My first time: at Gay Ski Week
Are you a powder poof, a slalom snow queen or a downhill drag-act?
If you’re reading this blog and really into skiing, chances are pretty high that you’re either already in Queenstown or gearing up to head down there for Gay Ski Week: New Zealand’s biggest, boldest gay winter festival.
From August 27 until September 3, the slopes will be filled with gay skiers and snowboarders while Queenstown will be living up to its name as its hotspots become non-stop partying and general hedonism.
To get your juices flowing, we spoke to Christchurch’s Tom Shand, who went to Gay Ski Week last year for the first time to celebrate his honeymoon to husband Rudy.
Rudy and I got married in May last year, where he’s from in Salt Lake City in the US, and we decided to carry on celebrating back here in New Zealand with friends by going to Gay Ski Week in Queenstown. I love Queenstown – it’s pretty much my dream place to live as I grew up around there when I was a kid – and although we both love to ski, we hadn’t been to Gay Ski Week so we were really keen to check it out.
We drove down with other Christchurch guys in convoy which was quite fun and then half of us split to go to Wanaka and the rest of us went on to Queenstown. The majority of people going to Gay Ski Week were staying at the host hotel but we wanted our own space and decided to splash out on staying at the Scenic Suites so we could have our own kitchen and bit more room.
The drive down was really fun – and we got to Queenstown a bit late on the first day but after we checked into our hotel we raced down to the village and registered at the host hotel before coming back to get changed for the opening party in downtown Queenstown. We ended up getting a bit drunk and meeting a few new people and seeing a few old faces from around the country and from Australia. It was interesting meeting a real mix of people from around the world – team Aussie was quite big and obviously New Zealand dominated, but there were people from all sorts of countries.
We were a bit boozed but we had made the decision to go skiing the next day, so we headed home around midnight… but the next morning everyone was still texting each other asking whether we were all still going skiing because we were all feeling a little bit seedy! But I said, yes, that’s the plan so we all got up and went up to Cardrona, which was the host skifield, for that first day of skiing.
There were all sorts of skiers there, from beginners to medium and advanced, and Gay Ski Week put on some ski instructors every afternoon for whichever group you fell into and they would take you around the mountain and give you tips. They know the fields well and took us around more trails than if you were alone. Then at the end of each day they had bubbles at the Cardrona skifield café and then the majority of us went down and met up at the Cardrona pub and had a beer before heading back to Queenstown.
The days for us were more about hooking up with friends and meeting new people, and we really flew the flag around the cafés so we knew where everyone was and could mingle around there and group up over lunch and chat before the instructors came along for the afternoons.
The highlights of the evening events were the opening party where we had a really great night. Then on the Wednesday night we went to a karaoke night hosted by Gay Ski Week at the casino - the Christchurch crew all got up and sung "Dancing Queen" and we ended up coming second in the competition which was quite fun. After that we rocked on to a few other bars in town – as we moved away from the casino there weren’t as many gay people around because most of them were going to the designated parties that were jacked up every night.
The other party we went to was the closing party, which was a good time and we were able to bump into a lot of people we’d met during the week and all come together and celebrate the week with a bit of a bash before heading home. So we only really did three parties organised events and then ate at home or went out for dinner with friends the rest of the week - because when you’re skiing all week you want to balance it out a little bit. The beauty of Gay Ski Week is that you can ski all day and finish at 4pm and then you can have a beer at 5pm, get a bit tipsy and then go home and crash if you want. And then for those who weren’t skiing, there were parties day and night – things like the pool party and a boat party - so there really were options for everyone.
This year, we’re doing things a little bit differently after seeing what happened in our first year. We’re getting our costumes and outfits prepared for the final party and, this year, we’re not staying in a hotel but instead we’re going down with a friend from Christchurch and a guy from Australia and we’ve got a three-bedroom apartment. That way we’ll probably be more interactive. We’ll still stick with going to the opening party, the karaoke and the closing party and then we’ll see what happens through the week – it’s nice to let it flow and not have any plans.
For more information about Gay Ski Week, including all the events (including Queer Quiz Night, presented by LYC) parties and a gallery of what everyone’s getting up to, go to the official GSW website.