Altitude X gets late night extension 

The Alitiude Snowball Event
  • The Alitiude Snowball Event

Organizers of gay ski week looking forward to best event ever

There will be partying until the very small hours of the morning as Whistler relaxes its late night rules for the upcoming 10th annual Altitude Week, Feb. 2-11.

"It's always been a struggle in Whistler to get later hours," said Laurie Lemarche, the assistant producer with Out on the Slopes Productions, the company that organizes the annual gay ski week. "This year the municipality has been very supportive."

Last year there were threats from Altitude organizers to move the event elsewhere when closing time was stuck at 2 a.m., particularly for Snow Ball, the ultimate party at the end of a week of parties.

Now Suzanne Denbak, the president of Tourism Whistler, says the late night hours for certain events during the week have been extended.

The Snow Ball, held at the Whistler Conference Centre, will close at 4 a.m. this year, followed by an after hours event from 4 to 8 a.m.

"There's no change to the liquor licence. It's just a matter of extending the dancing and the music. The alcohol sales do not extend," she said.

This is good news for Altitude attendees.

The annual gay week in Whistler has become an established part of the international scene of circuit parties, which are like raves for gay men, usually lasting over a 3-4 day period, said Lemarche.

He estimates that between 70 and 80 per cent of the participants come from places other than Vancouver, with regulars flying in from all over the world. Most of these people are used to partying until the sun comes up.

"On the international scene it's a standard that you party until 7 in the morning," he said. "We always felt that B.C. had some growing up to do in that respect."

Now that a compromise over the late hours has been reached, the resort can expect to welcome between 3,000 and 3,500 participants over the course of the week, making it the biggest Altitude Week to date.

"It's an important event for the resort," said Denbak.

There were concerns in the fall that participation numbers would be down in the wake of the U.S. terrorist attacks. But it would appear that the events of Sept. 11 have not effected Altitude Week.

"We are about a week and a half ahead of the game in terms of bookings. The gay and lesbian community are out and they're travelling," said Lemarche.

The event still caters mostly to gay men with the lesbian portion making up between 10 and 20 per cent.

The event started 10 years ago with a group of gay men who wanted to get together each year and ski. Over the course of the years it has just grown naturally, said Lemarche.

"It really has been fuelled by relationships and meeting new people. Whistler is the perfect backdrop for that to happen."

To fuel that energy even further and to get people in the mood there is a theme throughout the entire week based on the planets aligning.

Each day represents a different planet and the various themes and characteristics that are associated with that planet.

"We looked up different astrology things and the legends and the lore behind the different planets... For example, the planet for the Snow Ball is Venus, which is about love and warmth and losing inhibitions," said Lemarche.

From Feb. 2 to 11 there will be approximately 30 organized events for the participants. These include a gospel brunch, a comedy night, beach party, cabaret and helicopter rides to the hot springs, among many others.

Also, all of the apres parties will move to one location at the Westin.

"While some of the organized events might be more concentrated... the level of economic activity will still be very strong throughout the resort," said Denbak.

If the numbers and the level of excitement are any way to judge how the event will unfold, then this year's Altitude X promises to be a huge success.

"All the stops have been pulled out for this year," said Lemarche. "I don't want to focus totally on our parties because it's not all about the parties but... the entertainment is great."

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