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Pandemic postpones Utah Gay Ski Week 2021: How the inaugural event broke barriers

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PARK CITY, Utah (ABC4) – The end of February is typically Gay Ski Week in Park City, Utah. Unfortunately, due to the pandemic, this year’s event was postponed. While officials expect minor impacts, we take a look back at how the first gay ski week back in 1994 impacted the local economy.

A documentary from the Network Q Project shows the inaugural Gay Ski Week in Park City, which was called Winterfest 1994.

“Being that it brought everyone together, I think it turned out to be very successful,” attendee Chris Condit said in 1994.

About 27 years later, he says unity was just as important then as it is now.

“Yeah, that was the first time I had been involved in something to that nature,” Condit tells ABC4.

Condit says although the ski gear and the snow clothes have changed from the mid-’90s, his love for skiing has stayed the same.  

 “I have loved skiing since I was 10-years-old, I am a life l lifelong skier,” Condit says.

He remembers a time when there was little to no LGBTQ+ visibility on the mountain.

“There was a lot of stigma uncertainty a lot of fears for other reasons,” Condit says “It gets into some political reangling, I guess you could say, between what was going on in Colorado.”

Back in 1992, Colorado voters passed Amendment 2 which prevented a city, town, or county from recognizing homosexuals or bisexuals as a protected class.

Two years later, in 1994, LGBT skiers boycotted the only other gay ski week at the time, which was located in Aspen, Colorado.

“Insights have changed, there is a lot more understanding and a lot less apprehension and anxiety about these issues anymore,” says Condit.

Park City Ski Resort welcomed the event with open arms.

“We are an open-door organization. We are more than happy to welcome them in our offices and on our mountain,” 1994 spokeswoman Robbie Beck said.

“I think it was a lot more progressive than people viewed it to be,” Condit tells ABC4.

Winterfest ’94 drew nearly 2,500 people to Park City.

The event has transformed into what is called Elevation. This year, due to the pandemic Elevation 2021 was postponed, meaning Park City is missing out on about 1,500 visitors.

“It is definitely down compared to a normal ski season,” Park City Chamber of Commerce CEO Jennifer Wesselhoff tells ABC4.

Inclusivity and bolstering the local economy are not the only priority for the Chamber – COVID-19 precautions are also top of mind.

“We are hoping to finish the ski season strong. Our goal was to be able to stay safe, to stay open,” Wesselhoff says. “We want our travelers to know that our community is working really hard to keep our community and our visitors safe and our employees safe and that visitors play a role in that too.”

While the pandemic has created distance between many of us, Condit hopes to be back on the slopes for Elevation 2022. The event is expected to return next winter with registration expected this spring.

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