While we have a soft spot for Mammoth, gay ski weeks were really creaed by Aspen Snowmass. This year marks the resort’s 41st Gay Ski Week, the largest and longest-running annual gay ski week event in the country. Aspen has remained the perfect host town and mountain community for this wonderful event, but how did it all begin?
The story of Aspen’s gay ski week dates back to eh 1970s. Several locals were hanging out with a group of gay tourists from various ski clubs from around the country—San Diego, Los Angeles, and Chicago. Jon Busch, a gay man in the local community, was invited back to their condos for parties during their stay. “It was just beers and gay guys hanging out,” he told The New York Times in 2006. Together, they decided to make sure they all came to Aspen at the same time each year, and that each club would be responsible for hosting a party on every night of the week.
Eventually, these parties that began in condos grew in attendance. They moved to nearby restaurants and hotel meeting rooms to accommodate the attendees. A tradition was born, but that’s not the whole story.
While Aspen may be known as a haven for liberal ideas and politics, it was not always the most welcoming place for the gay community. We have to remember—being gay in 1970s America was not something to celebrate. Busch and his friends came to this realization the hard way when they were thrown out of a restaurant for dancing together. After that, the parties migrated back to the condos. Spurred by this prejudice, Busch and his friends pushed for an ordinance that secured gay rights protections in Aspen. They were successful.
Aspen Gay Ski Week is a great time for parties and skiing, but it also played an essential role in both state and federal human rights legislation. In staying true to its roots, the Gay Ski Week organizers raise money for the Roaring Fork Gay and Lesbian Community Fund, working hard to give back to the community that supported their efforts for so long.