WHOOSSH, Whistler's LGBT party, closes the curtains after 10 years 

Event helped foster resort's LGBT community and has raised over $70K for charity

click to enlarge PHOTO BY FRED HANLEY - WHOOSSH The Southside Diner hosted the final WHOOSSH, Whistler's regular LGBT party, on Saturday, April 25.
  • Photo by Fred Hanley
  • WHOOSSH The Southside Diner hosted the final WHOOSSH, Whistler's regular LGBT party, on Saturday, April 25.

Two marriages, a divorce, countless friendships and thousands of dollars for deserving charities.

Those are just some of the things that have come out of Whistler's regular LGBT party, WHOOSSH, which came to an end last weekend after 10 years in the community.

The brainchild of Peter Dinz, founder of LGBT ski club skiOUT, WHOOSSH began in 2006 as a way for gay and lesbian people living and visiting the community to connect in a fun and friendly environment.

"We knew there were gay people in town and we knew who they were, but there wasn't a place to go and get together and meet for drinks — especially after a day on the mountain," Dinz said.

"So that's really why we started WHOOSSH at the end of the day: to give people a place to come where they could hold their partner's hand, make jokes with friends and plans to go up the mountain the next day."

While Whistler is certainly an LGBT-friendly community, for years there were few ways for gays and lesbians to meet in the bustling resort. A group called QINTM (Queer In The Mountains) would post ads in the local newspapers announcing events, but little else existed.

"When we actually wanted to go to a QINTM function, you actually had to get interviewed first because people didn't know if they would be bashed or not. That's just how it was back then," explained Dean Nelson, executive producer of the Whistler Pride and Ski Festival.

"So I think (WHOOSSH) was really important. I know when I first moved to Whistler, I thought I was the only gay in the village."

Nelson wasn't the only one who felt that way, either. Dave Keen, former owner of Southside Diner, where the party was held over its decade-long run, said WHOOSSH was instrumental in developing "a cohesive LGBT community" here.

"Ten years ago there was nothing else happening in town other than the Whistler Pride. It gave people an option to hang out and have a few beers."

But WHOOSSH was always more than just a party. The event has raised more than $71,000 for a variety of charities, including over $10,000 for Camp Moomba, a summer camp for children with HIV and AIDS.

But after a decade at the helm, and the ensuing rise of social media, Dinz is calling it quits, but hopes that someone else will take over his beloved monthly party.

"There's smartphones, there's social apps, there's a lot of things that have changed that have made it a lot easier to meet other people. As a result it's had the same effect on straight bars as it's had on gay bars: people no longer need to go out to meet others," he said. "That's not the reason we're ending the party, but after 10 years we've seen the dynamics change a bit. Maybe it's time for someone else to take the rainbow flag and start another gay event in Whistler."

Someone who is clearly suited for that job is Nelson, who helped transform Whistler Pride into the largest gay ski week in North America.

"My business partner and I are really thinking about how we can do something moving forward with Peter Dinz that's similar to WHOOSSH but also a little bit different," he said, adding that the event would likely take place four times a year.

skiOUT, meanwhile, will continue to go strong after 16 years, hosting regular ski trips to Whistler. But that doesn't mean WHOOSSH, and the many relationships it helped spark, won't be missed.

"The biggest thing I'm going to miss is the community that WHOOSSH created," Dinz said.

"There are friends from all over the world who have met at WHOOSSH and created friendships that they may not have had had there not been a place for people to go."


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