Article Title:Gay Ski Week's 'can do' couple
Author or Credit:Jacqui Stanford
Published on:19th January 2012 - 01:52 pm
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Story ID:11302
Text:Gay Ski Week QT organisers Mandy (left) and Sally Whitewoods. Picture: Southern Public Relations Sally Whitewoods describes herself as a 'get up and do everything person', and she sure is getting up and doing plenty. After she and her partner Mandy wrestled Gay Ski Week back from the brink of extinction when it went under last year, she's now planning a massive 2012 comeback for the event, while also helping run a business - and carrying a baby. The Whitewoods' first child is due in May, just a few months before Gay Ski Week 2012, which runs from 25 August to 1 September. "It all appeared all at the same time," Sally giggles. But she has it all planned out, with her mum coming over from the UK in July to be a live-in babysitter for a couple of months. "It will be a huge year," Sally concedes. "But I think when in doubt do it all and it all works out. Otherwise you worry about everything and don't do anything. I'm not that sort of person, I'm a bit of a get up and do everything person." True to this form, Sally is a mile a minute as we chat, explaining the multitude of plans that are underway for Gay Ski Week and telling me the event's PR magician is even looking at getting a big billboard up at Auckland Airport, "that would be fantastic," she laughs. "I'm not one to think too small -I'm definitely one to think a bit larger than normal!" Sally and Mandy bought Gay Ski Week after being part of a team that stepped in to make sure some events happened for all those who had booked last year, only for the company which ran for years to regretfully fail just before it was about to start. The couple has known each other for years, as they are from the same hometown in England, and met when Sally was teaching a karate class which Mandy took. Nothing happened immediately as Mandy went travelling, but would come back every few years. On her last visit, Sally explains "all of a sudden it was the light bulb syndrome, 'ohhh that's what I've been looking for'," she explains. "I convinced myself I liked the men, but no actually I don't," she laughs. "So we ended up getting together, and Mandy had no intention of moving back to the UK so I said 'well I'll come out to New Zealand and give it a try for a couple of years', and kind of got stuck. I miss the family obviously, but the lifestyle choice – you can't knock it at all." The Whitewoods have now been together for just over six years and married in 2009. They own Aspen Lodge backpackers in Queenstown. "We work together and live together which some people think is impossible, but I think is fantastic. Especially when she's doing all the work at the hostel and I'm running this!" Sally praises the ground work of Gay Ski Week founder Mike Sanford, who had the idea at the beginning and ran the event for years, "and for some reason things went wrong, as they do. But there's such a niche market here for it that we've got to keep it going because it could be enormous." The British expats are hoping to get the event back on solid ground and break even this year, and instead of picking and choosing, Sally explains they wants to get everyone they can involved, on all levels. "I'm not charging a fortune for people that are coming onboard," she says. "Because I want everyone involved. I want to prove to them and get some statistics on how many come, what people spend their money on, all that type of thing. If I break even this year I'll be happy. At the end of the day, it's about getting people. If I can get people here, in my first year, in a recession ..." Sally will make the events affordable, at just enough to cover the costs. "The events themselves, I'm really happy with. That's going really well," she says, explaining that she is organising everything early so it's ready to be promoted during the Mardi Gras events in Sydney in February and March. While the line-up will be slightly different, the ever-popular karaoke at Sky City Casino hosted by Miss Ribena will be the same. Wine tastings will be a new addition to menu, while there will of course be always-legendary Gay Ski Week parties. The majority of the Gay Ski Week market has always been Australians, and Aussie gay mag DNA has come onboard as a naming rights sponsor. Sally wants to get more New Zealanders along and this is an area she will target, but she says there has already been one major change in that there has been a huge amount of interest from women, after years of Gay Ski Week being lesbian-friendly but dominated by gay men. "I think just from seeing women are running it, women have gone 'oh, maybe we'll come'. We've got people coming from all over – as obviously I have called every friend possible everywhere around the world and set 'get a ticket'," she laughs. A group of women from Wellington have booked their flights, she says, "I think there's going to be a lot more women at the event than there have been before." The Gay Ski Week website will be full of information soon, but for now you can stay in touch on its Facebook page. The couple has also started a group for glbt people in the Southern Lakes area, which has about 40 members, as locals embrace the sense of community and chance to network. You can find more about it here     Jacqui Stanford - 19th January 2012
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