While Whistlerites are still reeling from the most epic 17-day party this town has ever hosted, another group is replacing the Olympic banners with their own, readying for the next big event: WinterPRIDE.
Dean Nelson is the CEO of GayWhistler.com, the group that organizes Whistler's annual ski week, which started on Monday, March 1 and runs until Monday, March 8. Because of the Olympics, organizers were forced to move the dates of their event slightly, but they're hoping that the placement, sandwiched between the Olympic and Paralympic Games, will actually prove to be beneficial.
"We wanted to have it more as an extension of the Games and create some of that Olympic magic, that energy, that afterglow, so we can keep that energy going, so it spills over onto the Paralympics as well," Nelson explained.
WinterPRIDE got off to an early start, really, at the beginning of February with the unveiling of PRIDE House, a gathering place at Pan Pacific Whistler for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered (LGBT) community. PRIDEHouse was well-attended during the Olympics and will remain open for WinterPRIDE, acting as a hub for guests and a registration checkpoint this year, as some of their usual venues, like Telus Whistler Conference Centre, are still being used by Olympic crews and organizers.
"It's the evolution of gay ski week, it's an opportunity for people to come together from all over the world and enjoy good, clean, healthy living and being out in such a magical place," Nelson said.
"The energy and excitement here in the village is incredible and we just want to share that with everybody," he added.
So far, the turnout is looking "pretty positive" with sales comparable to last year.
"I'm pretty sure that we may be down a little bit, just because of the economy and the Olympics and everything else," Nelson said. "But as we've been talking to more and more people from Vancouver and Seattle, and it seems like everybody's planning on coming up, so we might get a last-minute push and our numbers could be the same as last year."
They started the week with the Avalanche Party in Vancouver on Monday night, a welcome party at the GLC on Monday and the Kiwi Cowboy and Cowgurl Party at Bill's on Tuesday, but there's still plenty of action to come.
On Thursday, March 4 from 10 p.m. until 2 a.m., Meadow Park Sports Centre hosts a Pool Party with DJ Tracey Draper and The Priape CEOs. The same night, a brand-new event, Bubbles & Boobies, which features manicures, pedicures and champagne, premieres at Solarice Spa at 11 p.m., replacing the former Pampered Pussy Party.
Friday there are two special events: the Village T-Dance at the GLC gets the party started at 3 p.m. with DJ Mark Bison, then things amp up with the Furrious Party at the Longhorn, with DJ Paul Goodyear, starting at 9 p.m.
"The GLC's going to be really our apres headquarters this year, which is very exciting!" Nelson said.
On Saturday, March 6, things come to a head with two massive shakers: the Shred Betties Bash with the UK's DJ Riki Rocket at the GLC starting at 9 p.m., and the ever-popular MountainTOP Snowball at Roundhouse Lodge, featuring the Grammy Award-winning DJ Hex Hector from 8 p.m. until 2 a.m.
"Our talent is pretty diverse," Nelson said. "We definitely tap into the Vancouver market as well as some of the international market, like Paul Goodyear, he's coming in from Sydney, Australia... we have Mark Bison, he's from Los Angeles, he'll be coming up; we have Hex Hector, he's from New York and he's actually a Grammy Award-winning DJ who's worked with Lenny Kravitz, J.Lo, Janet Jackson and Whitney Houston."
Aside from all the nightlife activities on offer during WinterPRIDE, Nelson points out that there are also lots of recreational activities and culinary events planned, and that everyone - not just the LGBT community - is welcome to attend.
"One of our core values is to be authentic and be yourself, and it doesn't matter if you're a 60-year-old hippie to a flaming drag queen that likes to rip it up; as long as you're here to enjoy the mountains and our community, anything goes."
Tickets to all events range in price from $15 to $99 in advance. For more information, visit www.gaywhistler.com.