Skiing: white, straight and elitist?

New Zealand is basking in the glow of international elite competition this week at the Audi Quattro Winter Games New Zealand, a 10-day festival of world-class ski and snowboard competition that attracts competitors such as Shaun White and Torah Bright, keen to put winning runs on the board before the Sochi Winter Olympics.

Add an Adventure Film Festival with sold out screenings and live music plus some fun pre Russia Games parties including a Mons Royale Russian Lock In party with obligatory mug shots and ushanka hats and you have the gamut of winter fun for spectators.

While most holidaymakers at ski resorts come to ski or snowboard rather than watch others do it, there is something appealing about sharing the resort with the world's best and swinging by the half-pipe to watch a champion do his or her stuff before continuing your day skiing or riding. Even I had to stop and get a selfie with Bode Miller when he was training at Treble Cone a few years back.

Of course, some on-snow events are better than others. The Winter X Games does it right in Aspen and Tignes with nightly music gigs, athlete signings and a free event program for the public. Sporting events with a leisure-viewing public can be a big win-win for the tourism destination.

The biggest winter event of all, the Winter Olympics, brings massive tourism dollars to the host nation. Vancouver's Games in 2010 increased British Columbia's tourism revenue by $C226 billion from 2003 to 2010. Sochi in Russia may be expecting similar figures come February but that will hardly make a dent in the most expensive Olympics to date, projected at $US52 billion.

Then there's the "gay" issue. The ski and snowboard industry has long sought the pink dollar. Whistler is home to WinterPride, an annual gay ski week of epic party proportions each February. Aspen Gay Ski Week is in January and the 2014 event will celebrate 37 years of all things gay and lesbian on the Aspen slopes.

In Australia, Mount Hotham is the home of the Frosty Fruits gay ski week each July, and Queenstown turns on the rainbow lights for the DNA Gay Ski Week from August 31 to September 7 this year. Expect a big party and ski and snowboard program, plus discounts for revellers by major tourism partners on the South Island of New Zealand.

Gay Olympic team members may not expect the same welcome in Russia, with Vladimir Putin's controversial anti-gay legislations. Fear of persecution or imprisonment is said to be building for gay athletes, team members, supporters and spectators. Thespian Stephen Fry has called for a boycott while openly gay ice skater Johnny Weir plans to attend, compete and be himself and so he should. 

Personally I think the Games will be the most colourful in history, with many choosing to protest in public with rainbow colours in full view to be caught in the global crowds on NBC. With all the security already needed for the Winter Olympics are they really going to start chasing rainbows just to make a point?

Fair enough, skiing and snowboarding has, in its time, been accused of being white, straight and elitist. Old-school skiers call snowboarders "gays on trays", as if being gay and being a snowboarder is an insult. The National Brotherhood of Skiers was founded in America in the 1970s with the goal of getting a black skier to qualify for the US Olympic Ski Team amongst the white out of middle class athletes.

The truth be told, skiers and boarders are bonded by a mutual love of snow, regardless of political, religious, race, lifestyle and economic persuasion. Mention snow in a group of strangers and watch the skiers and boarders unite as they swap war stories and become lifelong friends in the process. 

Mountain people have some of the biggest hearts around. Need a lift? Stick out your thumb. Need a bed? Sleep on someone's couch. Need a ski or snow buddy? Just jump on the chairlift.

Chances are most of those narrow minded folk are weekenders and holiday makers. Whether athlete, leisure skier, first-time boarder or long-time skier, those who love snow just want more people, not fewer, to love it, and no law can stop that.

(You can read more on what the world media has to say about the Sochi Winter Olympics 2014 debate on gay rights here.)

What are your favourite winter sports competitions? Do you like to watch elite athletes compete or do you prefer to ski? What are your thoughts on the anti-gay legislations in Russia and how it will impact the Winter Olympics? Post a comment on the blog below.


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Each week's winner receives a Skullcandy Hesh 2.0 set of headphones (RRP$99.95) in a variety of colours and goes into the finalists gallery at the end of the season for readers to vote on who wins. 

The final winner scores Skullcandy Mix Master Headphones (RRP$379.95) and an Epic Pass season pass valid at 18 mountains in the USA and Europe including Vail in Colorado, Heavenly in Lake Tahoe and Canyons in Utah, home to Skullcandy HQ (RRP US$689).

Check out the gallery at the top of this page for this week's top five finalists. You can also view all instagram entries here. Entry terms and conditions.


This week's finalists are @gillbaggy @bus_o @torhw @davidgraham91 and @jamesmatheson33. Watch this space for the winner next week.

The winner of last week's top five instagrams is @samskis1 for 'old man winter in Falls Creek' instagram.

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