To understand the popularity and adventures of the events, GayCities chatted with Elevation Mammoth Lakes veteran Chad Callaghan about how to prepare, what to expect, and how to get the most out of these ski and snowboard events.
1. Why do you love about Elevation?
Like a lot of people, I can get a little bored by gay nightlife – the same bars, the same people, the same vodka sodas every weekend. Historically, bars have always been safe spaces for the LGBTQ community, but these days I think we are looking for gay community and social life beyond the local gayborhood watering hole. I love events like Elevation that challenge us to use skills and muscles beyond the ones required to just stand around and drink. Every year I look forward to Elevation as a weekend to bond with some of my best friends, make some new ones, and then, yes, stand around and drink… but it’s on a mountainside, so it’s different. 😉
I also love the idea of a big gay takeover of traditionally heteronormative spaces. Hundreds of adventurous, athletic gays descend on Mammoth village and Park City every year, and the locals love it.
2. How should one prepare for such a trip?
I’d say the most important thing is find a good group of guys who ski around your level that you can hang with all weekend. I go every year with one of my best friends, and we’ve spent whole days, just the two of us, having a blast, and of course, scoping out dudes. He actually met his boyfriend at Elevation: Mammoth a few years back.
3. It is important to look good on the slopes: What should you wear?
Well, I’d say, don’t worry about making a fool of yourself. That’s half the fun – and maybe a studly snowboard bro will rescue you when you fall. But, more likely, you’ll learn something and do it better next time. As far as clothes – honestly, wear whatever makes you comfortable, but definitely wear layers, especially for Mammoth. The temperature can fluctuate wildly from the bottom of the mountain to the top, so you’ll want some wiggle room to strip down if need be, or snap a shirtless-skiing thirst trap for your Instagram. Seriously, people do this. Annnnnd I guess I’m not complaining. Some years, we’ve done group outfits so we could spot each other at the bottom of the slopes. Some years there have been wigs on helmets, rainbow onesies, you name it. The LA boys definitely love an opportunity to serve some wintertime lewks, cuz they normally never get the chance.
4. Does your level of performance matter?
Definitely not. I’ve even had friends come in years past who weren’t skiers, and they went hiking during the day, or hung out in the cabin and then joined us for Apres Ski and dancing afterward. One year, I spent a whole day with a very handsome gentleman who was a much better skier than I was and fell all the way down the slope. He was verrrry patient with me, but I think he also kind of enjoyed showing off how much better than me he was.
Also – don’t be afraid to take a lesson. Spend the morning perfecting your skills, and then meet up with your crew after lunch to try out your new moves.
5. What goes on off the slopes? What are the best parties? How do you relax after a long day?
All the Elevation events have an Apres ski that’s actually ON the mountain somewhere, which is my favorite party – there’s nothing like ordering a beer in the fresh mountain air and trying to figure out what all the boys look like under their layers and layers of winter gear. Plus, watching a bunch of boys stumble around in their snowboots trying to look cool is PRICELESS.
Usually, we hit the apres ski, then find a hot tub somewhere (most of the hotels have em), before getting cleaned up for dinner. Make your dinner reservations early cuz places tend to book up fast!
6. What are the accommodations like?
I’ve always stayed at one of the partner hotels. Elevation has a link on their website where you can get discounted hotel rates directly through them. I like to be within stumbling distance of the gondola, so for Elevation: Mammoth, I like to stay in the village, but there are a lot of really good options. Elevation has definitely curates the best ones for the best prices, though, so I’d suggest booking directly through them.
7. How would a single guy fit into the scene?
Oh, it’s a great place to meet dudes. First off, you already know you have something in common – you’re both at least a little athletic and you’re brave enough to speed down a snowy hillside on a polished slab of whatever your skiis are made out of these days. So – that takes a very specific type of person. Plus, everybody’s really friendly, even the LA boys – it’s probably all the endorphins. Single guys should do juuuuuuust fine.
8. What are your favorite places to hang out?
Mammoth is a pretty small town, so I’ve mostly kept to the village and the actual Elevation events, but I’ve branched out a bit more in Utah–you can go bobsledding on the actual Olympic track from the Salt Lake Winter Olympics and it’s INSANE. Would definitely recommend.
9. What should pack other than ski wear?
There’s a new big party called GEAR – so you can definitely wear your regular gear to that, but you can also get a little creative or break out that leather harness your friends made you buy for that one warehouse party last year. The theme parties change a little bit every year – but the onesie apres ski has become a tradition, so definitely pack a onesie or some fun long johns for that.
10. How are gay ski events different than non-gay ones?
The biggest thing I’d say is a sense of community like I said, there’s a certain joy in a big gay takeover of a traditionally hetero space, so that immediately creates a camaraderie between all the gay attendees.
11. These events tend to be mostly white guys with disposable income. Are they coming more diverse?
That’s a great question, and of course, I don’t think there’s an easy answer. I actually think it’s a question our community needs to deal with on the whole – a lot of our “mainstream” gay events and spaces tend to be predominantly white, cis, and male, and it’s not just Elevation. Look at gay bars like The Abbey, or any of the big parties on “The Circuit” – it’s a lot of cis white guys. So I think we have a lot of reflection to do to figure out how we can be not just more diverse, but more inclusive.
A friend recently broke down the difference for me like this: diverse just means presence. It means those people are there. Inclusion means they’re a meaningful part of your community. I think as a whole, we have a lot of work ahead of us to make sure all parts of our community feel not only represented but included. That goes for our trans brothers and sisters who are facing daily attacks from the Trump administration, and it goes for QPOCs (Queer People of Color) who often feel marginalized in mainstream gay spaces.
I wish I had an easy answer, but I don’t. I think we have a lot of listening to do.