Whistler Pride looks gorgeous at 25.
One of the world's biggest gay ski weeks is upon us once more, and organizer Dean Nelson says that since the festival started in 1992, it has had ups and downs, but was very happy to "sashay into being a professional gay" and taking charge of it in 2007.
"I haven't looked back since," he laughs.
"I've been producing it for 11 years and it has been pretty crazy. It's wild and we've gone through significant changes as a community in 25 years. Just this past year, we now have full equal rights in Canada with human rights protection being extended to trans people.
"And this year, we're celebrating 12 years of marriage equality."
Nelson believes Whistler Pride is unique because it has developed from a gay ski week that was originally a group of friends travelling to Colorado. When they were faced with the passage of discriminatory laws in that state, which, for example, allowed businesses to refuse to service gay customers, they decided to stay home in Whistler.
"As the festival changed we asked people why they came here for it. Over 80 per cent of our guests are returning — many for over 10 years in a row — and that is remarkable," Nelson says.
"We found we needed it to become more of a festival. It transformed from being a gay ski week into what we have now."
Nelson wants the whole community to participate in Whistler Pride.
"Our events are inclusive and fun. Everyone is welcome," he says.
Entertainment is, as always, at the centre of this year's Whistler Pride. Some of the key events include:
The annual Vancouver fun nights, which open the festival with Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo performing at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre in Vancouver on Friday, Jan. 20 and Saturday, Jan. 21.
On Sunday, Jan. 22, singer Kim Kuzma brings her sexy, sensual Latin-infused cabaret to the Welcome Reception at The CABN at the Aava Hotel at 4 p.m. See an interview with her on page 58.
Whistler Pride Game Night with host Ryan Steele takes place at the CABN on Monday Jan. 23 at 9 p.m.
On Tuesday, Jan. 24, drag queens The Unstoppable Conni Smudge and Carlotta Gurl perform at the CABN at 9 p.m., while DJ Byron James oversees Wild West night at Buffalo Bills at 9 p.m.
The gorgeous and profane comedian Pam Ann takes to the stage with her Snow Landing standup show at the Whistler Conference Centre on Wednesday, Jan 25 at 7:30 p.m., and later the same night shares the Arrivals Lounge at the CABN with DJ Joni T at 9 p.m.
DJ Landon James runs Throwback Thursday at the CABN at 9 p.m., while DJ Pacifico (a.k.a. DJ Pornstar) controls the music at the festival's pool party, Splash, at the Meadow Park Sports Centre on Thursday, Jan. 26 at 10 p.m.
The annual Whistler Pride Ski Out and March begins at Mid Station on Olympic Run on Whistler Mountain and finishes at Olympic Plaza on Friday, Jan. 27, at 3 p.m., and DJ Nick Bertossi holds the classic Friday Après-ski T-dance at the Whistler Conference Centre, followed by Furrocious at 10 p.m.
On Saturday, Jan. 28, Whistler Pride ends with two big events — Sashay with DJ Smoothie and Phenomedon at CABN in a benefit evening for Foundation of Hope and Rainbow Refugee at 8 p.m.; and Snowball25 with Italian producers The Cube Guys at the Whistler Conference Centre at 10 p.m.
In an interview, Australian comedian Pam Ann said her audience should "prepare to be double-fisted and offended."
"Pam Ann says what people are thinking and that's what I love about her. I guess people respond to both because she's larger than life and talks about situations everyone can relate to," says her alter ego Caroline Reid, briefly slipping out of character.
Noting that she will also be in Whistler for Australia Day, she said she hoped her compatriots have "taken their bloody flip-flops off, they're in the snow!"
On a more serious note, at the Sashay night at The CABN Whistler Pride is supporting the charities Foundation of Hope (FOH) and Rainbow Refugee, with the aim of raising $12,000 to sponsor one LGBTIQ refugee fleeing homophobic attacks in their home country.
Carl Meadows, the president of Foundation of Hope, says Nelson was instrumental in aligning Whistler Pride events with charities and NGOs.
"Every week FOH receives emails from across the world from desperate people being hunted, as they have been outed by someone, other (emails) are (from) trans kids who are so marginalized and rejected and others (are from those) who are in immediate danger. The FOH links these folks to service organizations across Canada," Meadows explains.
For more information on Whistler Pride and for tickets, visit www.gaywhistler.com.