A promoter of tourism in a Colorado ski town has stirred up a controversy among local residents after posting a warning to potential visiting families about the city’s Gay Ski Week.
Al Heirich runs an online guide to Telluride, Colo., offering information about the town, its skiing, lodging and restaurants. Telluride is a world-class ski resort with a population of about 3,000.
Heirich says promoters of the homosexual event, including the Telluride Ski Resort, have demanded he remove his warning to families on his website, claiming it is discriminatory.
The resort also asked him to remove links to its site from Heirich’s site.
“Telluride Ski Resort does not discriminate against any skiers or visitors to Telluride,” the resort’s marketing vice president, Pete Woods, told Heirich in an e-mail. “Obviously your website does not reflect that same message.
“Please remove any and all links to the www.tellurideskiresort.com website on the skimall.net site immediately.”
The controversy began with last year’s Gay Ski Week, when Heirich says he tried to warn potential tourists individually. This year he thought a general statement on his site would be more efficient.
Says the statement: “Although this week should be fun for those not offended by alternative lifestyles, with scheduled events including: The Pleasure Hunt, The Blue Ball Dance, Drag Races and more, we are strongly suggesting that families concerned with exposing their children to the homosexual lifestyle and homosexual behavior schedule their vacations another time.
“Events are planned throughout the week in both towns celebrating and promoting the homosexual lifestyle.
“Due to the intense controversy this year in regards to this week, the public display of homosexual pride and behavior will most likely be greater than last year. If this offends you, this is not the time to visit Telluride.”
The statement also warns parents about the week’s “sexually oriented” Aids Benefit Fashion Show with a link to photos of last year’s event. While it urges families not to attend the fashion show, readers are encouraged to donate to the cause.
Heirich says the Gay Ski Week warning is no different than a warning he has posted about college ski weeks, during which public drunkenness and lewdness normally increase.
The statement on Gay Ski Week, which is scheduled for Feb. 26 to March 6, includes the following:
“Note: We have updated this notice more than 10 times to attempt not to offend a small portion of our visitors. Please do not request any further changes. Unfortunately, we cannot insure that every person who may be offended one way or the other is happy.”
Heirich entered the fray about Gay Ski Week last year when his letter to the editor was published in the Daily Planet. His main beef was about the community labeling people by having special weeks for certain kinds of visitors.
“I hear and read the liberal rant of how those opposed to a Gay Ski Week are homophobic, intolerant and hateful,” he wrote. “I’m against Gay Ski Week and not because of any moral or religious belief. I’m against it because we are now so desperate for tourists that we feel the need to label groups or individuals – a weird desire to accept them while we make them stand out. Frankly, I don’t care if it’s gays, blacks, Jews, hippies or angry white men. In the past, we have been able to welcome them all without the need for labels or special weeks.”
Heirich claims the warning is not discriminatory and says he must take the beliefs of his clientele into consideration when telling them about Telluride.
“We do have a conservative, affluent, active demographic,” he said of his customers. “The people like the family-friendly feel of the site.”
Continued Heirich: “My customers aren’t homophobes; they’re parents with little kids. … But when you’re advertising Gay Ski Week it really does have an exclusive sound to it.”
On Dec. 1, the paper published a letter from resident Susan Knight opposing the homosexually oriented week. Responses from outraged community members have followed ever since, with one letter writer saying Knight’s missive was “unspeakably offensive,” a phrase she used in her letter.
Another writer hammered Knight, saying Telluride is “an oasis for free thinking in an often-judgmental America.”
Wrote another, addressing Knight: “Your intolerance and bigotry is disgusting. Furthermore, your belief that your hate-infused worldview even vaguely represents the opinion of this community proves how clueless you are to what Telluride really is.”
Heirich says it was the many letters hammering Knight that generated questions from people who read them on the Internet and then expressed concern to him.
“A lot of them wanted to know, ‘what’s all this controversy?'” he told WND.
Heirich says he’s “the only vocal conservative in Telluride” and has been told he must be more “respectful” toward those who listen to a radio show he co-hosts on an all-volunteer community radio station.
“I’ve been called a racist and a homophobe in the paper, but that’s the price you pay for speaking out,” he told WND.
Said Heirich of the pressure put on him regarding his site: “It’s really a bullying tactic.”