A monthly column about gay and lesbian travel

Hot & Cold: Nude Beaches and Gay Ski Weeks

by Sasha Alyson


During the winter months, some gay men and lesbians want to escape to sunny beaches where they can sun & swim, and for naturists this means nude. Others want to embrace winter and rush to the snowy slopes.

Above: Winter brings the traveler a choice: Escape the cold, or enjoy it. For those who choose the latter, one of the gay ski weeks is a great way to combine sport and party.



The author: Sasha Alyson is the founder of Alyson Publications, the country's leading publisher of gay and lesbian books. He sold that company in 1995 to start Alyson Adventures, which specializes in active and adventure vacations for gay men and lesbians.



Table of Contents of Venturing Out columns

A reader recently e-mailed to ask for recommendations on the world's best gay nude beaches. The following suggestions are a good starting point for the novice gay naturist. While some people enjoy the serenity of isolated and unspoiled clothing optional beaches, others enjoy the camaraderie (and sight-seeing) at more crowded spots.

Black's Beach, near San Diego, is a beautiful stretch of beach, after you scramble down the steep cliff path. The gay section is to the north and gets crowded on warm weekends. Further up the Pacific coast is San Francisco's ever-popular Baker Beach, and Vancouver's Wreck Beach, both of which have large and friendly gay followings.

In Europe, nude and topless beaches are common. You'll find wall-to-wall beautiful bodies at Super Paradise and Elia beaches on Greece's gay mecca of Mykonos. Spain also has a number of excellent, gay-friendly "playas natural" including those found on Ibiza; in Sitges, south of Barcelona; and on Gran Canaria in the Canary Islands.

The aptly named Studland Beach, near Bournemouth, England draws many gay British naturists. The Netherlands, Germany, Scandinavian countries and Russia also offer many nude bathing options, but chilly temps can make for a short season and icy cold swimming.

In Africa, there's beautiful Sandy Bay Beach near Capetown, a popular spot for gay South Africans and tourists. With the exception of Brazil, South America and Asia don't offer many opportunities for legal nude sunbathing, but going topless is sometimes permitted in a few countries.

With its thousands of miles of coastline, Australia has some of the world's most delightful nude beaches, and finding an isolated spot to remove your "swimming costume" is rarely a problem. There is also at least one nude beach close to most major cities, including Reef and Lady Jane beaches in Sydney, South City Beach in Perth, and Maslins Beach in Adelaide.

For more suggestions, pick up one of the following guidebooks, available at most gay bookstores: Gay Nude Resorts, Beaches and Recreation '97 (Summers Edge Publishing); The Gay Nude Manual; The North American Guide to Nude Recreation; and Lee Baxandall's World Guide to Nude Beaches and Resorts (The Naturist Society). Naked, a monthly color magazine for gay male nudists, is also available for $6 an issue, or $46 a year by calling (800)RXNAKED.

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Winter might be a season of freezing temperatures, snow, and fewer hours of sunlight, but it also makes possible a number of enormously popular gay ski weeks.

In 1997, Aspen will hold its 20th Gay Ski Week, January 25-February 1. The event is a week of world class skiing, shopping, and partying for gay women and men. This year, organizers expect more than 5,000 participants from all over the country and around the world.

The event features opening and closing parties, daily tea dances, special women's events, ski competitions, fashion shows, and a '70s retro night, featuring popular acts from the disco era. The annual "Bump Your Buns" Downhill Costume Party, a drag and costume competition on skis, has become so popular, some shopkeepers close their stores to attend. For more info call (800)984-8863; send email to aspengay@rof.net or visit their website at www.rof.net/yp/aspengay.

Whistler, in British Columbia, Canada, will hold its fifth gay ski week, Altitude '97, February 2 to 9. The week is expected to draw more than a thousand gay skiers and will feature a wealth of gay parties and contests. The final weekend is always especially popular. For information, call toll-free (888)ALTITUDE.

On a smaller scale, Alyson Adventures will host a ski week for gay men in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, December 22 to 29. While not a huge event like Aspen and Whistler, the trip offers a relaxing, snow-filled holiday escape and a chance to enjoy some of the country's best skiing with other gay men. For more information, give us a ring us at (800)825-9766.

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Last month, I cruised the Internet forum known as the World-Wide Web, in a less-than-fruitful search for gay travel information. The best way to avoid the long and frustrating searches I endured is to go directly to a website. Here are a few addresses you might find of interest:

"www.gay-travel.com" leads to Rancho Mirage, a gay travel agency, with an extensive and well-designed website offering information about tours, destinations, and discount travel offers.

"www.q-net.com" is Ferrari Travel Guides' site, which looks good and provides a wealth of information on gay travel for both women and men.

"www.oliviatravel.com" offers everything you need to know about Olivia Cruises & Resorts, a leading provider of vacations for lesbians.

"www.rainbow-mall.com/igta" is the site for the International Gay Travel Association, which offers links to many of its members, including Men on Vacation.

These are just a few of the gay travel websites out there, and more come on-line every week. Happy surfing!


November, 1996

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Next Month: Most popular gay travel destinations.