During the last week in January the Swiss Alps heated up as 500+ LGBTA people came together to celebrate Arosa Gay Ski Week. Now in its 13th year, the event creates a welcoming atmosphere for all LGBT people and allies in the gay friendly village of Arosa, Switzerland. The skiing and snowboarding might be the main draw for most attendees but second to that (or perhaps better) are the lineup of events and activities throughout the week. From the White Party at the top of the mountain to evening classical music concerts, the week-long event has something for just about everyone and every taste.
I must admit that I was quite impressed with both the organization and quality of the parities. We’ve been to several ski weeks in past years and while all have been enjoyable, the parties are not always the best nor do they have the energy and quality of music and entertainment found at home or in big cities. But Arosa Gay Ski Week manages to host excellent parties that are well attended with hundreds of people creating a great social atmosphere. The biggest and best events throughout the weekend included the welcome party at Kursaal, the White Party at the top of the mountain (2,650 meters and Europe's highest gay party) and the slightly smaller, yet equally as fun, pool party held midweek. You could easily go to Arosa Gay Ski week and attend just the events and parties alone and never even set foot on the slopes – and you wouldn’t be disappointed.
Skiing and Snowboarding
You don’t have to be a skier or snowboarder to attend the event but it’s pretty likely that you would if you choose to attend. The runs of Arosa are enough to keep you busy for a few days and even better, you can connect to Lenzerheide, an even larger mountain resort, using the same Arosa Ski Pass. With the two mountains combined, you’ll find 220km of slopes to explore during the week. We stayed at the Vetter Hotel which is at the center of Arosa, directly in front of the train station and literary next door to the ski lift and gondola. Of all the places to stay in Arosa it's probably one of the most convenient location for arrival (location, location, location!), getting up and off the slopes and they even have a rental shop onside – plus daily and delicious breakfast each morning.
You can also join the guided skiing (or boarding) each morning from 10am to 1pm – which is included in your event pass. It’s the first time I’ve ever had a guide and it’s really convenient and useful because you don’t have to ever look at the map and they give you tips on the runs before you go down – great for boarders when encountering unknow flat spots!
What’s a gay ski week without a few sexy boys taking off their top on the mountain and playing in the snow?! Yes, us gays know how to have more fun and we love taking off our shirts – or at least we love watching the chiseled backup dancers do it. I had the pleasure of catching the photoshoot on the side of the mountain and wasn’t disappointed with what I saw. Need I say more?
PS – thanks to Thomas Haywood, the official event photographer for sharing some of his awesome shots!
The Drag Shows
If there’s one thing Arosa Gay Ski Week does well it’s entertainment. They arranged for countless drag queens and dancers from across Switzerland and Europe to join the event and entertain the crowds by both day and night. Epiphany Get Paid, an American drag queen based in Berlin was the headliner of the event and wowed the crowd with her singing performance (not lip syncing!) and sexy back up dancers. Other drag favorites included Sedergine from Belgium, who we prefer to call “Mary Poppers” (don’t ask), Eva Detox as well as Finnish personality Odette Hella’Grand, one of the co-hosts of the downhill ski drag race.
Nighttime Fondue and Sledging
Swiss fondue is incredibly delicious and mountain sledging is…..horribly terrifying – or at least that’s the experience we had. If you decide to join this event (still highly recommend!) be sure you get some tips on sledging technique because we weren’t informed and nearly fell off the side of the mountain. For those that knew what they were doing and could properly stop and turn, it looked like a blast and we were certainly envious. Still, one ride down the mountain was enough and we quickly coziest up inside the Tschuggenhutte for a group meal of delicious fondue. I’m not sure if it was the pound of cheese I ate or the fear of getting back on the sledge, but I decided to ride the gondola back down while letting the experts to their sledging. In all fairness, the slopes were a bit icy that night, which I think contributed to our near death (ok, not really) experience. Next year we’ll be sure to take sledging lessons in advanced :-)
Daily Après Ski Gatherings
Perhaps the only thing we like more than snowboarding is joining the après ski in the afternoon after a long (or short) day on the mountain. Each day from 3pm to 6pm attendees joined the official Après Ski held at various locations through the week both in Arosa village and even at Munggaloch on the top of the mountain where hundreds of gay packed into the ski hut to dance to great music and watch some lovely pole dancers. Munggaloch is famous for their Munggapfupf, a warm coffee flavored shot topped with pink whipped cream (typically gay) and it’s a must to sample! The Vetter Hotel hosted the drag duo The No Name Divas later in the week for a typical German schlager party. And finally, Provisorium13 was a regular spot throughout the week complete with outdoor Jacuzzi.
The Drag Race
If you’ve never seen someone dressed in drag ski down a mountain then you are 100% missing out. One of the last events of the week included the popular drag race where attendees dressed up in drag, partnered up with a buddy skiing down the mountain through an obstacle course – all competing to win the fabulous prize of a gay cruise for two. At the end of the slope the duo must pop a balloon together without their hands and quickly chug a shot before finishing the race. The winner was determined by a combination of speed as well as a score given by a panel of, you guested it, three drag queens. There’s really nothing more to say….it was absolutely hilarious.
One great aspect of a gay ski week are all the new friends you can make. With a very international and open crowd, it’s easy to socialize and make new friends on the slopes, with a guided group, at the après ski, plus at group meals and parties. With more than 500 people coming from more than 30 countries, and a wide range of ages – the crowd is diverse and friendly. It’s even a great event to attend on your own since there are plenty of other single travelers so it’s easy to buddy up and get to know new people.
There are plenty of dining options in the village of Arosa to do on your own or you can choose to join group meals that are organized as part of the event. Each night you can choose from one or two different group meal options which come at an extra fee. We joined two meals during the week, one at Aifach Restaurant, which included a selection of tapas and three course meal for a price of 33 CHF. Given the quality and price of the meal, we thought it to be quite delicious and a good value. Later in the week we joined the Swiss Fondue night which runs a bit more at 60 CHF and includes a meat platter, cheese fondue and chocolate fondue as dessert (plus the night sledging). Joining a group meal isn’t obligatory by any means but it is a great way to sample some local food and meet new people with whom you share a table. If you’re on a budget (we know Switzerland can be expensive from some) then you can also enjoy a simple takeaway restaurant or even cook for yourself if you’re staying in an apartment or other self-catering place.
Each day from noon to 3pm, the gays all gather at the Tschuggenhutte, which is a lodge part way up the mountain complete with restaurant, bar and and outdoor terrance with sunbathing chairs with a section fully reserved for Arosa Gay Ski Week attendees. The chairs are normally 24 CHF per day, but if you have an event pass they are included and don’t require extra payment. Yes, it seems strange to sunbathe at the top of the Swiss Alps but if the weather is clear and not so windy like we had much of the week, the sun warms the mountain terrace so much you’ll find yourself taking off layers as you eat your lunch or drink a midday beer or warm, boozy drink.
Arosa is a small village nestled in the Swiss Alps just 150km southeast of Zurich. The peaks of Arosa top out at 2,600m and the views both from the village and the top of the slopes are stunning. The peaks of Arosa and and other nearby mountains are extremely steep and their snow covered sides stretch from top to bottom surrounding the area on all sides. Combine that with the quaint and decorative Swiss mountain architecture and just physically being there, the presence of it all is an experience in itself. And if that’s not enough, the train from and back to the city of Chur (where you connect from Zurich or other major cities) is an hour long, panoramic ride up the mountain with picturesque views of charming little villages and wide spanning bridges.
If you missed Arosa Gay Ski Week this year they’re coming back again from January 20th – 27th, 2018. The event is without a doubt one of the best gay ski weeks in Europe and I can’t recommend it enough. I had a blast attending this year and I can’t wait to return to the beautiful village of Arosa in 2018.
Have you ever attended a gay ski week before? Which event at Arosa sounds like the most fun to you? Let us know in the comments below!
Note: Our trip was provided by Arosa Gay Ski Week, Arosa and Swiss Tourism. As always, rest assured all opinions are 100% our own and we don't sacrifice our integrity for a sponsorship. Featured image taken by Thomas Haywood.