Elevation Mammoth Gay Ski Week returns to the slopes of Mammoth Lakes in the Eastern Sierra Mountains this week, with plenty of LGBTQ+ skiers, snowboarders, drag queens, DJs, dancers, and more ready to let loose on the mountain and back at the lodge.
Nobody is happier at the news than Tom Whitman who founded Elevation Mammoth Gay Ski Week 20 years ago. He tells Out Traveler he created Elevation Mammoth because he wanted to create something where the events and production itself were not an afterthought.
From left to right: Dustin Woehrmann, Topher Vollan, and Elevation founder Tom Whitman
Elevation Mammoth opens Wednesday, March 16 with a Welcome Aprés-Ski social and frisky Frat Boy party, and runs through Sunday, March 20. True to Whitman’s original vision for the event, Elevation Mammoth pairs activities like wine and spirit tastings alongside the parties on and off the slopes. Whitman revealed to Out Traveler via email what LGBTQ+ skiers can expect at Elevation Mammoth this week, as well as giving a hint at possible events just over the horizon.
Out Traveler: Can you talk about the excitement level for Elevation this year?
Whitman: There is a whole new level of excitement about the Elevation events in 2022. We’ve missed so many things during the pandemic, but two of the biggest ones were gathering with our friends (on dance floors or otherwise) and travel. And Elevation is gonna be on the receiving end of the pent-up desire for both. (That sounded dirty, didn’t it?)
The excitement around Elevation Mammoth’s 20th year only adds to the pent-up desire to travel and be with friends. Attendees know that I will pull out all the stops, especially on a big anniversary like this. And they know how bummed I was that we missed out on almost two years of full-size Elevation events.
The 12th annual Elevation Utah in late February was our biggest yet. We turned away 200 people from our Saturday night event because we just couldn’t fit them into the venue. That gave me a sense of how fun and crazy Mammoth is going to be this year. Hold onto your hats (or your jockstraps or your harness or your onesie or your boyfriend...whatever you like to hold on to).
What made Elevation so different from other gay ski weeks when you founded it 20 years ago?
Well, there weren’t that many gay ski weeks 20 years ago. In the beginning, I wanted an alternative to the bar scene. We have so many diverse interests as LGBTQ people, but bar spaces (usually in big cities) or circuit-style events were often the only places to gather socially and be completely out and open. I wanted to create that safe and celebratory space in a different type of location – one that weaved in my gayness with my love of skiing and snowboarding.
One difference between Elevation and some other gay ski weeks is that the events aren’t an after-thought. I come to this from a background of concert, television, and event production, so it matters to me that the parties are really fun and engaging. It’s not a hotel ballroom and a playlist.
I wanted Elevation to be the friendliest gay event in the world. That may sound weird, but in 20 years of communications with attendees, the one thing I say every year is an encouragement to be friendly, to drop your guard, to introduce yourself to a stranger at apres-ski, to start a conversation at a theme party. And it works – the vibe is just different than your local gay nightclub.
I wanted it to be friendly to all types of people. You can have a great time if you’re an advanced skier or if you are first-time bunny sloping it. If you’re not sure that skiing is your thing, you can come up and try it, but know that there are a ton of other things to do if you decide not to take ski lessons 3 days in a row. I wanted it to be open to people who were on a budget, not just people who could afford their own chalet. I wanted to push a skiing event to be as diverse and inclusive as possible.
What sort of experience should folks expect at Elevation Mammoth?
Here’s what to expect from Elevation Mammoth: Hundreds of fun, friendly, flirty guys and girls from California and across the country. Lunchtime gatherings and on-mountain displays of extreme rainbow gayness, iconic après-ski events in the afternoon, and then themed dance parties at night. And of course, the sprawling terrain and beautiful blue-bird spring skiing in Mammoth.
This is an event where you will leave with memories, new friendships, maybe a relationship, a bruised butt if it’s your first day snowboarding, wobbly legs if you skied, and probably some glow paint in a place you forgot to scrub.
Any future plans or ideas for Elevation you’d like to reveal?
Hopefully I survive this year. Talk to me in a couple weeks. Actually, there is at least one surprise about the growth of Elevation that I’m hoping to announce soon. But you gotta stay tuned.
Elevation Mammoth Gay Ski Week runs March 16-20 in Mammoth Lakes, California. All events are priced individually and can also be accessed with individual event tickets or weekend passes. You can learn more about Elevation Mammoth Gay Ski Week and buy tickets at MammothSkiWeek.com.