Ski museum expansion could be extensive |

Ski museum expansion could be extensive

An impressive collection of vintage snowboards is seen on display at the Colorado Ski and Snowboard Museum in Vail on Tuesday.
Townsend Bessent | |

VAIL — The Colorado Ski & Snowboard Museum these days could be the equivalent of five pounds of stuff in a three-pound bag. Museum directors would like a bit more space to show off the state’s snow sports heritage.

The museum was established in 1976 and has always had its headquarters in the Vail Village parking structure. The museum these days works to do all its work in a modest 3,600 square feet of space there.

The museum’s board and town officials have for some time been working on a plan that would add about 600 square feet to the museum, primarily by moving out from the existing south exterior wall.

According to museum board chairman Jamie Duke, the addition would move the existing gift shop more toward the back of the space, freeing up more window space for exhibits. The addition would also include a dedicated theater — films are now shown in a room filled with exhibits.

“We want to transform the museum into a world-class facility. It would be a tremendous asset to Vail.”
Lisa Mortell
Denver-based Candlewood Advisory Partners


That work would cost roughly $2 million, and the museum has asked the town for about $950,000. The rest of the money would be raised from private sources.

Duke asked the Vail Town Council on Tuesday to consider reserving that amount in its 2016 budget to allow the board to raise money and do the work next year.

“Being able to share a preliminary council endorsement would be a good thing to share with potential donors,” Duke said. “It could raise aspirations for the ski museum.”

Council members were generally supportive, but unwilling to make a 2016 commitment during the first meeting in January.

“I’m wildly adverse to you saying you have that money in the bank right now,” council member Greg Moffet said. “What we’re saying now is we’re interested.”

The plan under discussion has a budget and clear goals, but it is just part of a broader vision for the museum.

Duke told council members he and the museum’s board have retained Lisa Mortell of Denver-based Candlewood Advisory Partners to determine if there’s enough potential interest from donors for a bigger expansion that would add a second level to the museum.

That project would involve a lot more work, including some significant additions and alterations to the south side of the parking structure.

Duke said he’s worked with Mortell on fundraising projects in the Denver area.

“If we move forward, she’ll get the money,” Duke said.

Mortell said her study hopes to judge interest on both phases of the project.

“We want to transform the museum into a world-class facility,” Mortell said. “It would be a tremendous asset to Vail.”


Museum director Susie Tjossem said she and the staff are excited about the prospects for the future. The current space is somewhat dark, and the low ceilings give the museum a feel more of office space than history.

“We know how long these projects can take,” Tjossem said. “But we know the potential, too … We want Vail to be proud of what we have here.”

While plans for a second story for the museum are still in the early stages, Tjossem said she and the museum board are confident work can start on the smaller expansion in 2016.

And, while no promises of cash were forthcoming from the town Tuesday, council members seemed to agree that a good museum would be a good addition to the town.

Mayor Andy Daly said he was struck by the quality of the small museums in Normandy, France, on a trip there last summer.

An improved ski museum “could potentially have great advantages,” Daly said. “It could be a good diversion for people looking for something to do on a rainy day in the fall or a snowy day in the winter.”

Council member Dale Bugby agreed that the museum is a “great amenity … I wish more people went through it.”

Business Editor Scott N. Miller can be reached at 970-748-2930 and

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