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Beyond all politics and just for fun

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And in line with previous Altitudes, an over-riding theme will prevail for the week. This year’s theme centres around the philosophy of the seven chakras – major energy centres within the human body. Each day of Altitude corresponds with one of the chakras using its respective colour, element, lesson and characteristics. For example, the Solar Plexus Chakra for Monday, Feb. 5 is located above the naval and below the chest, with the colour yellow, the element of fire, the functions of power & emotions and the qualities of will, personal power, humour and immortality. That evening’s event will be a fire-side martini reception backed by a sultry vocalist and fire dancing. Benaschak says the seven centres come together on the eighth day for the final blow out party, Snow Ball 2001, using visuals, music, lighting and performances relating to each one.

Among the top attractions for the week – and sadly, now sold out – are the barbecue, the picnic and the infamous beach party at Meadow Park. To get an idea of the beach party just picture this: a hired drag queen belting out spicy songs while buff men frolic in the pools amid colourful beach balls and rubber duckies. Definitely not your usual pool-side crowd.

All Altitude passes are also sold out, including all-access, mid-week, extended weekend and apres ski. At the time of going to print, tickets were still available for the grand finale, Snow Ball, and the scavenger hunt, whose instructions include "one member smart enough to decipher the clues and one pretty enough to be photographed with the solution." Meee-ow!

Benaschak denies that Altitude has become too much of a good thing and has been busy re-assuring patrons there are still plenty of events up for grabs. He says Altitude has become a huge gathering but this mostly adds, rather than detracts, from its appeal.

"Some people like the intimacy of small groups skiing together and feel they get lost in the crowd," he admitted. "But the amazing energy created by so many people with a common interest and bond is quite exciting."

So who are these people who chose to jump on a plane or drive thousands of miles to visit Whistler on this week, rather than grab some powder action closer to home? Not surprisingly our U.S neighbours as well as Vancouverites make up a large slice of the Altitude pie, but regulars also fly in from South America, Europe, Asia and Australasia. Blair Hirtle, an advertising executive from Vancouver, says three types of people attend Altitude.

"There are those who come to ski or board with apres, those who come to party and those that do both – I’m the latter." After pausing however, he concludes he is in another category altogether, given gay men’s penchant towards intensive grooming.