Painters decorate Vail museum with skiers
Vail, CO Colorado
VAIL, Colorado – The skier cuts through knee-deep powder in Vail’s legendary Back Bowls. To the left, 10th Mountain Division soldiers stand alongside a tank. An old-style ski racer, sporting a leather helmet and boots, holds his tuck as he speeds over a knoll.
The images are quintessential Vail. Part of the Colorado Ski and Snowboard Museum’s new mural in Vail Village, the panels illustrate the state’s skiing and snowboarding history.
Horst Essl and his partner and wife, Jean Richmond, painted the mural to draw visitors to the museum. But the paintings evoke powerful memories for many locals as well.
“When Horst came to us with his ideas, I fell in love with them. They brought tears to my eyes,” said Susie Tjossem, the executive director of the Ski Museum.
Essl began his painting career in Vienna, Austria. Since 1955, he has created countless frescos, murals and restorations throughout the world, from Beverley Hills, California to Namibia, Africa. Essl’s frescos also adorn familiar Vail landmarks such as Pepi Sports and the Tyrolean Inn.
A Vail local and ski instructor since 1979, Essl drew from his artistic roots to paint the museum murals. The panels indeed call to mind traditional European paintings.
“Vail Village was inspired by old, European villages. (The mural) just makes it more real. It ties it in,” said Tjossem.
The brown and white panels overlooking Vail have a timeless look. Longtime locals might recognize legendary skiing figures such as Erich Windisch, Carl Howelsen and Barney McLean. Yet the artists left room for an individual take on the paintings as well.
“We tried not to identify anyone, so people can look up there and see anyone they know,” said Richmond.
The old-style racers on the panel directly to the right of the entrance are modeled after racing legends like Pepi Gramshammer, Karl Schranz and Buddy Werner. The modern ski racing panel on the right is influenced by female skiers such as Tamara McKinney and Sarah Schleper.
Tjossem said the mural brings the treasures of the museum outside for everyone to enjoy. Already tourists and locals alike are expressing their appreciation for the art.
“I think they’re beautiful. I think they add a lot,” said Brenda Bailey, a Florida resident who spends her summers in Vail.
Nancy Young, a Vail local, also thought that the mural brought character to the museum’s entrance.
“I love them. They’re a wonderful representation of Vail.”
The museum will mark the official grand opening of the mural today by selling old-fashioned root beer floats from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. on the second level of the Village parking structure. Both Essl and Richmond will be there to celebrate.
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