Colorado Snowsports Museum & Hall of Fame renovation in Vail nears completion
VAIL — For most of its existence, the Colorado Snowsports Museum & Hall of Fame was a bit like an attic for snowsports: There was lots of cool stuff, but you weren’t quite sure where everything was.
That’s changing, and in a big way.
After more than three years of planning, approvals and fundraising, the finish line is almost in sight for the $2.4 million project. Construction work should be done soon, after which comes the job of moving in the refreshed collection and a whole bunch of technology. Museum director Susie Tjossem said everything should be ready in early March.
It better be. A group has reserved space for a March 8 reception, during the 2018 Burton U.S. Open Snowboard Championships.
People who have been to the museum before won’t recognize the place. It’s still in the same spot, on the third level of the Vail Village parking structure. The museum is also using the same amount of floor space — even a small expansion would have cost about $1 million.
But how the space is used will be markedly different. Walls have been moved, the old drop ceiling is gone, and there’s now a logic to how the state’s snowsports history will be presented.
Besides displays of artifacts, technology will also play a role, including a sliding-screen look at the state’s ski-racing history and an interactive video table display.
THE HIGHEST TECH
Museum board member Diane Boyer — who’s also a member of the museum’s hall of fame for her contributions to the sport — said the idea for the interactive table display comes from the Smithsonian Institute.
Losing the drop ceiling and painting the ductwork space black opens up the space.
And, while the floor space remains the same, Vail Mayor Dave Chapin said the space “looks bigger” than it did during a Tuesday, Jan. 16, Vail Town Council tour of the facility.
During the renovation, Tjossem said the state’s other ski areas have become supporters, too. Convincing other resorts that the museum is for Colorado, and not just Vail, has been a challenge just about since the museum was founded.
Tjossem said seeking exhibits, as well as hall of fame members, has been a deliberate search around the state for great artifacts and great people from all over Colorado.
All of those steps finally put the museum in a position that other state resorts are financially supporting the current renovation project.
Still, the museum is in Vail, and the town is a major financial supporter of the project, as well as the landlord.
But, Tjossem said, the town benefits from having the museum.
A lot of people don’t understand the impact the museum has on visitors, she added. Virtually every day the museum is open, someone will say “this was the most profound part of our vacation to Vail,” Tjossem said.
Boyer, who travels frequently for her company, SKEA, said that most ski resorts in Europe have museums of their own. In Colorado, the story of the state’s snowsports history is told in Vail.
HONORING THE 10TH
Vail is near Camp Hale, the first home of the 10th Mountain Division. That unit in World War II for the first time taught U.S. soldiers how to fight on skis, as well as other mountaineering skills.
The veterans of that unit came home and played an outsized role in creating the U.S. ski industry. The division had a large place of honor in the old museum and will continue to have a prominent position in the newly renovated facility.
Some of those veterans still contribute to the museum.
Edwards resident Sandy Treat, now 94, gives a presentation every week during the ski season. Another veteran, Dick Over, also 94, has given a large portion of his personal collection to the museum. Veteran Hugh Evans can’t ski any more but created the unit’s annual reunion, held every February at Vail.
Honoring the remaining veterans is an important part of this project, Tjossem said.
“We really want them to see this while they’re able,” she said.
Starting in March, all of Vail’s visitors will see the results of the years of work.
Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at 970-748-2930, email@example.com and @scottnmiller.