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  • Writer's pictureDean Nelson, (he/him) CTC, LLD

A Call for Allies - Short Turns - Ski Canada Magazine

December 2023 Ski Canada Editorial (Dropping In) by Dean Nelson

Over the past three decades the ski industry has made strides in becoming a safer and more inclusive space for the LGBTQ+ community. Still, there’s work to do. Progress has been made, but true inclusivity requires constant commit- ment and allyship.

From the start, Whistler-Blackcomb has played a crucial role in fostering in- clusivity. From 2005 to 2018, as an event producer and LGBTQ+ activist I helped produce the annual Whistler Pride and Ski Festival, a week-long celebration of LGBTQ+ inclusion. Sports never felt safe for me while growing up. That’s why, for me, the festival exemplifies the power of acceptance and diversity in the ski com- munity. It celebrates a diverse group of participants and inspires other resorts to follow suit.

"Despite three decades of advocacy, it sometimes feels like LGBTQ+ visibility in the ski industry is just a footnote."

52.3 Dropping In_Nelson
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Creation of the Pride House atthe 2010 Vancouver Olympics also marked a turning point. As a pavilion for LGBTQ+ athletes, spectators and their allies, I remember Pride House as a phenomenon that proved winter sports were ready to embrace diversity and create a welcoming environment for all individuals. It was the first of its kind in the Olympic Games, setting a standard for inclusivity in sports.I’m proud of the work of Rebellious Unicorns in producing Peak Pride events at B.C. resorts like Sun Peaks, SilverStar and Mount Washington. They feature everything from drag shows to educational workshops, all aimed at creating welcoming spaces for LGBTQ+ individuals and allies. The group’s com- mitment is to making the mountains accessible to all, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.

Still, despite three decades of advo- cacy, it sometimes feels like LGBTQ+ visibility in the ski industry is just a footnote. For instance, I was dismayed to learn that the story of Pride House and the visibility of queer artists and LG- BTQ+ Olympians were notably absent from a recent event celebrating the 10th anniversary of Vancouver’s Olympics.

And when I visit a resort outside of Gay Ski Week, as a gay skier I see very little visibility of LGBTQ+ safe spaces, which is more than a sticker on a win- dow. A true safe space supports other LGBTQ+ events throughout the year, and has staff that has participated in essentials like sensitivity training, which can ensure it’s using inclusive language, both online and throughout all aspects of their operation.

I’ve come to realize that allyship is essential to create a more inclusive space for LGBTQ+ individuals on and off the slopes. I—or the token gay of the village—need your support. It is one thing for us to advocate for our visibility, it’s another when the greater community rallies behind to am-plify that voice. Our friends and loved ones in the LGBTQ+ community face various stressors, from discriminatory legislation to stigmatization. In 2023, lawmakers in 46 U.S. states introduced more than 650 anti-LGBTQ+ bills, and a 2022 survey by the Human Rights Campaign revealed that 45 percent of LGBTQ+ youth seriously considered suicide in the past year.

As allies, we can all play a pivotal role. Speak out against anti-LGBTQ+ slurs and discrimination. Advocate for LGBTQ+ inclusion in local communi- ties, mentorship and career advance- ment opportunities. Promote visibility within mainstream marketing. Educate yourselves on LGBTQ+ issues to combat misinformation. Use inclusive, non-gendered language and ask for pronouns. Advocate for single-person/ all-gender bathrooms at resorts, bars, and stores. Encourage local businesses to display Pride flags and signs signal- ing their LGBTQ+ friendliness. Offera diverse array of events throughout the year, ranging from ski races to film festivals, all aimed at supporting and celebrating the LGBTQ+ community. And more importantly, invest in LGBTQ+ events with real cash.

Allyship cannot be limited to Pride Month or special events; it must be a year-round commitment to ensure that LGBTQ+ individuals feel a sense of belonging and acceptance in the ski community. It’s time to stand up against discrimination and hatred, ensuringthat all individuals can enjoy the slopes without fear of prejudice. The journey towards full inclusivity continues, and allyship is a crucial step forward. 🎿


Aspen Gay Ski Week ........................... January 14-21

Stowe Winter RendezVous ................January 17-21

Whistler Pride + Ski Festival .............January 21-28

Telluride Gay Ski Week.........................February 24 - March 2

Park City Elevation Ski Week ............. February 28 - March 3

Sun Peaks Peak Pride............................March 1-3

Mammoth Elevation Ski Week ............March 13-17

Jasper Pride and Ski Festival..............April 12-21

departuresXdean - an independent agent with Personal Travel Mgmt BC Tour registration #2806, TICO #50025786 proud members of the IGLTA and the Ensemble Travel Group.

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