Since many take place in summer, Pride parties and events are often thought of as sweaty endeavors crammed with half-naked, inebriated attendees jockeying for space among hot dog vendors and cardboard garbage receptacles sponsored by lube companies. Well, WinterPRIDE in theWhistler Blackcomb Mountains of Whistler, British Columbia could not be more different. With an emphasis on physical activity and bonding with fellow LGBTs on slopes, ski lifts, and luge tracks, the event is thankfully less about booze and go-go boys than the summer parties in cities like New York and Los Angeles.
WinterPRIDE's 21st year kicks off on Sunday and lasts for a week, with closing festivities on February 10. Less than two hours from cosmopolitan and friendly Vancouver, Whistler is like a little pedestrian-only Swiss town where everyone speaks English. There are so many fun and singular aspects of celebrating Pride at Whistler, but we boiled down our favorite aspects to 10. See them below.
- Love Half-a-Mile Up
If you meet a special guy or gal at one of Whistler's many parties or mixers, you'll no doubt make a date to go skiiing or snowboarding the next day. Getting to know someone while serenly ascending a mountain, as snow flurries land on eyelashes, is much more romantic than screaming over a dance track. Just bring tissues for the inevitable nose runs.
- Hot and Cold
We're referring to a common pasttime for WinterPRIDE and all Whistler snow bunnies: taking a jacuzzi or hot tub dip outside (when it's probably in the 20s or 30s, degree-wise). The beautiful Fairmont Chateau Whistler hotel has an outdoor heated pool and spa that overlooks the slopes. It's a great way to kill a hangover.
- Snap Out of It
Speaking of overdoing it the night before, the cold weather will instantly wake you up and make you feel strangely refreshed. Just get a hot coffee to kill the headache. And when you're racing down a black diamond, puffy eyes will be the last thing on your mind.
- Luge is Life
If you're into thrills, you must visit the Whistler Sliding Center, where you can take part in the public bobsleigh (racing down the luge course with two other people) or the public skeleton (you're on your own, going down head first). Try not to pee your ski pants as you go 60 mph down curves and drops, just like the Olympians in 2010. When you land safely (hopefully), you'll be walking on sunshine.
- Learning Something Knew
Whistler is the perfect place to try your hand at snowboarding, if you were raised a skiier, or vice versa. The rental shops are huge and many of the young people working there are ex-pats from Europe or Australia (cute and nice). While Whistler Blackcomb has over 200 marked runs, many are easy enough for ski/snowboarding beginners.
- Act European
By that we mean, take the Peak to Peak Gondola, built in 2008 to transport skiiers and snowboarders between the Whistler and Blackcomb mountains (which both hug Whistler village). The gondola is the highest of its kind, nearly two miles up, and it takes 11 minutes to get from peak to peak. Staring over the edge at the winter wonderland below is both beautiful and unnerving (especially if the gondola decides to stop moving and dangle for a bit).
- Just Dance
There are tea dances and enormous rave-like events spread throughout WinterPRIDE. The closing night dance is an epic party; last year's closer was held at the Village's huge conference center, which was decorated like a winter wonderland. A fierce lesbian playing violin kicked off the party, which managed to still be fun even though the sad news of Whitney Houston's death just broke.
- A Quieter Celebration
If you're not into large dance parties, the Apres-ski tradition is alive and well at Whistler. The term refers to eating, drinking, and socializing after sweating it out at the slopes. Nearly every day features an early evening cocktail party, where attendees from around the world, men and women, meet and greet. There's usually a roaring fire at these events, FYI.
- Getting Out There
Like we said before, WinterPRIDE is not just about drinking. Planned events next week include a snowshoe tour, a zipline event, a debate about the meaning and future of Pride, and, of course, organized dinners at some of Whistler's best restaurants.
- Filling Your Stomach
Skiing and snowboarding burns a lot of calories, so eating well is a must. One of Whistler's best restaurants is The Barefoot Bistro, Melissa Craig's take on Canadian and West Coast food. The restaurant is a favorite of WinterPRIDE attendees. If you can, check out the 20,000 bottle wine cellar below, where you can practice the French art of champagne sabering.