From the snow to the sun, here’s your guide to the hottest vacation spots this winter.
Published Thursday, 15-Jan-2009 in issue 1099
The holidays may be over, but the fun is just beginning in 2009. Across the globe, thousands of queers are flocking to the mountains (and other not-so-orthodox winter retreats) for a little rest and relaxation … or maybe some excitement!
Young people especially take advantage of this after-holiday lull to hit the slopes, sun on a Mexican beach, play the slots, or play in some of the hottest parties outside of Palm Springs.
“Right now the most popular travel locations for young people are the Mexican Riviera (Cancun, Playa del Carmen, Tulum, Cozumel), Las Vegas and Florida (Key West, Miami, Orlando, Fort Lauderdale). These are the popular warm destinations,” said Desiree Sousa, founder and CEO of Out & About Travel and OutLOUD Cruises. “Those interested in a ski-based trip tend to book Whistler, British Columbia; Breckenridge, Colo.; and Telluride, Colo., most.”
Gay ski weeks are hands down the most talked about winter getaways for the snow-loving crowd.
“There are gay ski weeks in almost every area of the country,” said Gregg Kaminsky of R Family Vacations. In addition to fabulous skiing, sledding, and other winter sports, these ski weeks may also include spa packages, 5-star hotels, fabulous meals, cocktail parties and even gondola rides. “I think the most popular ski week is Whistler. I personally attend Aspen ski week every year. I think this is a fantastic winter vacation option. It’s always a very friendly atmosphere and a great place for couples, groups of friends and single travelers. My experience is that these ski weeks aren’t as focused on huge parties as in the past. There are certainly more gay ski week options than ever before.”
“The most popular gay ski weeks are Aspen, Whistler and Telluride,” she said. “Aspen Gay Ski Week has been around for over 20 years and attracts attendees from around the world. From my own experience I tend to book more of a middle-aged, upscale clientele to this ski week. Whistler’s WinterPride is the ski week I book most of. I get a mix of gay men and lesbians of all ages. There is a wider range of pricing available and activities, which is attractive to younger attendees. They also have a lot of events geared toward women.
“Telluride is catching up to Whistler in popularity as far as bookings go. Telluride, a breathtaking ski resort town, is both classy and laid back. Telluride Gay Ski Week was named Top Gay Ski Week in the country by Gay.com. Our number of bookings for Telluride were way up this year and we anticipate the same for next year. It’s not too late to book your package to many of this year’s gay ski weeks.”
Across the country, the GLBT community has a multitude of opportunities to enjoy the snow amongst friends at unique ski week vacations. Ranging from Lake Tahoe to Telluride, these gay ski weeks are the hottest events in the coldest parts of the United States and Canada.
Calling all snow bunnies!
For ski weeks and mountain retreats – look no further! From Tahoe to Telluride and everything in between, there’s sure to be a snowy destination perfect for couples, singles, or the whole family on the horizon.
2009 Winter Rendezvous
Jan. 28 through Feb. 1, 2009
Indulge in four action-packed days of skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing, dog sledding, dancing, live entertainment, socializing and other merriment. Beginners and non-skiers are encouraged to join the fun. This getaway to Stowe, Vt., will have something to offer everyone. Stay at the Golden Eagle Resort & Spa, some of the best lodging in this magical part of the state. Sample the best of Stowe in a park-like setting. Located a 1/2 mile from historic Stowe Village, enjoy mountain views, spacious 80-acre grounds, heated indoor and outdoor pools, a huge hot tub, sauna, nature trails, and charming, comfortable rooms. The entertainment is also top-notch, featuring VJ Ryan Grow, the Michael Swenson Comedy Hypnosis Show, DJ Dave G, and the Boston Gay Men’s Chorus.
2009 WinterPRIDE Feb. 1-8 Whistler, British Colombia www.outandaboutravel.com/whistlergayskiweek.htm www.gaywhistler.com
The week-long WinterPRIDE Whistler festival involves numerous winter sports activities, entertainment and parties all in the name of celebration, socializing and raising money for good causes, including AIDS Vancouver. In addition to a spectacular line-up of winter sports, Gay Ski Week 2009 will feature a series of lectures, hands-on culinary classes, a fashion show, pool and skating parties, and numerous evening events. The week will end with the Mountain Top Tea Dance and Harmony Ball.
“WinterPRIDE fits in with our vision of opening up Gay Ski Week to more than just skiers and snowboarders. This is the next evolution in gay ski weeks,” said Sean Kearns, president of Alpenglow Production Corporation – the parent company of GayWhistler.
WinterPRIDE is a celebration of diversity and inclusiveness at the resort of Whistler, Canada. It is one of the largest Gay Ski Weeks in the world that offers fine dining, health and wellness, and fantastic entertainment on and off the slopes.
This year’s theme is “Around the World in Eight Days.” Highlights for this coming season include The Mr. Gay World Competition, where 24 men from around the planet will descend on Whistler and compete for the coveted title of Mr. Gay World; legendary ski guiding with the “Never Roam Alone” Travelocity Ski Guides to help you get the most of your Big Mountain Experience; and a stellar line up of fantastic DJs from all reaches of the planet, including Rio De Janeiro’s DJ Ana Paula, London’s Wayne G, Cape Town’s DJ Adien, San Francisco’s Luke Johnstone and Montreal/Vancouver’s Rhythm Therapist DJ Mat Ste-Marie.
Lake Tahoe Winterfest 2009 March 1-8 Lake Tahoe, California laketahoewinterfest.com
Now in its 14th year, the wild and rockin’ winter sports celebration known as WinterFest takes place at the famed Lake Tahoe region, which straddles the California/Nevada border. This year’s event is already generating plenty of buzz, and a highlight will be the OutLaugh Comedy Festival March 5-6 at Tep’s Villa Roma Italian restaurant. Billing itself as “America’s first and continuing gay and lesbian comedy festival,” OutLaugh will feature stand-up comedy concerts by a slew of top lesbian and gay comedians, including Dana Goldberg, Sandra Valls and Roy Cruz.
The very popular private dinner/dance party on Lake Tahoe is spectacular and always one of the highlights of WinterFest. Enjoy a welcome glass of wine as you board the private three-level Paddlewheel Cruise Boat and then enjoy a sumptuous buffet before a night of non-stop dancing. Year after year, people return to Tahoe for the world class skiing, hot casino action and friendly people.
ELEVATION 2009 March 18-27 Mammoth Gay Ski Week www.mammothgayski.com
ELEVATION 2009, the seventh annual Mammoth Gay Ski Week, is growing as quickly as Mammoth. With tens of millions of dollars spent in the past few years, SKI Magazine says, “Mammoth has been swept up by a tornado of transformation that could soon make it the ultra of West Coast ski areas.”
The last six years have been huge growth years for ELEVATION. In fact, it has been one of the fastest growing gay events in the country since its first year. At a time when many of the large gay party weekends have declined drastically in numbers, attendance at ELEVATION has increased by 60 to 100 percent each year.
Why? Probably because ELEVATION offers an alternative to the gay party scene. It does host huge dance parties with the biggest DJs on the circuit, but the weekend is about more than just those parties. ELEVATION is held in one of the most beautiful settings in the country. When you come to ELEVATION, you experience some of the best spring skiing in the world, at a resort where the unbelievably long season lasts well into spring and even summer, with one of the highest average snowfalls in the country.
All for the Ladies
Girls want to have fun, too! Out & About Travel has the exclusive inside look at the top destinations, vacations, and parties for women of all ages.
“All lesbians have probably heard about Olivia,” Sousa said. “They are, by far, the most popular company offering lesbian tours and cruises. There are also many other women-exclusive tours available as well – not necessarily lesbian exclusive, but tours open to women of all backgrounds.
“Everything from hiking Kilimanjaro, dog-sledding in Minnesota, trips to Hawaii, New Zealand, Australia, culinary tours. Pretty much anything, you name it – it is out there. I am not sure women are completely aware of this. We work with many ‘women exclusive’ tour operators that are more than welcoming of lesbians. Over the years the options have grown and from what I am seeing offered in 2009 it seems to be expanding more than ever!”
Ixtapa, Mexico Resort
Jan. 25 through Feb. 1, 2009
If you dig beaches, deep blue waters, pool-side entertainment and all the umbrella drinks you can handle, then the Ixtapa, Mexico Resort is the place to be. Join Olivia at the newly-renovated, all-inclusive Club Med for a week of fun in the sun! Take advantage of the endless adventure this amazing resort has to offer. Explore the beautiful blue waters over or undersea – go catamaran sailing, take a snorkeling trip, or learn how to sail! Activities include wall climbing, circus school, tennis, archery, rollerblading, water sports, kayaking, and a number of daily workout classes and Olivia’s signature programming and entertainment.
Caribbean Island Cruise
Set sail on the beautiful Caribbean with a ship full of great Olivia women. Book early if you want to join the ladies of Olivia in Ft. Lauderdale to kick off this amazing, fun-filled adventure. You’ll relax into the warmth of the luscious beaches and lagoons of Grand Turk. You’ll swim with the rainbow fish of Grand Turk’s lush coral gardens, sink your toes into the sugary white beaches of St. Thomas and St. John, and savor the seclusion of kicking back on the exclusive private paradise Half Moon Cay to finish off this sun-filled vacation. You’ll bask in the warm sun, dine and dance in dazzling restaurants and nightclubs, and discover the endless supply of quiet and secluded hideaways; explore cool emerald hills and colorful waterfronts, spend the day at the market, and relax and rejuvenate with a luxurious trip to the spa.
Tahiti and French Polynesia Luxury Cruise
March 14 – March 21, 2009
Experience the beauty of paradise on the sapphire seas of Tahiti. Go away with the women of Olivia to the romantic islands of French Polynesia aboard the luxurious Paul Gauguin, named “Best Luxury Cruise Line” in Travel Weekly’s Readers’ Choice Awards 2005. Experience the beauty of paradise on the sapphire seas of Tahiti. Immerse yourself in the turquoise lagoons and emerald seaside forests of Papeete, Raiatea, Bora Bora, and Moorea. Explore their breath-taking volcanic peaks, enchanting waterfalls, lush pineapple and vanilla plantations, and the seductive music and dance of the local women. Known for their hospitality, free-spirited women, and emphasis on the art of relaxation, the French Polynesian Islands are open for you to discover your own romantic hideaways and peace of mind. When you’re done relaxing, you’ll hike in the jungle or take an underwater snorkeling excursion in the lagoons of Raiatea. Take an off-road adventure in Bora Bora, or a black pearl treasure hunt in Moorea.
R Family Vacations is another GLBT-owned and operated vacation company, founded by Kelli O’Donnell and Gregg Kaminsky. An alternative to the usual club-hopping vacation packages popular with the younger crowds, R Family Vacations targets another quickly-growing sector of our community – the GLBT family.
Kaminsky has worked in the gay and lesbian travel industry for the past 13 years developing and producing charter vacations for R Family Vacations, Atlantis Events, and Nickelodeon in the Caribbean, Mexico, Australia, Europe and Africa. He and his partner were featured on the Bravo television documentary, “Gay Weddings.” O’Donnell is a former Nickelodeon marketing executive. She was responsible for developing promotions and marketing materials targeting children of all ages. She has four young children with partner, Rosie O’Donnell.
Do you have to have kids to book with R Family Vacations? “Nope!” exclaims the R Family Vacations Web site. “Our vacations are created with everyone in mind. Kids are welcome but not a requirement. The kids have their very own activities and entertainment planned just for them. Our evening entertainment is created for adults (although kids are welcome to most shows). Many passengers choose R family for the relaxed atmosphere with less emphasis on all-night dance parties.”
R Family Vacations is the next generation of GLBT vacations and cruises. For this company, it has not always been smooth sailing. There have been a few bumps along the way since its founding in 2004. When the first R Family cruise arrived in Nassau, the ship was met by protesters carrying signs denouncing homosexuality. Their loud taunts caused some children on the ship to cry and induced Rosie O’Donnell to remain on deck – rather than enter into what was certain to be a televised shouting match. However, since then the company has chartered dozens of cruises and vacations across the nation (and beyond!).
“The best vacation trips for gay and lesbian families, by far, is anything R Family Vacations offers,” Sousa says. “Currently they are offering an Alaska cruise scheduled for July 11-18, 2009 aboard the Norwegian Star. R Family Vacations is open to gay men, lesbians, friends and family. The entire ship is chartered and entertainment is top-of-the-line. There is something for everyone. Adults, teens, kids.”
Summer Adventure 2009
Cruise Seattle to Alaska
A week of community, learning, laughter and love is all in store as we celebrate our freedom and pride aboard the Norwegian Star. The vacation starts in the gay-friendly port town of Seattle, Wash. Then, explore the beautiful state of Alaska. There is a multitude of amazing excursions; plan ahead and get the most out of your family’s vacations!
Treat that Valentine
We’re less than a month away from Valentine’s Day – why not treat that special someone to a vacation they will never forget?
“I try to think of something totally unique for Valentine’s Day,” Kaminsky says. “My hubby loves Warhol so last year I gave him a weekend together in Pittsburgh and a day at the fantastic Warhol museum. I also recently visited Quebec City. It would be a wonderful Valentine’s Day option and we met many other GLBT couples on our trip there.”
“My recommendation for a romantic Valentine’s Day outing is Mont Tremblant ski resort in Quebec, Canada or Sand Castle on the Beach Resort on the island of St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands,” Sousa says. “Mont Tremblant is a romantic, ski resort town located roughly 1 1/2 hours north of Montreal in the beautiful Laurentian mountains. The French speaking (English is spoken everywhere as well) local makes you feel like you are in a small ski town in France. The village is charming and very atmospheric. There are lots of great shops, restaurants and several nightclubs. There is a wide range of accommodations for every budget and every winter activity imaginable. Clients would fly into Montreal (or direct to Tremblant if available from your city) and take a shuttle to the resort.
“On the complete opposite spectrum is Sand Castle on the Beach in Frederiksted, St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands. St. Croix is a beautiful, laid back, tropical, romantic island. The water is breathtakingly turquoise and the sand snow white. Sand Castle is the most popular resort for gay men and lesbians we book to the Caribbean. They offer a wide range of packages including commitment ceremony and honeymoon packages. This quaint, beachside boutique hotel has a very popular onsite restaurant, freshwater pools, hammocks, snorkeling and well appointed rooms.”
Whether snow, sun, or a little of both – enjoy the many vacation options available this winter!