Vail Gay Ski week gains momentum |

Vail Gay Ski week gains momentum

Lauren Glendenning
Vail, CO Colorado

VAIL, Colorado – With 500 to 1,000 people expected in town for Vail’s Gay Ski Week, the event’s founder is hoping Vail will embrace it with open arms for many years to come.

Tommy Hoffman, owner of Rocky Mountain Vacation Rentals, says he is always thinking of ways for his company to support three specific areas of the community – public and private schools, the arts, and the gay and lesbian community. He created as a charitable arm for his company. He says he created Vail Gay Ski Week, which takes place from set for Jan. 27 to 31, as one of many events he plans to produce.

As someone involved in the gay community himself, Hoffman wanted to show his support for it and do something for the community during tough economic times.

He said the gay and lesbian community typically has more expendable income than heterosexual families, therefore it’s a great market to tap into, Hoffman said.

“There’s a tremendous opportunity to do more business in town in times of an economic downturn like we’re in now,” Hoffman said. “If there’s an opportunity to build another venue to a niche market, why not.”

Telluride and Aspen are ski towns that have hosted successful gay ski weeks for years, but Vail’s Gay Ski Week is trying to draw in the Front Range gay and lesbian communities.

Hoffman has gone so far as to commit the funds raised in the Vail Gay Ski Week silent auction to help build a new center for the Denver-based Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Community Center of Colorado.

Heather Draper, spokeswoman for organization, said the Vail Gay Ski Week page on the group’s Web site has gotten more than 450 views in the last month and it’s one of the most popular pages on the site, she said.

Draper said the gay and lesbian community around Denver is definitely talking about the event.

“Generally, there’s a sense that we’re glad there’s another gay ski week option out there for our community,” Draper said. “There’s some buzz down here about it.”

Denver’s Gay Pride Parade, which happens in June, draws in about 275,000 people – one of the largest gay pride parades in the country.

“With that huge of a (gay and lesbian community), there’s obviously a huge opportunity,” Hoffman said. “My plan is to build (Vail Gay Ski Week) up to 3,000 to 5,000 people within 3-5 years.”

Rocky Mountain Vacation Rentals, which is handling all the booking for the event, has tapped into the gay and lesbian scene in Denver. The company’s staff has been working with the popular gay and lesbian bars in Denver to promote the event, as well as promoting it through and its sponsors.

Telluride and Aspen draw in a lot of out-of-state guests during their gay ski weeks, Hoffman said, largely because those markets are geared more toward destination visitors. Vail’s advantage is its accessibility from Denver, he said.

The number of Front Rangers planning to attend Vail Gay Ski Week is unknown – Hoffman said so many of them could be Epic Pass holders or second-home owners, so hotel bookings don’t necessarily reflect how many people are heading to town.

Chris Romer, the Vail Valley Partnership’s marketing director, said the event is a great example of a local entrepreneur exploring new target markets to grow business – something the Partnership has encouraged through the economic downturn.

“I think it has great potential,” Romer said.

Community Editor Lauren Glendenning can be reached at 970-748-2983 or

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