VAIL — People who visit the Colorado Ski and Snowboard Museum in Vail can get either a quick or in-depth look at the state’s snow sports heritage. But they also may feel they’ve just seen historic displays in converted office space. That could change in the next couple of years.
A cadre of museum supporters and members of the board of directors recently announced a roughly $2 million expansion and renovation plan for the facility. That announcement came as part of asking the Vail Town Council for permission to take the project through the town’s building-approval process — a necessary step since the town is the museum’s landlord.
That permission was quickly granted by the council, but it is just the start of the process needed to get a project approved in town. Construction can’t start until after the Vail Design Review Board and Vail Planning and Environmental Commission review and approve the project.
That process is sometimes smooth, but sometimes it isn’t. That’s why museum board members say they won’t start raising funds for the project until the town approval process has run its course.
When museum officials do put a plan out to donors, the pitch will be for a project that packs a lot of punch for a mere 330-square-foot addition.
The addition itself is planned for the south side of the parking structure, with just 10 feet of new building space on the third level. But plans also call for a fully-renovated space inside.
Museum director Susie Tjossem said perhaps the biggest change will be removing the old “drop ceiling” in the museum. It’s that low ceiling that gives the museum the feel of converted office space, which is exactly what the space is.
Tjossem said the museum’s space was originally intended for the Vail Resort Association, a precursor of the Vail Valley Partnership. The museum was originally supposed to go into other town-owned space on Meadow Drive, under what’s now La Bottega restaurant. Plans changed, and the museum ended up in the parking structure, but the old office space remained.
Pending approval from the town, the new museum will feel more spacious with the old ceiling tiles lifted, but it will also benefit from a thorough remodel.
Jamie Duke, chairman of the museum’s board of directors, said the extra space and remodel will make the museum’s layout more sensible, with the gift shop just to the left of the new entrance doors. Visitors then can turn right at the front door to look at the exhibits. Duck said other plans call for a small theater in the back of the museum space. Today, movie or speaker presentations take up exhibit space, which puts a damper on people who stop in during events.
“It’s all very exciting,” Duke said. “It’s a huge plus for the community, and for the state.”
Council members at Tuesday’s meeting wondered if the project could be done in time for the 2015 Alpine World Ski Championships in February. Unfortunately, Duke said, that would have required work to start about June 1.
Duke said that if everything goes smoothly between town approvals, fundraising and construction, the museum re-do could be ready by the start of the 2015-16 ski season. Tjossem, a former member of the Town Council and the Planning Commission, said she wouldn’t be terribly surprised if the work got completed by early 2016.
Still, she said, there’s new stuff coming to the museum in time for the World Championships.
Besides some fresh paint, Tjossem said there will be a display of the World Championships’ previous visits to the United States in 1950, 1989 and 1999. A bit of interior work will also allow the museum to do a small expansion of the exhibit space dedicated to the 10th Mountain Division, the “ski troopers” of World War II who came home and invented the U.S. ski industry.
That should hold over patrons for a while, but, like Duke, Tjossem said she’s “very excited” about the prospects for a full renovation.
“This represents skiing in the entire state,” Tjossem said. “It’s time to do this.”