CELEBRATING A REMARKABLE HISTORY

by Nicole Birkhold

This year marks the 40th anniversary of Aspen Gay Ski Week, the largest and longest running annual gay ski week event in the country. The Aspen community and Aspen Skiing Company are proud to have welcomed the LGBTQ community into ours for the better part of half a century. But what has made Aspen the perfect host town and mountain community for 40 years running?

It all hails back to the mid 1970s. Aspen local Jon Busch got to hanging out and flirting with the various gay ski clubs from San Diego, Los Angeles, Chicago and others that would make annual trips to Aspen. He got invited back to some of their condos for a party. "It was just beers and gay guys hanging out," Jon told the New York Times in 2006. Together they decided to make sure they all came to Aspen at the same time each year and each club would be responsible for hosting a party each night. Eventually these parties that started in condos in 1977 grew to needing restaurants and hotel meeting rooms to accommodate everyone.


Gay Ski Week
Gay Ski Week

But that's not the entire story. While Aspen has always been a hot bed for liberal ideas and politics, that has not always meant smooth sailing for civil liberties. Aspen is still a rural community, and it was still hard to be a gay person in America in the 1970s.

Jon Busch and his friends found this out the hard way. Part of the reason these parties with the ski clubs went back to the condos is because Jon and another man got in trouble for dancing together at a local Aspen establishment.

Spurred by this unfairness, Jon along with others from the Aspen gay community pushed for an ordinance that secured gay-rights protections in Aspen. They were successful. This was a first for Colorado but Boulder and Denver soon followed. But in 1992, a new amendment to the Colorado State constitution — Amendment 2 — repealed all existing gay-rights legislation, including here in Aspen. Tourism in Colorado was boycotted and numbers at Gay Ski Week decreased for a time. Eventually the Colorado Supreme Court ruled that Amendment 2 was unconstitutional and the U.S. Supreme Court upheld this decision in 1996.

So not only is Aspen Gay Ski Week a great time for parties and skiing, it has also played a role in state and federal legislation. And while the success of Aspen Gay Ski Week has spurred other ski weeks across the country, one of the things that keeps the Aspen event special is its dedication to giving back.


Gay Ski Week
Gay Ski Week

Aspen Gay Ski Week raises money for the Roaring Fork Gay and Lesbian Community Fund also known as AspenOUT. In 2015, more than $35,000 was raised and donated to various organizations in the Aspen area to combat cyber bullying, advocate for LGBTQ teens, education efforts and more.

This year AGSW kicks off on the 15th of January with a welcome cocktail reception at the Hotel Jerome and culminates with the famous pool party on the 21st at the Aspen Recreation Center. There are on-hill and off-hill activities nearly every hour of the day and night in between — including daily après events at the host hotel, the Limelight Hotel.

For more information on schedule and tickets to various events check out gayskiweek.com.

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