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  WINDY CITY TIMES

Sports Complex : Ski Season
by Jim Provenzano
2005-02-02

This article shared 3497 times since Wed Feb 2, 2005
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Pictured Photo courtesy Altitude 2005.

Ski lodges around the U.S. and Canada attract thousands of GLBT skiers and snowboarders annually, and this winter promises even more snowy fun. Large-scale events now draw thousands of circuit-party regulars, and smaller ski clubs throughout North America organize local events and trips to ski resorts.

David Hazzan, president of the Toronto Gay Ski/Snowboarding Club, formed his group in 2000, and he says he has his daughter to thank for it.

When he was still married to a woman and not out as gay, he traveled with his daughter ( already a novice skier ) to Blue Mountain, north of Toronto, and took a few lessons. 'By the end of the day,' he says, 'I was hooked.'

After coming out, Hazzan decided to start a gay ski club. 'At first I thought it was a crazy idea,' he says, since he was new to the sport at the time, and also new to being out and divorced. But 'I said, 'What the hell. Even if I only meet one or two ski buddies, it would be worth it.''

Hazzan created a Web site and began promoting the group, which now has more than 200 members. The club has also started a GLBT youth ski trip for teens otherwise financially unable to try the sport. The next such event is in March.

The majority of club members are men, Hazzan says. 'But we are trying to encourage women to participate—we now have a women's event and a membership coordinator to grow the ranks of lesbians.'

For individual skiers, large-scale events like Altitude 2005 ( Jan. 29-Feb. 7 at Whistler Resort in British Columbia ) and Ascent, the Winter Party at Lake Tahoe ( Feb. 27-March 6 at Heavenly Mountain Resort ) include dance parties, as well as music, comedy, and drag shows. Proceeds from admission benefit local charities. The newest big event, Subaru's GLAAD Gay Ski Week in Telluride ( Feb. 28-March 7 at Mountain Lodge ) benefits the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation.

Lee Bergeron, executive director of Altitude, expects up to 5,000 attendees for this year's event. 'The great thing about it is that people come for all different reasons. We plan on growing the event so it will become a festival.' Dance events, skating, barbecues, and scavenger hunts are joined by a 'Hat and Wig Day,' which brings a campy element to snowboarding and skiing activities. The ambitious Mile High Mountaintop Tea Dance, with scenic mountain views, boasts the distinction of being the highest circuit party in the world, at 6,000 feet above sea level. Bergeron even hinted about some sanctioned competitive events in future years.

Some attendees of these events are avid skiers, while others go simply for the parties. Hazzan, who was at last year's Altitude, says he finds a balance between fun on and off the slopes. 'There are lots of hardcore skiers,' he says. 'I've made a lot of ski friends while up there. The circuit crowd shows up later in the week.'

But some of the big events can be too circuity for serious skiers. Steve Mole, an active skier who lives in Pittsburgh, says he's not sure what the point is to having a circuit party at a ski resort. 'I guess they see it as glamorous.' Mole created Pittsburgh's Steel City Skiers, which now has 100 members, although about a dozen members ski at least once a week throughout the sport's season.

While in college, Mole skied at Pennsylvania's Blue Knob, which has 'some of the most challenging skiing I've ever encountered,' he says. Mole says that he prefers smaller events like Winter Rendezvous ( Feb. 2-6, in Stowe, Vt. ) , which draws about 300 attendees. 'That is a great group, very nice, down-to-earth people.'

While costs can dissuade some ski enthusiasts who can't afford equipment, ski clothes, pricey hotels, and travel expenses, local clubs in many cities continue to plan local ski trips for people in almost all economic levels.

Bergeron admits he used to think circuit ski events were pricey, until he took over Altitude after the original producer died. 'It's like trying to throw an event on a desert island,' he says. 'Whistler is remote, and there aren't a lot of services. We have to ship everything in. Now that I'm involved in producing Altitude, I see there is a value for the production costs.'

www.ascentlaketahoe.com

www.cosa-ski.org

www.gayskieast.org/

www.gayskieast.org/>

www.gayskiers.org

www.glaadgayskiweek.com

www.mammothgayski.com

www.olssc.org

www.outontheslopes.com

www.saganorth.com

www.skibuddies.org

www.skiout.com

www.tgsc.ca

Jim Provenzano is the author of the novels PINS and Monkey Suits. Read more sports articles at www.sportscomplex.org . He can be reached care of this publication or at sportscomplex@qsyndicate.com .


This article shared 3497 times since Wed Feb 2, 2005
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