5 must-see things at the Colorado Snowsports Museum in Vail Village parking structure
From Mikaela Shiffrin and Lindsey Vonn memorabilia to artifacts from Benito Mussolini’s home in Italy captured by the 10th Mountain Division and the first U.S. Ski Team Olympic jacket from 1924, the Colorado Snowsports Museum is a place to delve deep into the unique history of Vail, Colorado and the 10th Mountain Division that helped build the ski industry after helping win World War II.
While hours can be spent in the museum — it costs a suggested donation of $5 to enter — here’s a list of five must-see things at the quaint museum, located inside the Vail Village parking structure, that recently underwent a $2.4 million renovation.
“It’s a great way to celebrate why we’re all here,” said John Dakin, of the Colorado Snowsports Museum.
Original frame from barracks at Camp Hale
There’s a lot to see within the compact museum, and one thing Dakin said many people miss is the frame on the “Welcome to Camp Hale” exhibit. Knowing that the frame is from one of the original barracks at Camp Hale where the 10th Mountain Division called home brings some immediate nostalgia to the tour of the museum.
“Quite honestly, I think Camp Hale was the world’s largest ski school,” Dakin said.
Artifacts pulled from Mussolini’s house
First Lt. Eugene S. Hames was a member of the 10th Mountain Division squad that came across an abandoned home in Italy that had been lived in by Benito Mussolini, Italy’s former prime minister. The soldiers collected a couple of keepsakes to bring home with them, and some of them are sitting in the museum in Vail. Hames’ son is a board member at the museum.
It is estimated that between June 15, 1942, and the end of World War II, more than 556 million pieces of mail were delivered to service men and women overseas — who sent 510 million pieces in return.
“People didn’t have digital photography so their memories were kept in scrapbooks and letters home,” Dakin said. “Those are things you don’t always see.”
These books and letters, on display at the museum, document memories, friendships made, travels and more in a time before social media.
The Winter Warrior
Front and center in the museum is The Winter Warrior, a replica of a 10th Mountain Division soldier donning the gear and clothes that members in the unit wore in harsh conditions during training and the war.
From the outer layer to the middle layer to the underlayer and the rucksack contents, it’s amazing to see what these soldiers were able to do with the aged equipment.
There are three interactive displays at the museum.
The Hall of Fame monitor has been updated and provides short biographies and videos on athletes.
The Ski Table has information on all 26 of Colorado’s current ski resorts, plus a select group of 30 resorts that no longer exist — including Meadow Mountain. It offers videos, trail maps by decades, history, present-day stats and more.
“You could spend hours going through that,” Dakin said.
Last, but not least, is a wall detailing Colorado’s involvement in all of the Winter Olympics, the four world championships hosted in Colorado and the World Cup races. A sliding device can be pulled across the wall, offering up more insight such as notable athletes from the selected event, Colorado heroes and more information about the event.
“With all of the information on here, you’d have to do a museum three times as large just to get it all on the walls,” Dakin said. “Here, you can get it all onto one wall.”
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