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46th Aspen Gay Ski Week expands entertainment and event offerings

Sarah Girgis
The Aspen Times
People ski down the Little Nell run on Aspen Mountain with a giant pride flag to end the downhill costume contest and party during a past Gay Ski Week.
Kelsey Brunner/Aspen Times file photo

What began as an argument over two men dancing with one another in a local Aspen bar circa 1977, Aspen Gay Ski Week has morphed from informal annual meetups and parties to the biggest and most influential non-profit LGBTQ+ ski week in the world.

And, its 46th year is shaping up to be the biggest yet, with a conservative estimate of 3,500 attendees expected to descend on the Roaring Fork Valley for this year’s festivities from Jan. 15-22.

“Aspen Gay Ski Week is the most popular week of the year, hands down,” said Melissa Temple, president of AspenOUT. “No one knows how to have a party like gay people. The town is just happy, restaurants are abuzz and joyful, the mountain is fun, and everyone is welcome to come out and play.”



Six years ago, when Temple was approached to join the board of AspenOUT and take the helm of Gay Ski Week, she was reluctant because she “didn’t want to take on an organization that was for bearded men, by bearded men.” 

She ultimately accepted, aiming to make the event more inclusive “gay, male, female, straight, whatever.”



She credited the team she enlisted, led by event director Kimberly Kuglia, for expertly executing that vision and turning Gay Ski Week into a sexy premium event and brand, noting that “the event was seamless last year,” and she was looking forward to next week’s festivities.

This year, guests can expect the same well-produced and beloved experiences such as daily apres ski, friendship dinners, the Caribou Club benefit and the Top of the Mountain White Party, just kicked up a notch, she said.

Two people wave pride flags as they ride the Little Nell lift during the Gay Ski Week downhill costume contest on Aspen Mountain last year. (Kelsey Brunner/The Aspen Times)

“Why is it bigger than ever? I think it’s because we’ve got an amazing marketing team of one person,” Kevin McManamon, executive director of AspenOUT, said with a laugh. “But, seriously, we have real high-level sponsors who expect us to produce high-quality events, and ours is a fundraiser. We’re the only non-profit gay ski week. Park City and Mammoth are produced by the same guy, and Whistler is produced by their Chamber of Commerce. So, ours is unique.”

Due to the popularity of the week and to accommodate the influx of more attendees this year, Kuglia and her team have added several new events and reworked some favorites to ensure there is plenty on offer for anyone who cares to participate.

One she is most excited about is Drag Queen Bingo Brunch at The Little Nell, kicking off the week-long event Sunday at 10 a.m.

“This event is a partnership with ACRA (Aspen Chamber Resort Association) and The Little Nell celebrating the end of Wintersköl and the beginning of ski week,” said Kuglia. “I’m just really excited to be collaborating with our local resort chamber for the first time. They have been so generous to work with us. We are planning for a diverse mix of locals and visitors. This is one event that is not included in the pass, so anyone can attend.”

The event will include morning eats and options of Santa Julia Sparkling Rose, Ketel One botanicals, mimosas, bloody Marys, or bloody Marias in the Grand Salon at The Little Nell. This is a separate ticketed fundraising event presented by Aspen Ski Week, The Little Nell, and ACRA to benefit AspenOUT. Re-usable bingo cards will be available separately for purchase during the brunch via cash or card for $25.

A San Diego-based and self-proclaimed “insult comic,” the loud, lewd and crude drag queen Ms. Mariam T is set to host. This will be her fourth Gay Ski Week.

“I always tell my friends Aspen is like being trapped inside of a Hallmark card. It’s such an interesting little spot on the map where reality is a little bit different. Additionally, Gay Ski Week has gotten more diverse over the last few years, and we’re adding so much more entertainment and all different walks of LGBTQ+ come to the event now,” she said.

Mariam T. will also host bingo at the W Hotel and The Collective in Snowmass Base Village for the first time, as well as the 2023 Bud Light Downhill Costume Contest, and confirms that even though “her current condition is ‘too delicate’ to ski,” she plans to take the gondola to the top of Aspen Mountain for the first time and welcomes everyone to come interact.

“Come say ‘Hi.’ Come take a picture. I didn’t put on two hours’ worth of makeup to not have people take pictures of me. So, come see me,” she said.

Other new events are some VIP JPMorgan Wealth Management events, appearances by Los Angeles-based DJ Kimber Chronic, and a special Womxn’s dinner at 39˚ at the W Aspen with celebrity Chef Emily Oyer, who has been featured on Food Network’s Beat Bobby Flay and also won Chopped 420 on Discovery+.

While Gay Ski Week is one of the bigger parties of the year, Melissa Temple wants everyone to remember it’s also a fundraiser that provides crucial support to the local LGBTQ+ community.

“The community loves us because we bring so much business to this town. We’ve worked so hard to build this brand the past six years, but this is not just about the part; it’s about the funds we raise and the causes we give to. That’s what’s important. “ she said.

For a full list of events and more information, go to https://gayskiweek.com/.

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