Colorado snowsports museum in Vail makes up for limited space with an ‘iWall’
About this series
The Vail Daily is taking some time this weekend and next to detail some of what’s new at the Colorado Snowsports Museum and Hall of Fame. The museum will hold a grand opening gala on Saturday, June 23. For more information, go to www.skimuseum.net.
VAIL — The Colorado Snowsports Museum and Hall of Fame only has about 2,500 square feet of space. Technology is allowing that space to expand.
While the museum is set to celebrate a $2.6 million renovation, that work didn’t include any new square footage in the space on the third level of the Vail Village Transportation Center. That means museum officials have to find new ways to tell more stories.
Technology is everywhere in the refurbished space, from interactive displays for hall of fame honorees to an interactive table that shows the history of the state’s ski areas.
But the most mind-expanding technology is something called an “iWall.” On the opposite side of a display of gear from Colorado Olympic participants and champions, the wall presents a bullet-point look at Colorado snowsports through the decades. For a quick look at the history, the bullet points are fine. But slide a device that looks like a giant iPad over those decades, and a world of information flows.
That information includes details about people who influenced the sport, the state’s Olympic athletes and the four times Colorado has hosted the FIS Alpine World Ski Championships — once in Aspen and three times in Vail.
Fueled by both technology and the brain of the museum’s John Dakin, the iWall has details big and small once the screen slides over the appropriate decade.
Credit where it’s due
Dakin, as is his way, deflects too much credit. But his boss, museum director Susie Tjossem, is effusive in her praise.
“We couldn’t have done this without John,” Tjossem said, adding that the data that went into the sliding giant tablet took two years to gather and organize.
“It was a labor of love,” Dakin finally acknowledged.
John McMurtry has served on the museum’s board of directors for more than 20 years. Since the summer of 2017, he’s also worked for the museum as its development director.
“John’s poured his heart into (the iWall),” McMurtry said. “He’s done the (text) edits and gotten it to the designers.”
A lot from the tablet reflects back to the artifacts in the display case to the rear.
There’s information about Steamboat Springs ski jumper Anders Haugen, who won the first Winter Olympics medal — a bronze — for the United States in 1924. The only problem is that nobody knew about the accomplishment until 50 years later.
“It was a math error,” Dakin said. The Norwegians, who thought they’d swept the 1924 event, did some re-figuring and discovered Haugen actually placed third. Haugen did get his medal all those years later.
The jacket and gloves Haugen wore in the opening ceremony of the 1924 games are on display right behind his spot on the iWall.
Find 1990s ski racer Picabo Street on the iWall and then turn around. There’s one of her racing suits, along with the full-face helmet painted to look like the head of a bighorn sheep. It’s as cool as it sounds.
Slide the wall to more recent decades, and you’ll find — among other information — video of Lindsey Vonn and Mikaela Shiffrin. Turn around.
They’ve donated items to the museum’s collection of more than 20,000 artifacts. The vast majority of those artifacts are stored in Denver — remember, there’s only 2,500 square feet of space in Vail to work with.
So far, there have been some amazed reactions to the wall.
Dick Durrance was an early ski racer who later helped develop the Arapahoe Basin Ski Area and was once general manager of the Aspen Skiing Co. Not long ago, Dave Durrance, Dick’s son, stopped into the museum and was able to use the iWall to see video of his dad racing.
“He was just floored,” McMurtry said.
The same was true when Rolf Dercum paid a visit. Rolf’s parents, Max and Edna Dercum, are both hall of fame members, who helped in the construction and development of the Arapahoe Basin and Keystone ski areas.
There, on the screen of the iWall and the interactive hall of fame wall, was video of Rolf’s parents.
“That’s Colorado history,” McMurtry said.
Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and 970-748-2930.