Kevin Millins, the head of Pure Organisation, which operates European Gay Ski Week which this year kicks off tomorrow in Les Arcs, has called for a greater awareness of the homophobia faced by LGBT travellers, and the importance of queer-specific holidays.
“With the LGBT protections and rights that have developed over the past 13 years that we have been running this event, it has prompted many people to question the need for LGBT-specific leisure spaces, be that gay-only bars and clubs or LGBT-specific tourism. But for LGBT holiday-makers, knowing the laws of the land can be critical to actual or perceived safety, making holidays another source of worry rather than a relaxing, rejuvenating leisure experience,” said Mr Millins.
Some surveys report one-third of LGBT holiday-makers feel that they are treated differently (negatively) due to their sexuality when on vacation, 45% of transgender travellers have reported fearing physical or verbal abuse/harassment while travelling, and 99% of lesbians state LGBTQ discrimination as their greatest concern when travelling overseas.
“For many, skiing and snowboarding epitomises feelings of freedom and self-expression. For the LGBT community, these are sentiments not taken for granted and there is huge demand for spaces that are guaranteed to be welcoming, inclusive and where LGBT people can relax, be themselves and just have fun,” continued Mr Millins, adding,
“European Gay Ski Week welcomes more than 1,000 LGBT people each year, from 49 different countries, providing the rare opportunity to not only enjoy queer-specific spaces from our on-mountain gay ski guiding groups to the après parties and nightclubs, but offering an LGBT-inclusive way to get outdoors, be active and enjoy winter sports in beautiful mountain settings.”
Mr Millins says that winter sports have not been so dissimilar from ‘traditional’ sports in coming under fire for not more quickly or effectively stamping out homophobia in its ranks, adding that while prominent out gay winter sports athletes like America’s freestyle skier Gus Kenworthy and Australian Olympic snowboarder Belle Brockhoff may give the impression of a more open sports community, homophobic slurs in action sports culture are still commonplace.
Mr Millins says that European Gay Ski Week offers an unrivalled travel experience, as it is the only LGBT winter sports festival to be hosted in a different mountain location each year.