Rainbow High: Aspen Gay Ski Week

Celebrating its 47th year, the winter romp has become a blockbuster fundraising tradition.
Aspen Gay Ski Week’s Downhill Costume Contest. Photo courtesy of Gay Ski Week

By Jim Servin

Aspen’s purple mountain majesties take on shades of lavender—and every color of the pride flag—from January 14-21, when Aspen Gay Ski Week delivers fresh air fun and major fundraising for AspenOUT, benefiting LGBTQIA+ youth.

“Our sponsors recognize that they are not just supporting the largest gay ski week in the world, but also the LGBTQIA+ community locally, statewide and nationwide,” says Kevin McManamon, executive director of AspenOUT, which among other services provides mental health care with professionals specifically trained in LGBTQIA+ issues. Last year’s 24 AspenOUT grantees included Aspen Hope Center, Family Equality and Lambda Legal. In the 2023-24 school year, AspenOUT introduced a pilot initiative, the Leadership and Scholarship Program, in which high school students involved with their gender and sexualities alliances clubs (GSAs) complete training in order to gain access to a $5,000 scholarship.

“It’s become a global event, a destination,” says Kimberly Kuliga, Aspen Gay Ski Week’s executive producer and sponsorship director. “We’re the only nonprofit gay ski week, attracting each year over 4,000 people from New York, the Hamptons, LA, Miami, Dallas and Houston.”

The 2024 festivities begin on January 14 with a welcome at the Limelight Hotel’s Hospitality Suite. Guests then hit the slopes of Aspen Mountain, or attend drag bingo brunch at either The Little Nell in Aspen or The Collective Snowmass in Snowmass Village. The “mountain du jour” event (where participants gather and ski for the day) hops from Aspen Mountain on the 14th and 17th to Highlands on the 15th and 19th, Snowmass Mountain on the 16th and 18th, and Buttermilk Mountain on the 21st. Events include Monday dinner at Mi Chola, a benefit dance at the Caribou Club, a Highland Bowl hike, a comedy variety show, a cowboy dance party, a downhill costume contest, a women-centric cocktail reception and dinner, and a gala benefiting the Tom of Finland Foundation. The week concludes with a dance celebration at the W hotel on the 19th, and a pool party at Aspen Recreation Center on the 20th. 

Last year’s event raised $250,000 for the LGBTQIA+ community. Photo courtesy of Gay Ski Week

While the event is nearly sold out—”In terms of occupancy, we are second in Aspen to Christmas and New Year’s,” says Kuliga—inclusion is a priority of the organizers, who offer day passes for volunteers. Last year’s event was the most successful to date, enabling the group to give back to the LGBTQIA+ community locally, statewide and nationwide a quarter of a million dollars in grants, scholarships and direct mental health programs. 

“We have many attendees who have been coming to Aspen Gay Ski Week for decades,” says McManamon, who first attended the event 27 years ago as a tourist, then moved to Aspen and joined AspenOUT. “Aspen Gay Ski Week is very deep and rich in activities outside of skiing and partying,” he adds. “It’s like a homecoming, seeing old friends that you’ve made across the years.” gayskiweek.com