Touch-screen table at Colorado Snowsports Museum tells story of state’s ski areas

From left, Charlotte Cousins of Erie, Isobel Tuck of Niwot and Gaby Ardila of Boulder play with the new touch screen at the Colorado Snowsports Museum on Wednesday, June 21, in Vail. The girls were up in Vail on vacation as friends.
Chris Dillmann |

Join the celebration

The Colorado Snowsports Museum will hold a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the renovated facility at 5 p.m. Saturday, June 23.

The museum will hold an afternoon-long open house throughout the day, and ribbon-cutting guests include State Sen. and Vail native Kerry Donovan, along with 10th Mountain Division veterans Sandy Treat, Hugh Evans and Dick Over.

The museum is open daily from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. For more information, call 970-476-1876 or go to

Editor’s note: This is the third part in a four-part series about what’s new at the Colorado Snowsports Museum. The final part will run Saturday, June 23.

VAIL — Like many 7-year-olds on a summer trip with the family, it can be hard to keep Dublin Hartley’s attention. But he lingered a bit over the new display table at the Colorado Ski & Snowboard Museum and Hall of Fame.

That table is part of the new technology at the museum and allows users to explore the past and present of existing and former ski areas in the state.

It would take dozens of display cases and multiple video screens to show the old trail maps, lift tickets and newspaper stories about the state’s current ski areas, much less those that have closed over the years.

Tucked into roughly 2,500 square feet on the third level of the Vail Village Transportation Center, that’s space this museum doesn’t have.

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“We couldn’t display all of this if we had 10,000 square feet,” museum director Susie Tjossem said.

Instead, the display table — about 5 feet across, measured diagonally — literally shows volumes about the state’s ski history. The table is split into four touch-screen areas, all of which display the same information, and has small speakers through which visitors can listen to videos as they play.

A Colorado archive

For Tjossem, the interactive display table is a way to show the rest of the state that this isn’t just Vail’s ski museum, but a source for the entire state’s snowsports history.

The screens take a bit of getting used to. All of the ski areas are placed on a copy of a well-known painting by Hal Shelton, and the perspective is from the Front Range looking west. That puts south to the viewer’s left.

But once you get used to how to look at the thing, it’s easy to find ski areas from Purgatory to Steamboat Springs and everything between.

Tapping a resort’s button opens a virtual library of information about each of the ski areas.

Perhaps more important, from an archivist’s perspective, the screen can be switched over to small ski areas that have closed over the years. Tjossem said that as many as 200 ski areas have opened and closed over the decades — mostly between the 1940s and 1970s. The screen only shows about 30 of those lost areas, but there’s still a wealth of information. There used to be a ski area — Hidden Valley — in Rocky Mountain National Park. One of the artifacts from that area is art of a hairy-chested deer touting the adventure. There’s a bit of early snowboarding photography from the old Grand Lake ski area, too.

You have to come back

The screen places the ski areas on the map, of course, and includes as much information as possible.

There’s actually more information than a visitor can take in during one visit, but that’s a good thing.

“You’ve got to come back,” John Dakin, the museum’s vice president of communications, said in a recent interview.

Tjossem agreed, saying that the museum’s previous arrangement was more of a “been there, done that” affair. The museum today needs multiple visits to take in even a decent part of what’s on display.

Dublin Hartley will probably be back with his family, but on this visit, he quickly left the table for another exhibit — the one detailing the history of the 10th Mountain Division.

Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at or 970-748-2930.

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