Rainbows over Tahoe: The gay ski week is not just a party, but also a fundraiser for community groups | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Rainbows over Tahoe: The gay ski week is not just a party, but also a fundraiser for community groups

Amanda Fehd

Jim Grant / Tahoe Daily Tribune / Andy Wiechec, front, of Cave Rock and Alan Anselmi of Carson City compete in the Ascent drag ski race Saturday afternoon at Heavenly Mountain Resort. The drag race was just one of the many events in the eight-day gay-lesbian ski week that concluded Sunday night.

Hundreds of flamboyant members of “the family” ascended on Lake Tahoe for the second annual Ascent, a lesbian and gay ski week which draws crowds from as far away as Texas.

Organizers said their preregistration numbers were up five-fold from last year. Overall attendance last year was 1,500.

The week’s skiing and parties were punctuated by a midweek fundraiser for Lake Tahoe Gay and Lesbian Foundation to benefit eight organizations: the Sierra Foothills AIDS Foundation, South Lake Tahoe Women’s Center, Tahoe Youth & Family Services, Tahoe Arts Project, Sierra Recovery Center, Point Foundation, Matthew Shepard Foundation and Court Appointed Special Advocates.

Maxine Alper, president of the gay and lesbian foundation, said they have a goal to give back to the community. Not everyone who is a member of the foundation is gay.

“It’s not all about being gay, it’s about being an inclusive community,” Alper said.

Harvey’s Improv host Howie Nave stopped by the Rainbow of Hope fundraiser Thursday night sporting blue hair to honor the gay movement’s symbol of diversity: the rainbow.

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“Since David made me an honorary gay, I dyed my hair, because I wanted to show that I support them,” Nave said. “I wanted to be part of the rainbow but I couldn’t completely commit to the team. Why disappoint both sexes?”

After last year’s first Ascent, the Tahoe Daily Tribune received several letters expressing disdain for the gay-themed week. The letters were followed by an outpouring of positive support on the letters page.

Nave said his parents were conservatives who did not always show tolerance to gays.

“There was a time when I myself was close-minded, and it wasn’t until I got to know people as individuals that I discovered they are an incredibly creative, educated and friendly group of people,” he said.

Janna York, Ascent’s events coordinator, said the week and its signature fundraiser gives exposure to gays and lesbians who live in South Shore.

“We are just like everybody else,” she said. “We have families. We are part of the community and we want to support these community organizations.”