Aspen Gay Ski Week steps up marketing |

Aspen Gay Ski Week steps up marketing

Jordan Curet/The Aspen TimesRainbow flags line Main Street in downtown Aspen on Monday afternoon, at the start of Gay Ski Week.

ASPEN, Colorado ” In an effort to draw bigger crowds to Aspen, Gay Ski Week organizers have enlisted a marketing partner to spread the word about the oldest event of its kind in the country.

Celebrating its 31st year this week, Aspen Gay Ski Week has hired Gay Days Inc., which markets and organizes Gay Days in Orlando, Fla. That event is one of the top three gay and lesbian events in the world, said Chris Alexander-Manley, the vice president of marketing for Gay Days Inc.

Gay Days will cross-promote Aspen Gay Ski Week at similar events throughout the country. Alexander-Manley said Aspen Gay Ski Week in recent months has had exposure at many gay and lesbian events, including gatherings held in Palm Springs, Calif., and Chicago. Over the next year, Aspen Gay Ski Week will be visible at more than a dozen gatherings, many of which are Gay Pride events, Alexander-Manley said.

“Ten to 15 major events will know about Aspen,” Alexander-Manley said. “Throughout the year, people will be reminded of Aspen and asked to save the date.”

Jack Johnson, an organizer of Aspen Gay Ski Week, said it’s difficult for the nonprofit to organize the annual event and market effectively, especially since it’s all up to four volunteers.

“It’s a wonderful event, and it takes a huge amount of time and is beyond the capabilities of one executive director,” Johnson said. “If we were the only gay ski week that would be fine, but we have a lot of competition, and we have to compete against large corporations who are for-profit.”

Alexander-Manley said Gay Days in Orlando, which is held in June, is entering its 18th year and attracts 150,000 people. Aspen’s event has remained relatively flat, bringing between 2,000 and 4,000 people. However, the event’s economic impact is about $1 million to $2 million for the city, and it generates hundreds of thousands of dollars in sales tax revenue per year, Johnson said.

Organizers want those numbers to grow.

“If people don’t know about the event, they won’t come,” Alexander-Manley said, adding that Aspen Gay Ski Week is not exclusive to the gay and lesbian community. “The message, even in the Aspen community, is the event is open to everyone and fun can be had by all.”

The challenge for Aspen’s event is that the resort is expensive and has a limited bed base.

The difference for Gay Days is that it’s held in a resort that’s already an international tourist destination and has more than enough accommodations, Alexander-Manley said.

The goal is to get would-be participants signed up well in advance so hotel rooms and packages can be reserved at lower prices.

“We need an earlier jump,” Alexander-Manley said. “A one-year advance is needed in Aspen.”

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