Peter Roche heads to Avoriaz for a gay old time on the Swiss Alps.
“Hey, are you here for gay ski week? Where do we get the bus?” I sheepishly asked the cute guy I spied using Grindr in Geneva airport. There wasn’t any shortage of people to ask; the airport looked like the Folsom street fair with an abundance of rainbow flags and muscled men.
“Just over there, come on I’ll show you” he answered, with a warm friendliness that we would become accustomed to over the course of the week. The buses arrived and the airport was emptied of its mirth. I imagine it returned to its regular air of people rushing about their business.
We’d barely left the car park before a particularly rowdy group of beefy hunks (who it transpired were the performers for the weekend and, were staying in our apartment block ensuring there was never a dull moment) began to blare the Spice Girls and other such classics as they challenged one another to do somersault’s from the luggage racks of the bus.
People cracked open beers and passed around assorted duty free spirits. The party had begun in earnest. Talk quickly turned to what events were on that night, and people worried about having time to get showered and freshen up before hitting the welcome night parties, all four welcome parties in fact, and here we were thinking we were going on a ski break!
I was told it took 90 minutes to reach Avoriaz from Geneva Airport, although I could have sworn it was no more than half an hour with all the new friends we made on the bus. Upon arrival the professional staff were on hand to help everyone to their accommodation and get checked in promptly. Avoriaz is a stunning resort, high in the Portes du Soleil. Perhaps most magical about it is that it is a ski-in ski-out resort, meaning that there are no cars and all of the accommodation lets you leave your building in your skis and head straight to the slope.
Horse-drawn carts and sleighs are your only mode of taxi and the architecture is a bizarre but beautiful mix of classic alpine build with a futuristic twist. The ski pass gives holidaymakers access to a vast number of ski lifts and slopes of all difficulty. In our week I don’t believe we explored more than a fifth of the network. It was my first time skiing, and my partner wasn’t much better, but we found it a really gentle learning curve.
Outside our apartment was the ‘green’ baby slope where we found our snow legs like a pair of new born calves. When we felt comfortable there were the slightly more challenging ‘blue’ slope was just a minute away, where we practiced gaining some speed and even chanced the ski ramp or two. From there the sky’s the limit, but I can’t say we got very close to that limit. The more adventurous can attempt skiing to nearby villages such as Morzine or Les Prodains.
The particularly bold can attempt ‘the Swiss wall’, a steep and bumpy – yet wide – slope that leads down to Champéry. We learnt the first day to hit the slopes early and finish in time for the apres-ski, which kicks off around 4pm in the afternoon. The centre of the resort is transformed into a gay winter wonderland with drag queens and gogo boys on a huge stage alongside DJs spinning all the glorious dance and euro pop you could hope for.
From there people pile into the numerous quaint and tasty restaurants for a bite. For a tourist resort the food was really rather good, and for those on a budget there are two super markets including a ubiquitous Carrefour. After dinner the only questions is: ‘which party is that guy you’ve been eying up on the slopes going to? Some of the more memorable parties included the Pool Party in the water park (which my partner dubbed ‘Gay Soup’), and the Erotica party which was populated by men in harnesses, jockstraps and balaclavas.
I should also note that although the ski week consists manly of gay men, there were quite a few ladies in attendance too. A special programme of events caters for the ladies that ensures everyone is kept titillated and entertained; from the women’s sauna night to burlesque shows and even a sexy circus. Outside the cost of the event pass, which varies depending on the type of accommodation you settle on, we found we didn’t have very much expenses.
The pass gives you a significantly discounted lift pass, equipment rental, transfer to and from the airport, accommodation, and a free shot at all the parties. There are also free organised ski groups with hunky guides, a nice bonus and other people who are going solo on the holiday. The drinks aren’t much more expensive in Ireland, and a few places even gave discounts if you’re part of Gay Ski Week. We even met a few Canadians and American’s who came every year as it worked out cheaper than going skiing in their own countries!
Countless falls, bruises, laughs, drinks and dances later, and it was time to go home. I’d guess that eighty percent of the people we met on the trip weren’t Gay Ski Week virgins, and we could see why. It was the best holiday we have ever been on. Fact.