Vail’s Colorado Snowsports Museum celebrating a two-year transformation

Fashion in skiing through the decades at the Colorado Snowsports Museum in Vail.
Chris Dillmann |

Join the celebration

The Colorado Ski & Snowboard Museum and Hall of Fame 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 fourth part in a four-part series about what’s new at the Colorado Ski & Snowboard Museum. Find the other stories at

VAIL — Just about every renovation project takes a good bit of time. Reinvention is a different creature and takes even longer.

For the Colorado Ski & Snowboard Museum, it’s been two years since the board and the museum’s small staff started working on transforming the facility’s 2,500 square feet in the Vail Village Transportation Center from a jumbled space into a showpiece.

Now, with the passage of time and the application of roughly $2.6 million, the updated museum — which has been open since May — is ready to celebrate.

An open house is planned for Saturday, June 23, followed by a ribbon-cutting ceremony featuring various local luminaries.

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Between planning and fundraising, it’s been a relative whirlwind for museum director Susie Tjossem, the museum’s small staff and the board.

The state’s museum

One of the continuing challenges for the museum has been convincing people outside of Vail that this is Colorado’s snowsports museum, not just Vail’s. The museum’s Hall of Fame has always included people from around the state’s snowsports industry. Now, the museum itself includes exhibits and artifacts from around Colorado.

The iWall display of skiing through the decades includes information about people and places throughout the Colorado Rockies, and a touchscreen table provides information about ski areas past and present throughout Colorado.

It’s also clear that a lot of the renovation budget has gone into information and display, rather than the facility itself.

“We weren’t going to spend 80 percent (of the budget) on the building,” Tjossem said, adding that the spending was about equally split between upgrading the space and enhancing and organizing the displays.

Still, the museum staff and board said they wanted the reinvented facility to be up to Vail’s current standards of design and presentation.

In the renovated, attractive space, displays are now logically presented, starting with the museum’s tribute to the 10th Mountain Division of World War II. That unit trained at Camp Hale in the valley between Red Cliff and the base of Tennessee Pass. Those soldiers returned to create the U.S. ski industry as we know it in the years following the war.

The 10th gets special treatment, and it’s well-deserved. Other exhibits focus on the state’s Olympic athletes, from Steamboat Springs’ Anders Haugen in 1924 to Mikaela Shiffrin today. There’s a rotating display of ski fashion, with both artifacts and a video that in a few moments takes viewers from the early 20th century to the present day.

From planks to Snurfers

In the easternmost end of the museum is a display of gear and information about both backcountry skiing and snowboarding.

The gear on display ranges from mile-long wooden skis and the very first Snurfer snowboards to the gear used today.

John Dakin, the museum’s vice president of communications, said “a lot of thought” went into the displays, how they were presented and how visitors move through the space.

The thought that went into the presentation and the appearance of the space brought people into the process not just professionally but emotionally, Dakin said.

“Anybody who worked on this felt invested in it,” he said.

That personal involvement helped with not just the final results but also the bottom line. Tjossem said the project came in on budget, no small feat in an era of rapidly rising construction costs.

Donations are requested to help keep the museum running. Adults are asked for $3 per visit, and every penny of profit generated by sales from the gift shop, whether its 10th Mountain Division caps and beanies or the new tile mosaic skis now on display, goes straight into the museum.

Even before the ribbon cutting, people wandering into the museum seem to be impressed.

“We were told we had to see it” was the common response from Thursday-morning visitors.

With all there is to see, one visit won’t be enough.

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

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