Pride Ride Utah 2023: Snow Sports for LGBTQ+ at Brighton Ski Resort
The long winter in the Salt Lake Valley has provided unexpected opportunities to take advantage of snow sports. One of these is the third annual Pride Ride Utah (PRU) taking place this year on Saturday, April 8 at Brighton Ski Resort. The event raises funds and awareness for mental health struggles LGBTQ+ people commonly face in Utah while capitalizing on Utah’s spring snow, allowing participants to ski and snowboard as though it were January.
Founders and leaders of the Pride Ride Utah event, Michelle Anklan, (a clinical social worker,), Jessie Smith, (Ph.D.) and C Meyer, (a Masters of Social Work intern) work to increase accessibility for LGBTQ+ individuals seeking mental health therapy and other types of medical treatment. Hosting a snow sports event at Brighton will not only give wider opportunities for physical engagement on the ski slopes, but will also help spread the opportunities for LGBTQ+ mental health awareness and contribution efforts on a more accessible level.
“We just want to have a good time and celebrate LGBTQ people who are existing and survive in a state that has made it really difficult to do so.”
Anklan, Smith, and Meyer also hope to continue their goal of raising awareness of mental health struggles present in many queer-identifying individuals through their association with Flourish Therapy, a non-profit mental health group practice in Orem, where over 1,000 sessions are provided each month. Roughly 250 of those are completely free sessions, with no insurance cost or client contribution, and 25% of clients pay $25 or less for sessions.
Initially started in 2021 by Anklan, PRU’s participation has risen at a surprising rate in just two years, increasing from 35 participants to over 200 last year. This year’s goal is between 300–500, with 279 registered s far. “[Pride Ride Utah] is a gathering and celebration of the LGBTQ+ individuals in outdoor communities,” Anklan says. “We want to lift up folks in the LGBTQ community, but we also don’t want to exclude people if they are safe and secure allies interested and dedicated to helping us.”
Participation in PRU is open to everyone from LGBTQ+ individuals and allies, and volunteers are especially welcome to come and help set up, manage and clean up the different activities throughout the day. Any feasible donations that participants and volunteers can make are greatly appreciated and go directly to Flourish Therapy.
“There is so much focus on the negatives of being LGBTQ+, and there is a much higher suicide rate in the State of Utah for those who identify as part of this community,” Anklan says. “We just want to have a good time and celebrate LGBTQ people who are existing and survive in a state that has made it really difficult to do so.” The event itself operates on a zero-dollar budget:, All of the assets, equipment and activities are made possible through donations.
With Anklan, Smith and Meyer all working full -time outside of their commitment to this event, operating and managing the activities is challenging. “It’s just the three of us, so we need all the help we can get with publicizing. We’ve been sharing on social media and giving out flyers for people to hang up,” Smith says. “On the day of [the event], we have setups starting at 6:30 in the morning, being up there at Brighton getting everything set, and throughout the day, people can volunteer. We have a volunteer sign -up that you can get access to once you have registered,” she says. “For the after-party, we need people to help with whatever tasks are needed. Donating goods and services at the raffle also helps.”
“There is so much focus on the negatives of being LGBTQ+, and there is a much higher suicide rate in the State of Utah for those who identify as part of this community.”
One element that will allow a wider span of activities for PRU is the contribution of several local and chain sponsors, including R.E.I Outlet, Pit Viper, Kodiak Cakes, Patagonia, Wave Products, Scheels and Costco. In addition, Christy Sports on Wasatch Blvd. is providing free rentals, and Backcountry is also funding lessons at the Brighton Ski School for registered participants for the day. Brighton will offer discounted lift tickets for participants as well.
Coverage of the event is also being managed by Mark Miller Subaru, who are providing video and photography coverage of this year’s event in addition to being a primary sponsor for 2023. With wider financial support and access to more resources, Anklan, Smith and Meyer are optimistic that the higher attendance for PRU will help further spread awareness for LGBTQ+ individuals who struggle with mental health and will also allow Flourish Therapy to continue their mission in turn to provide appropriate mental health treatment for those who seek a safe and inclusive space to do so. “Any contribution [to Flourish] helps,” Smith says. Flourish rely on donations to support their services.
Though Pride Ride Utah’s April 8 date is rapidly approaching, it’s not too late to sign up for the event to participate, or volunteer your time before, during or after the activities. While the overall goal of raising awareness for the LGBTQ+ community is an integral part of PRU, it is also designed to be another fun day at the resort.
Pride Ride Utah is on Saturday, April 8 from 9 a.m.–4 p.m. An after party will take place at Evo Hotel from 7–9 p.m. To learn more about Pride Ride Utah, visit priderideutah.com to register.
Read more on local LGBTQ+ issues and organizations:
Under the Umbrella: SLC’s Queer Little Bookstore
Salt Lake Area Queer Climbers: Re-defining What It Means to Take Up [Outdoor] Space
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