” AspenOUT executive director Kevin McManamon told The Aspen Times, referring to GSA clubs that serve schools in Carbondale, Glenwood Springs and Aspen. “As a pilot program we accepted applications from high school juniors and seniors. In the upcoming years, they will be from juniors only. “
After successful completion of the leadership program, students receive a $5,000 scholarship to a vocational school or university.
“We have two students from Aspen HS, one from Roaring Fork HS, one from Colorado Rocky Mountain School and two from Glenwood Springs High,” McManamon said. “In the future we hope to have just one from each school… These kids are amazing. I’m so proud of them.”
And gay ski week 2024 will include a panel discussion of the LGBTQ+ community’s future, which those teen leaders seem likely to shape.
“We are adding intellectual conversation and educational events to the gay ski week experience in 2024,” a press release vowed.
Organizers also promise après-ski dance parties every afternoon 3-7 p.m.
“There will be daily events featuring DJ entertainment, free gifts from sponsors, a hospitality suite, heated pool and two hot tubs,” the press release continues.
The popular Friday afternoon Downhill Costume Competition is a Gay Ski Week tradition. Each year, thousands of fans watch as contestants in wildly creative ensembles zoom on their skis past the judges. San Diego-based drag queen, Mariam T, will lead the 2024 panel on Aspen Mountain. Mariam T is self-described as San Diego’s “crankiest drag queen.”
Saturday, Jan. 13 ‘s Film Night is at the Isis Theater where a screening of “Tom of Finland” will benefit Aspen Film and Tom of Finland Foundation (the latter is dedicated to preserving erotic art).
Mariam T also kicks off the festivities at 11 a.m. Sunday, Jan. 14 with a Drag Queen Bingo Brunch at Aspen’s only five-star, five diamond hotel, The Little Nell partnering with the Aspen Chamber Resort Association.
There’s also an Opening Cocktail Reception at the W Hotel Aspen in its sophisticated slope-side lounge: 39 Degrees. The ski week schedule suggests dining at Mi Chola, then dancing at the free late-night party.
On Tuesday, Jan. 16, Mariam T hosts a comedy event at W Hotel, starting at 9 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 17 there’s a Benefit Night of dancing at the private Caribou Club, Aspen’s premier, a longtime supporter of Gay Ski Week. A5 5 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 18, the LGBTQ community’s future is discussed at an Aspen Meadows event called Talks Like These moderated by Bill Kapfer who gained national fame fostering diversity in banking. His panelists include Kevin Jennings, CEO of Lambda Legal; Denver Minds psychotherapist Joe Nucci, psychotherapist, and Tom of Finland Foundation creative director Richie Villani.
Here are some events to keep an eye out for: the Wheeler Opera House will be hosting “Frenemies: A Fierce, Fabulous and Funny Show,” featuring comedian and star of the Netflix series Bonding, Brendan Scannell and Mariam T. Belly Up will host cowboy-themed party, “A Night at the Round Up Saloon.” On Friday, Jan. 19, guests can ride gondolas to Sundeck at Aspen Mountain’s summit to dance at 11,000 feet until 2 a.m.
Saturday, Jan. 20, organizers describe a legendary pool party to be hosted by Aspen Recreation Center, with “DJs, dancing, hot tubs, water slides, a lazy river and open bars for 1,000 guests.”
To learn more about Aspen Gay Ski Week, check in on http://www.gayskiweek.com
To reach Lynda Edwards, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.