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A more diverse WinterPride

International numbers up with 2,800 men and women coming to party at local gay festival

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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,” said Kearns.

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 comedy night.

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 employees.

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 mid-festival.

Another group, Out Traveler, has also pronounced the festival the most lesbian friendly gay ski week in the world.

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.”

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