Gay Ski Week’s last gasp in Queenstown

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Queenstown’s Gay Ski Week faces cancellation as its organiser wrestles with a $25,000 “cashflow head-ache”. 

Sydney-based Mike Sanford says changing the event’s dates to July 23-31 to avoid clashing with the Rugby World Cup has “killed things well and truly”. 

Ash clouds disrupting flights, late snow and the economic climate haven’t helped either, Sanford says. 

“Let’s be honest, New Zealand’s not a sexy place to travel at the moment.” 

Gay Ski Week, now in its ninth year, dragged in 700 gay men and women last year and was worth $1.2 million to the local economy, Sanford claims. 

The $25,000 shortfall – needed for pre-payments for accommodation, ski buses and other commitments – stems from poor forward bookings, he says. 

Sanford’s also about $15,000 short of sponsorship this time. 

Sanford, 42, is asking local businesses to help him stump up the difference. 

“Is it worth the town chipping in to find $25,000 to bring in $1.2m revenue – that’s the question. 

“A lot of businesses love it – and let’s be honest, with the late snow season, they need every dollar they can get. 

“One restaurant operator wishes he had his place full of gays every night because they spend more and their wine bill is always more than the food bill.” 

Sanford recently asked Destination Queenstown if he could canvass its members for funding – DQ refused. 

“We were originally looking for $50,000 but we’ve managed to shrink some stuff down,” Sanford says. 

Sanford shifted dates to avoid a clash with the Rugby World Cup “because rugby fans don’t really mix with gays, do they?” 

“We wanted to try to keep our distance. 

“But the problem is it’s costlier for people to come in July than September.” 

Sanford, who flies in today, gives himself another week before kissing or killing the event. 

“If it doesn’t go ahead [this year], there won’t be a next year – or any other year,” he warns.