On the scene: The glory of gay ski week

Anna Stonehouse
The Aspen Times
Terry DeCarlo, Executive Director of the LGBTQ Center Orlando, speaking at the Downhill Ski Parade in Aspen last year about the 39 deaths at the Orlando gay nightclub, Pulse, from the horrific mass shooting in June of 2016.
Anna Stonehouse/The Aspen Times

The rainbow banners have hit the lightposts in Aspen. The colorful storm of Gay Ski Week is upon us. Nothing compares to the lively energy that Gay Ski Week brings into Aspen. I don’t care if you’re gay, straight, trans, etc. this is a week to join the “professional partiers” and have a fabulous time.

I would use the term “ski” loosely for this crowd. Sure, some of the people it draws are decent if not expert skiers, but from what I’ve seen and experienced, particularly with the downhill costume parade, this crowd is here to party, not ski. It’s painful, as a somewhat proficient skier/snowboarder myself, to watch some of the participants try to ski down for the competition. I must say, though, once the skis are off and the contestants are on the stage, they tear it up in their performing element! MC Sister Helen Holy is one of the funniest performers I have ever seen. Her improv is so crude but on point, I can hardly do my job of taking photographs through my laughter.

What a great town we have where our very own sheriff, Joe DiSalvo, is one of the judges for the downhill competition. Based on my past two years of observing the event, I’d say DiSalvo finds Sister Helen Holy just as funny as I do. Aspen local and Olympic medalist Alex Ferreira even mentioned it as one of his favorite events in Aspen, as well. I grew up in a very liberal town in Minnesota, so it’s very comforting to live somewhere with similar open and welcoming views.

Last year, Terry DeCarlo, executive director of the LGBT+ Center Orlando, spoke at the Downhill Ski Parade about the 39 deaths at the Orlando gay nightclub, Pulse, from the horrific mass shooting in June 2016. A powerful saddening and quiet energy swept across this usually boisterous group. You could feel the love and the hurt for the victims of that shooting. Crowd members also wore shirts with the words “We will not let hate win” strewn across them and hugs and cheers rang out delivering this message against hate. It was a moment I will always remember.

To sum up, Gay Ski Week, to me, is so much more than a huge party; it also is an opportunity to create a safe space for the LGBTQ community to gather and to reunite with friends, and to spread love and acceptance. I feel proud to live in a town where this has been the mentality for 42 years of the event. The rest of the world, please catch up with this acceptance, it’s about damn time.