Thousands came out to
celebrate their pride and diversity at WinterPride Week, which saw higher
international participation than ever before.
“International numbers were
definitely up this year,” said Sean Kearns, president of Alpenglow Productions
and GayWhistler.com, the company that puts on the festival each year.
“Part of that we attribute to
the strong international economy, and part of it we attribute to our strong
marketing presence overseas this year.”
The festival, which ran from
Feb. 3 to Feb. 10, attracted people from as far away as Italy, Germany,
Finland, the Netherlands, South Africa, Brazil and Mexico.
Kearns explained that U.S.
numbers were also up, thanks to full-page ads that the group ran in the Seattle
Gay News (SGN) every week for the past three months.
“It was very well promoted
and advertised in the Seattle market,” said Kearns.
The exact number of visitors
who attended the festival is still being tallied up, but organizers expect
about a 10 to 20 per cent increase from last year.
“We believe it is believe
2,500 and 3,200… I would probably guess around 2,800 in ticket sales, and then
an additional 500 in attendance, but not necessarily hard cord accounted for,”
WinterPride also had higher
early week participation and on-mountain ski guiding this year, with several
early week events selling out including three of the après venues and the
There were also a lot of new
attendees this year, said Kearns.
“We typically have a 90 per
cent return ratio, so if you take last year’s number, and 90 per cent of those
people return, plus you add all the new people who just found out about us
because of our world wide promotion, that equaled the new numbers that we had.”
Organizers said that one of
the things they are most satisfied with is that the festival has introduced
Whistler to a whole new set of people who might have not come otherwise.
“When you look at how much
Tourism Whistler does, versus what we’ve been able to accomplish on our own, we
are really, really proud of what we’ve been able to do with promotion,” said
Kearns, adding that GayWhistler.com only has two and a half full time
The festival’s recent growth
has also attracted the attention of media worldwide. Several prominent
gay-focused groups have named WinterPride the number one ski week in the world,
including Gay.com and Planet Out. In particular, Planet Out called WinterPride
well rounded, with “a diverse après-ski lineup rounding out the fun offerings
for skiers and non-skiers alike.” The website also paid tribute to the Whistler
event’s lesbian-friendly attitude.
This announcement was made
slightly prior to the start of the week so news did not reach Whistler until
Another group, Out Traveler,
has also pronounced the festival the most lesbian friendly gay ski week in the
Said Kearns: “I think we
really helped cement Whistler on the map when it comes to the gay and lesbian
scene, which is the largest growing travel segment in the world.
“When you add all that
together, it is a pretty big accomplishment.”