Whistler WinterPRIDE gay and lesbian ski fest turns 20, honored with Pride Week
Although it’s been happening in Whistler every year for 19 years, this year is special. On the 20th anniversary of Whistler’s gay and lesbian ski week, the event is finally being officially recognized. “The resort municipality is proclaiming our week Pride Week, which has never been done before,” says Dean Nelson, executive producer of WinterPRIDE, which takes place from February 5 to 12.
On the line with the Georgia Straight, Nelson conveys his excitement over the city council’s recognition. Whistler mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden will make the proclamation on February 9, following the first WinterPRIDE march through the village.
Far from what started as a small gathering back in 1992, the festival will attract about 2,500 people in February for eight days of parties, social events, and snow activities. According to Nelson, about 40 percent of participants come from the U.S., 30 percent from within Canada, and 30 percent from overseas. “A lot more Europeans are coming up this year,” he notes, since the snow fell late in Europe, making Whistler even more attractive. Most participants are return visitors.
With 65 festival events listed on WinterPRIDE’s website , first-timers may be overwhelmed by the choices. Nelson explains the first part of the week is generally more focused on snow activities, while the weekend is when social activities really ramp up.
He notes that the outdoor events are designed to make meeting people easy. Every morning, for example, participants can congregate with volunteer ski guides on the mountain, where they’re broken into groups by skiing or riding ability. So if you’re a novice skier and your partner is more experienced, both of you can hit the slopes without you worrying about holding your partner back. “You and your boyfriend can enjoy a nice leisure ski with other people of similar skiing ability, meeting new friends, and then at lunchtime you can come back together, do a couple runs, and then come back for après and meet up with everybody again,” he explains. The guiding is free with your lift ticket.
Other scheduled outdoor activities include snowmobile rides, inner-tubing, and zip treks. New this year, the skeleton slide experience takes place on February 9 at the Whistler Sliding Centre. “I’m sure a couple of our guests will probably be dressed up in tutus, so that will be a lot of fun,” he says.
However, many people come to the festival just for the parties and après-ski. A new Up Yer Kilt party will kick off the week on February 6 with fiddle-and-guitar duo Ruckus Deluxe. Australian DJ Dan Murphy will headline the February 9 Aruba pool party. At a different event the same night, Jason Stuart will perform his comedy show, “which we’re really excited about”, adds Nelson. On February 10, the Purrlesque cabaret show features performances by Burgundy Brixx and Madame Mae I. As in past years, Nelson expects the February 11 Snowball dance to be a highlight. DJ Adam Dreaddy and DJ and producer Manny Lehman will keep things hopping there.
According to Nelson, while some people come up from Vancouver just for a day, most spend at least one night. He suggests that those on a budget check out the UBC Whistler Lodge at Creekside and the new HI Hostel at Function Junction. While students get a better rate at the UBC–run lodge, both hostels are open to the public, with dorm beds from under $40 per night. At the festival’s headquarters hotel, the Aava Whistler, a deluxe room and lift ticket starts at $126 per person per night.
For more information on rates and events, visit the WinterPRIDE website .