Gay Ski Week- Wild West Style

By: K. Pearson Brown of Out With Mommy

We got a taste of the Rocky Mountain spirit when my partner Kira, our toddler Stephen, and I first arrived at the tiny Montrose Junction Airport, about an hour and a half’s drive from our destination of Telluride.  As we loaded into the shuttle, I reminded our driver that we had requested a child car seat.

“Here’s what we’ve got,” he said, handing me a tattered booster seat.

“This is actually a booster,” I told the driver, trying not to sound too much like an LA diva. “My son is only two.  He needs a car seat with a harness to keep him in.”

“No worries.  This is Colorado. He can join us for a drink later if he wants,” the driver said with a laugh as he heaved our bags into the back of the van.

OK, it was time to let loose.  I strapped Stephen into the booster with the lap belt and held him in with an arm across his chest.  “Here we go.  We’re in the Wild West now,” I told him as his eyes lit up looking at the magnificent mountain peaks surrounding us.

Onward and upward we went up the icy windy roads to Telluride, an old mining town that has become a winter wonderland for skiers and a year-round playground for hikers, rock climbers, mountain bikers and lovers of the great outdoors.

The region is also known for its Wild West anything-goes live-and-let-live attitude, which for us meant we would be welcome as a gay family without a second thought.  Sure enough, from our entrance into the lobby at the Peak’s Resort & Spa we felt at home right away.  When I checked us into our king-bed room, for two women and a child, the friendly front-desk clerk not only didn’t blink, she asked if I would like an extra key for my partner.

Just through the grand foyer was the Peak’s spa, a world-class facility, a full fitness center with state-of-the art cardio room, Cybex machines, a yoga studio and even a rock-climbing wall.  The spa also offered massage, mani-pedis, tanning, sauna, Roman tubs and a eucalyptus inhalation room.  None of that mattered to Stephen, but he could hardly contain his excitement to see not one but two heated pools and an indoor water slide.  No wonder the resort was selected by Parent’s magazine as a top 10 family winter resort.

The resort has also been ranked as the premier gay ski week host, and each year at the end of February an estimated 1000 GLBT skiers attend the Telluride Gay Ski Week, which is what brought us to town.  While we were traveling by shuttle to get to the resort, we learned from our driver that

Gay Ski Week is an event that townspeople look forward to all year, not only because the attendees are known to be big tippers, but as one local told us, “Every bar in town puts on a special party during Gay Ski Week, and it’s always the best party of the year.”

Although the event itself is primarily for adults, there are plenty of activities in town for kids while Mommy and Mama or Daddy and Papa hit the slopes, including story time at the local library, music, dance, craft activities, and of course ski lessons, sledding, ice skating and even trampoline acrobatics.  The Peak’s Resort also has a list of local nannies that can babysit while parents get a little time out, and the nannies don’t just sit around in the hotel room.  By request, they will take kids outside to play in the snow!

The best part of getting around Telluride is that the town is small, and despite the snow, it’s easy to traverse from the hotels into the main part of town via a free gondola. A true delight for a toddler — and adults — the gondola whisks commuters up into the air and high over the trails where skiers and snowboarders whoosh by underneath.  We learned that the gondola is the only free transit of its type in the US.  It takes visitors and locals back and forth over the mountain at 11 miles an hour, all day from 7 am until midnight, from the town of Telluride to the shops and restaurants of the Mountain Village Plaza, with an optional stop midway at St. Sophia Station, where Allred’s, the town’s premier fine dining establishment, is perched at 10,000 feet above sea level for the best food and best views in town.

Other than the gondola, another indispensable mode of transportation we discovered was the plastic toboggan.  We learned the hard way that holding a 30-pound kid on your hip or even in a backpack carrier across icy walkways can be hazardous to everyone involved, so we got a tip from a local: the best way to get around town with a toddler in tow was to literally tow him.  We picked up a small sled and some twine to make an extra long pull cord at the local ACE Hardware.  It was the best $16 we ever spent.

Dragging our little one behind us, we set off to explore the many adorable shops, galleries and restaurants.  The town itself defines quaint.  The snow-covered streets are lined with storybook cute chalets and small independent boutiques.  A couple local snowboarder girls who we shared a gondola cab with informed us that

Telluride does not permit chain stores, so you will never see a Starbucks or Pottery Barn or any of the stores that populate Every Mall USA littering the landscape of this purist town. How refreshing.

While there are plenty of cultural scenes in town, including theaters and music venues, the main attraction of Telluride remains the great outdoors, where visitors can enjoy all sorts of activities year round, from fly-fishing and horseback riding to paragliding and hot air balloon rides.

While downhill skiing is why most winter tourists come to Telluride, the resort offers a host of other snow-capades, including cross-country and Nordic skiing, heli-skiing, dog sledding, sleigh rides and snowmobiling.  The latter was the adventure of choice for us.

Our friendly Telluride Snowmobiling Adventures guide, Sam Haury, suited us up with warm boots and goggles, and we hopped on our machines and sped off in the freshly fallen snow high into the mountains.  Sam stopped along the way to give us an educational tour of the historic spots, such as the Alta Ghost Town where miners and their families once lived.

Sam also told us how he was thrilled that it was Gay Ski Week.  He told the news among the locals was that protestors were coming to town because Judy Shepard would be speaking as part of a fundraiser for the Matthew Shepard Foundation, on organization founded in memory of her late son who was killed in a gay hate crime.  Sam said he and his friends wanted to attend to show the protestors how the townspeople support Judy Shepard.  Very cool, considering Sam and all his friends are straight.

That’s the sort of spirit we found everywhere in Telluride, a town built on individualism, cooperation, and open mindedness, and that attitude lives on today.

Our adventures in Telluride were a blast, though our four-day visit was much too short to do all that we wanted to do during our stay.  But just because the snow will be melting soon, that won’t stop us from returning in the near future, because as the locals kept telling us, “You can always come back, and the summer season is even better!”

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