From gay ski weeks to gay rodeos, some of the most popular LGBT events happen during the winter. Whether your tastes lean toward the more laid back affair, such as a romantic dinner for two, or if you are a social butterfly looking to be surrounded by thousands of gay counterparts, here are some must-do events that are happening throughout the remaining winter season:
Elevation Utah 2012
Rated as the No. 1 ski destination by Ski Magazine, Park City, Utah, presents its second annual Gay Ski Week Feb. 23-26. According to founder Tom Whitman, “Unlike some of the other ski weeks, the Elevation events are geared to be friendly and open and fun, not really geared toward VIP velvet ropes.” Although these events are described as laid-back, the DJ line-up is quite impressive. World-class DJs such as Roland Belmares, Josh Peace and Pornstar will spin. “Daytime activities are usually taken up by skiing and snowboarding, while the official events happen at après-ski time,” Whitman says. The welcome event is held Feb. 23, and culminates in a series of evening parties at venues such as Downstairs, Sidecar, and Jam Salt Lake City. Purchase tickets and get discounted hotel rates at utahgayski.com.
Telluride Gay Ski Week
Can’t get enough of Elevation Utah? Hop over to its neighboring state Colorado where the city of Telluride presents its own Gay Ski Week, Feb. 25 through March 3. This weeklong event is produced by StraightOut Media & Marketing and supports the Telluride AIDS Benefit. Activities include Nuclia’s Get Wasted Party, the annual White Night party, and the first ever “Wig Run,” where everyone from locals to gay skiers can celebrate the week by skiing in their best wig creation. The guest list will be jumping, as three “A-Listers” from Logo TV will be in attendance, including Reichen Lehmkuhl, Chase Hutchison and Levi Crocker. To top the week off, the resort will be celebrating the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” by allowing active members of the military to party for free the entire week and receive military discounts from lift tickets to rentals all over town. Purchase tickets and weekly passes at telluridegayskiweek.com.
Royal Caribbean’s Allure of the Seas
Set sail with the world’s largest cruise ship and surround yourself with 5,400 like-minded gay travelers. Royal Caribbean’s Allure of the Sea departs Sunday and cruises to the Mexican cities of Cozumel, Costa Maya and Hispanolia and returns after an indulgent seven days on Feb. 5. The LGBT vacation company Atlantis Events, Inc. brings you attractions such as five architectural dance floors, 13 restaurants and cafes, a plethora of theaters presenting performances such as “Chicago” and Dixie Longate’s “Tupperware” show, and adventuresome activities such as rock climbing, zip lining and ice skating. At the western Caribbean ports, you can take part in island excursions such as diving, snorkeling, exploring Mayan ruins or kicking back on the powder-white sand beaches. Broadway diva Idina Menzel and gay comedian Bruce Vilanch will appear. Go to atlantisevents.com for details.
Arizona Gay Rodeo
Looking for something low-key with warm weather, surrounded by dozens of gay cowboys? Visit the Rawhide at WildHorse Pass during Presidents Day weekend (Feb. 17-19) located in Chandler, Ariz. This is the kick-off Rodeo of 2012 hosted by the 25-year-old Arizona Gay Rodeo Association (AGRA). Experience events such as bull riding, roping challenges, speed events on horseback and the Wild Drag Race. Located only 17 miles from the city of Phoenix, you can end your day at one of the popular gay pubs in the capitol, such as Charlie’s Phoenix, Kobalt or Apollo’s Lounge, which offer specials during rodeo weekend. Visit agra-phx.com to purchase tickets and to obtain a discount code at the Radisson Hotel Phoenix-Chandler. For an affordable $25 weekend pass to all Rodeo events, gay cowboy heaven is only a Stetson away.
LGBT Winter Weekend in NYC
Taking a trip to New York City is always a blast, but now various Travel Alternatives Group (TAG) approved hotels offer an even greater incentive for a weekend trip to the city. Visit the Danfords Hotel & Marina Feb. 24 through March 31 and purchase the “Romance” package for two, starting at $429, which includes a one-night accommodation, Champagne and strawberries upon arrival, a 50-minute side-by-side couples massage at Blue Sapphire Spa and $100 credit toward the Wave Seafood Kitchen. The Garden City Hotel, also located in Long Island, is offering the “All for Love” couple’s retreat ($399). Included are overnight deluxe accommodations, chocolate-covered strawberries and a three-course Valentine’s dinner for two in the private dining room of the hotel’s signature restaurant, Rein. Prefer to stay on the island of Manhattan? Enter the promo code, GLBT11 for up to 20 percent off the best available rate at the Hilton New York (newyork.hilton.com).
Winter Party Miami
Surround yourself with miles of white sandy beaches, thousands of men in Speedos and the bumping base of music spun by legendary DJs such as DJ Joe Gauthreaux. The expected attendance of 10,000 LGBT partiers will benefit the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force through each event and ticket purchased at the Winter Party. Heavily anticipated events include the Under One Sun Pool Party, Boiling Point (Sunday night dance party at Cameo nightclub), and Heaven & Hell at the Pool. Women can experience girls-only events at The Tudor House, which will host the Sunday Brunch party March 4, as well as dance parties at The Stage and Trio on the Bay. The Surfcomber Miami is the official hotel for the Winter Party and will host the welcome event Spark on Feb. 29 as well as being the location of the two pool parties. Tickets and weekly passes to the events can be purchased at winterparty.com.
A chance to experience a five-day lesbian party in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico is worth the last minute splurge. The “Vallarta Girl” event is in its second year and takes place Feb. 16-20. Daily events include lesbian cruises, jungle excursions and night parties with world-class DJs. Celebrities such as Rose and Whitney from “The Real L World” will be in attendance as well as well-known artists, DJ Lezlee and DJ Saratonin. A popular gay-friendly destination, Puerto Vallarta offers a selection of women-only bars, such as CC, The Palms and Mañana. Purchase tickets and receive a discount fare from Alaska Airlines at vallartagirl.com.
Gay Mardi Gras, New Orleans
Famous for its huge Carnival celebrations, rowdy Bourbon Street crowds and inspirations from the French, Spanish and Native American cultures, Mardi Gras is one of the most anticipated annual celebrations in America. Thankfully, the “Fat Tuesday” festival offers a variety of LGBT events to celebrate our own Gay Mardi Gras. For example, The Mardi Gras Bourbon Awards has been an annual costume event for more than 40 years, where contestants can win awards in categories such as Best Drag, Best Leather, or Best of Show. This event will be held on Feb. 21. Other events include the Krewe Balls and Mardi Gras Bead Toss. Check out these after-party gay bars: Bourbon Pub, Café Lafitte, and Le Roundup.
Whistler Winter Pride
Not just another winter ski trip, Whistler presents an entire week of activities much like the summer Prides that take place across the U.S. From Feb. 5-12, Whistler Ski Resort in British Columbia, Canada organizes daily activities, ski trips and après-ski parties to keep you busy. For example, daytime activities include ski and snowboard lessons, snowmobile tours, inner tubing in the Coca-Cola Tube Park, dog sledding, zip lining and skeleton sliding. Evening activities include captivating events such as the Gender Bender Drag Ball at Garfinkles nightclub, a Ho Down at the Echo Valley Ranch & Spa, and a comedy night hosted by Vancouver’s Drag Diva, Symone Says. Women don’t get left behind, as there are special events just for the girls, such as the Burlesque show, starring Burgundy Brixx and the closing party, Shred Betties Bash. Tickets can be purchased for all events at gaywhistler.com/events.