By Steve Hubrecht 

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Panorama Mountain Resort will host its first ever Pride and Ski Festival this weekend starting Friday.

The inaugural edition of what the resort plans to be an annual event will run from March 22 to 24.

“Diversity and inclusivity have always been encouraged at the resort. The Pride and Ski Festival is just another way to showcase that to our guests, to our staff, and to the whole Columbia Valley,” said Panorama food and beverage manager and festival organizer Cory Archer. “We were looking at what we were missing as a resort and we thought this was something we could add. It’s something to celebrate the LGBTQIA2S+ community.”

Panorama’s Pride and Ski Festival joins a growing number of ski resort-based Pride festivals in B.C., some of which have very long histories (such as the one at Whistler, which dates back more than three decades) and others which are brand new.

Adding a Pride festival at Panorama is important, outlined Archer, even though there is already a Pride Festival hosted by Columbia Valley Pride in Invermere each June. That’s in part because the resort is closed when the mid-June Columbia Valley Pride Festival happens, Archer told the Pioneer, but also in part because “at the resort we might be capturing a completely different demographic . . . resorts (having Pride festivals) adds another layer to help generate awareness of the LGBTQIA2S+ community and the Pride community. It is important that, as a resort, we promote that Pride is for everyone.”

The festival is headlined by a drag ball on Sunday, March 23 featuring world-famous drag performer Miss Vanjie. Locally famous drag performer April Storm (also known as Tim Richards) will open. But there’s plenty more, as the festival also encompasses several on-mountain events, including a Pride guided mountain tour, an Amazing Race-style scavenger hunt across the entire resort, and a Showoff Your Pride ski that will see participants dressed in their Pride finest rip down the Showoff run. The off-mountain events include a welcome party, a guided snowshoe tour, an apres ski party and disco, a wine and paint afternoon, an after-party (following the ball), morning-after yoga, and a sparkling breakfast.

“As a born-and-raised local, it’s almost overwhelming to see this come to life. I’m definitely proud of what we’ve put together,” said Archer.

Miss Vanjie has featured for two seasons as a contestant on the popular reality television show RuPaul’s Drag Race, and has toured and performed around the world.

Asked how a performer of her renown decided to perform at a ski resort in a rural part of B.C, Vanjie told the Pioneer, “Girl, I don’t know, my agent calls and I answer. Did I have to Google where this was? Yes. Am I excited to be performing somewhere I haven’t been? Yes. Can I ski? No.”

She added that it is important to support Pride events in small, rural and remote areas, such as Invermere and Panorama Mountain Resort, just as much as in larger urban centres “because Pride is everyday, like anyone can and should celebrate.”

What can drag ball goers expect from Miss Vanjie’s performance?

“I’m gonna bring some heat to the snow town, so take them puffer coats off,” she said.

When the Pioneer asked Vanjie if she wanted to add any further comment on the upcoming Pride and Ski Festival, she was quick to quip: “Yeah, where do they keep those hot French ski ?instructors?”

April Storm, who will open for Vanjie, told the Pioneer that “it’s pretty exciting to see support for a local Pride festival from someone of this magnitude . . . Miss Vanjie is a high energy performer.”

Panorama president and chief executive officer Steve Paccagnan said Panorama Mountain and ski resorts can support Pride events and the 2SLGBTQIA+ community through actively promoting inclusivity. “By showcasing support through Pride-themed events, creating safe spaces, offering diversity training for staff and collaborating with local LGBTQ+ organizations, mountain resorts can foster and strengthen a welcoming environment in the outdoor community.”