The 10 best gay skiing vacations

Whether you choose the Rockies or the Alps, ascend the snowy heights of the planet’s best mountain ranges and you’re bound to find adventure, excitement and inclusion. While some ski resorts in rural regions still lack full LGBTQ+ acceptance, avid skiers or snowboarders seeking a gay-friendly experience will be pleased to know that progressive attitudes are on the up. Gay skiing is a whole mood, catered to by an ever-expanding number of gay ski events organised by open-minded ski resorts across the globe. As well as all the powdered snow sports you could dream of, gay snow vacations also encompass wilderness adventure, wild parties and plenty of après ski. Don your ski-suit to find out what you’re missing out on, with Mr Hudson’s top 10 gay skiing vacations.

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1. Aspen, Colorado, USA

We start our guide to the best gay ski vacations in Colorado, home to the southern portion of the Rocky Mountains, as well as the city of Denver and largely liberal attitudes relative to the rest of the Western US states. Colorado’s diverse landscape covers arid desert, river canyons and snow-capped mountains, but for now, we’ll go to the Aspen Snowmass, which covers four glamorous ski areas frequented by the rich and famous, all linked by shuttle bus. As well as the old silver mining town of Aspen proper at the foot of the mountains, there’s also the Aspen Highlands, Buttermilk and Snowmass ski areas. The mainstay activities are challenging cross-country skiing and snowboarding across 480 kilometres, but Aspen also offers snowshoe and winter hiking in the Elk Mountains. Aspen gay scene is well established and the resort prides itself on its long-standing liberal attitude, with the annual Aspen Gay Ski Week running since 1977.

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2. Mammoth Mountains, California, USA

Continuing on the all-American theme, our second choice of gay ski destinations takes us to the Mammoth Mountains in California. The state’s best skiing spot, Mammoth Ski Area lays claim as the original home of ‘Elevation Ski Week’, an annual event which has since become one of the largest gay ski events in the US and the world over. March 2020 will see the 18th annual gay ski week at Mammoth, hosting over 2,500 riders near Mammoth Lakes north of Yosemite. An open-minded haven with an impressive line-up of events, Mammoth also gives visitors the option of creating their own ticketed events.

Photo: Joan Oger

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Switzerland is an unsurprising contender in the European ski stakes, thanks to its flawless natural landscapes and Alpine appeal

3. Arosa, Switzerland

Switzerland is an unsurprising contender in the European ski stakes, thanks to its flawless natural landscapes and Alpine appeal. As well as huge mega-resorts, Switzerland is also home to small mountain village resorts, which are perfect for short breaks. Arosa is one such resort, compactly positioned in a Graubünden Mountain bowl just a couple of hours south of Swiss capital, Zürich. With elevated views of both Weisshorn and Rothorn Mountains as well as over 30 miles of walking trails, Arosa is perfect for winter ramblers as much as skiers. One of the most gay-friendly ski resorts in the Alps with a rainbow flag flying all year round, Arosa cements its LGBTQ+ advocate status each January during Arosa Gay Ski Week, when 600 lesbian and gay winter sports fans unite. Après-ski events include cocktail and disco parties, demos and private get-togethers, with the options of ice hockey, sledging or sunbathing in the Tschuggen hut to relax.

4. Lenzerheide, Switzerland

Home of ‘GaySki’ since its foundation in 1992, Lenzerheide is Arosa’s slightly older cousin, sharing the same breath-taking scenery and love of gay culture. Held at Hotel Schweizerhof and run by volunteers, GaySki has been built as an institution, unlike other large commercial events. The event is solely dedicated to bringing like-minded people together to share 225km of powdery pistes and a good time. In March 2020, Lenzerheide celebrates the 25th anniversary of SWING Gay Ski Week where pass holders are guaranteed both snow and a packed schedule of socialising events.

Photo: Lloyd Dirks

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5. Whistler Blackcomb, Canada

With a reputation that precedes it, Canada’s Whistler is, of course, an evergreen choice for a ski vacation. Boasting the largest ski area in North America with over 8,000 skiable acres, Whistler/Blackcomb is most famed for its village parties which take place across three of the resort’s huge village bases. In January every year during the Whistler Pride & Ski Festival, gay culture takes over with each base offering a mishmash of wild events, from fetish parties to dinner parties with dance events thrown in. Don’t party too hard however because the inspiring natural beauty of British Columbia truly deserves to be appreciated with a clear head.

Photo: Alexander Slattery

6. Sölden, Tyrol, Austria

Another resort repping the rainbow flag for Europe is Sölden in Austria’s Ötztal Valley. A seemingly small ski village at a remote edge of the valley, Sölden is, in fact, the nation’s largest municipality covering 467 square kilometres of glaciers, mountains and meadows with a population of 3,300 inhabitants. The influx of skiers over the past couple of decades has slowly transformed this former farming village and now Sölden has the facilities and expertise to provide to over two million vacationers each year, with lofty pistes to challenge even the most ambitious of skiers. As well as being the official European training base of the US ski team, Sölden is also a base for LGBT culture, with the Sölden Gay Snow Happening bringing people together annually since 1998 for ski events and lively Après-Ski activities (this year’s Happening takes place in March 2020).

7. Queenstown, New Zealand

Get yourself to the Southern hemisphere in time for the start of New Zealand’s springtime (which actually coincides with the end of summer in Europe). NZ spring is the best time for skiing, as the snow softens and winter sports-loving Aussies next door start to get snow fever. The city of Queenstown has the perfect location, set as it is beside Lake Wakatipu, with the Southern Alps serving as a dramatic backdrop. With as many as four ski areas just 20 minutes from the city centre and a terrifically long ski season between June to October, Queenstown remains unrivalled for its convenience as much as its stunning scenery and world-class infrastructure. As well as skiing and snowboarding on open terrain, other activities include ice skating, snowmobiling and snowshoeing, topped off during the month of August when the international LGBT community descends for Gay Ski Week Queenstown at Cardrona Alpine Resort.

Photo: Sebastian Staines

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While you might envisage Spain as a hot and sweaty seaside situation, the Spanish Pyrenees will change your mind with wintery weather, northern-facing ski slopes and perfect snow conditions

Photo: Erik Odiin

8. Boí Taüll, Lleida, Spain

While you might envisage Spain as a hot and sweaty seaside situation, the Spanish Pyrenees will change your mind with wintery weather, northern-facing ski slopes and perfect snow conditions just a couple of hours from Barcelona. The ski area of Boí Taüll resort in Lleida Province is our top choice, thanks to its 47-kilometre runs and fun hosts who arrange sports, events and parties for an unforgettable vacation. Boí Taüll’s Snow Gay Weekend, hosted by ‘Rainbow Barcelona Tours’ is now in its fifth year, accommodating an ever-growing number of attendees (currently around 200, mostly from Spain and France), for a week of intimate ski events, parties and more, at an affordable price.

9. Marmot Basin, Jasper, Canada

Our second Canadian affair is with the Marmot Basin resort in the picture-perfect haven of Jasper National Park. As well as unspoilt surroundings of glaciers, forests, frozen lakes and waterfalls, the park is a true haven for wildlife. Jasper Ski Resort is an unobtrusive addition to the landscape, providing guests with a mellow vibe and uncrowded slopes accessible via the resort’s state-of-the-art ski lifts. Alternative activities include dog-sledging, ice canyon walks and wildlife safaris. Representing the open-mindedness and diverse values of the Canadian Rockies, the resort celebrates Jasper Pride Festival annually in March, organising a rainbow flag skiing parade and other gay-friendly events serving to connect the resident queer community, LGBT travellers and couples on the slopes before unwinding in Jasper’s lively bars and restaurants. And there’s plenty of things to do in winter in Banff and Lake Victoria when you’re doing skiing.

Photo: Holly Mandarich

Photo: Michael Shannon

10. European Snow Pride at Espace Killy, France

The cherry on top of our gay winter sundae is European Snow Pride, which takes place at Espace Killy in the French Alps. Since its initiation in 2012, this festival has since become one of the most important gay ski weeks in Europe attracting around 1,000 gays from all over the world. European Snow Pride is quality choice for serious skiers and partygoers alike, as the resort spans 300 kilometres of ski runs, across the Val d’Isere and Tignes ski areas, offering an impressive line-up of Après-Ski DJs, artists and dancers from Europe’s best gay clubs, in amongst the most extraordinary mountain scenery. Mark your calendar for the week of March 14th  – 21st 2020 or risk serious FOMO.

Photo: Paul Gilmore

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