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Whistler proud of WinterPride

Proclamation, Ski Out and March define 20 year celebrations of gay ski week



As gay ski week evolves with the changing times, organizers are looking for ways to entice gay men and women to Whistler. And they may need help.

WinterPride, Whistler's annual gay ski week, is facing the same challenges other events are struggling with these days: more competition, a tougher time getting sponsorship dollars, and, particular to this event, a changing world that is embracing gay culture more and more, offering more choice to gay travellers than ever before.

Times have changed in the 20 years that gay skiers have been coming to Whistler.

If it takes public money to keep gay ski week coming back and keep it successful, Whistler's mayor for one is willing to put money on the table.

"I personally think there is value in keeping the week," said Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden at the close of the 20th anniversary of WinterPride.

The week stimulates the local economy to the tune of several million dollars, according to figures from the organizers, as an estimated 2,500 come to Whistler to take part in the parties, the après, the skiing and the host of other activities in the resort.

"I would not be adverse if there was a request for a modest amount of RMI monies to assist with some of those logistical issues," added the mayor.

She of course needs the support of her council before doling out the Resort Municipality Initiative funds — $7.5 million last year in provincial money designed to bolster tourism in the resort.

An official request for public funding has not been made by Pride organizers but Dean Nelson, the CEO and executive producer of Alpenglow Production, which puts on the week, said it's challenging to put on the annual event given that the organizers rely on just ticket sales and sponsorship to balance the budget.

He will be putting together an action plan for the coming year that could include a request for public funding.

"That's a huge consideration for us because we've been doing it on our own dime for the last 20 years and... I don't know if they (resort partners) really understand the full value that we bring to the resort," said Nelson.

He points to the work that he and his colleagues do to promote the resort throughout the year as well as gay ski week. They push Cornucopia to food and wine lovers and the film festival to movie buffs.

In April he will be in South Africa for the Mr. Gay World competition in Johannesburg, again serving as an ambassador for Whistler.

"We visit over ten Prides a year and we're always promoting the destination throughout the year, not just that one week," said Nelson. "We're always doing a lot of cross promotions."