The Colorado Snowsports Museum (CSM) and Hall of Fame, founded in 1975, was a result of a joint application to the Colorado Centennial Bi-Centennial Celebration Committee. The CSM, located in the heart of Vail, Colorado, celebrates Colorado snow sports by telling stories that inspire others to seek adventure. The priceless artifacts on display tell the story of the birth, rise and explosion of skiing and snowboarding in Colorado. The collection defines who we are, and why we are. Celebrating these stories is vital to preserving the legacy of our sport.
In 2018, the Colorado Snowsports Museum underwent a $2.6 million transformation. The Museum now features state-of-the-art museum technology within our six exhibitions that cover topics relating to the 10th Mountain Division, ski history and competition, snowboarding and back country history, Colorado lost and current ski resorts, climate change, Colorado Snowsports Hall of Fame, and our rotating exhibit space showcasing 100 Years of Ski Fashion and Function – Ann Bonfoey Taylor.
In addition to our newly renovated exhibitions, our institution runs and celebrates the Colorado Snowsports Hall of Fame. The Hall of Fame has inducted more than 200 athletes, sport builders, coaches, patrons and supporters of snow sports in Colorado since its first class in 1977. The Class of 2019 includes Aspen’s Gretchen Bleiler, an Olympic silver medalist in halfpipe at the 2006 Turin Olympics and Colorado’s most successful snowboard athlete. She is joined by Jeff Gorsuch, an Aspen ski retailer and philanthropist with a focus on kids and skiing; the late Martin Hart, who helped transform Steamboat Springs into one of the foremost ski resorts in the nation; and Steve Raymond, co-founder of the Adaptive Spirit program and a major fundraiser for the U.S. Paralympic Ski Team. These four new inductees are joined by the 2019 Pioneer Hall of Fame selection, Jake Hoeschler of Winter Park, who revolutionized the ski retail industry with his exclusive ski liability insurance program, which now includes millions of dollars of coverage.
The CSM also has an off-site resource center just outside of Denver, Colorado that houses items not currently on display. Our collection consists of more than 15,000 artifacts, library and archival materials, and photos. A main goal at our storage facility is the digitization of our vast collection. Curator and Director of Collections Dana Mathios explains, “Digitization is important, not only for preservation reasons, but because it gives our audience greater access to our collection via our online collection and social media platforms.” Over the past two years, the Museum has digitized over 4,400 collection items.
Out of our 15,000 artifacts, the Museum has many items that we consider our fan favorites. We have items from various Winter Olympic Games, early snowboard innovations, some of the first skis in Colorado, and a comprehensive collection of 10th Mountain Division World War II items. One artifact that the museum treasures is a scrapbook donated by the Davis Family.
The scrapbook features photos taken by a Women’s Army Corps (WAC) nurse stationed at Camp Hale, Colorado during World War II training. The book not only preserves her story, but tells this story through her perspective, showcasing what life looked like at Camp Hale. It features other WAC women, 10th Mountain Division troopers, and many outdoor scenes.
Did you know that there were 200 women stationed at Camp Hale, Colorado while 10th Mountain Division soldiers trained for World War II? The Women’s Army Corps was the women’s branch of the United States Army that stationed women at Camp Hale along with the many men that underwent winter mountain warfare training there. It was created as an auxiliary unit on May 15, 1942 by Public Law 554 and was converted to an active duty status in the Army on July 1, 1943. The Women’s Army Corps was created to perform a wide variety of non-combat functions within the Army including finance, communications, the motor pool, and supply.
When thinking about Camp Hale, one often thinks about the thousands of men training to be the elite mountain troops known as the 10th Mountain Division. Not very often does one speak of the Women’s Army Corps Detachment that was also stationed there. Although the men’s purpose for being at Camp Hale was as significant as their heroism and sacrifices abroad, women also performed meaningful wartime contributions at camp. This history has largely been lost from the historical record and deserves proper recognition. Behind the scenes, the Museum is actively trying to preserve the story of women at Camp Hale. The book and the photos it contains have been digitized and the book itself is currently on display in a custom made bookcase.
Another item that the Museum treasures is Anders Haugen’s 1924 Winter Olympic Games coat. Born in Telemark, Norway, Haugen immigrated to the United States in 1909. Carrying on the tradition of his homeland, one of the first things he did was build a ski jump with the Milwaukee Ski Club in an effort to introduce the public to the sport. Haugen would later relocate to northwestern Wisconsin before heading west to Frisco, Colorado. An accomplished ski jumper, Haugen set a world record of 152 feet in 1911 in Ironwood, Michigan, en route to winning the National Championship. In 1920, he set a new world record of 214 feet on the ski jump in Dillon, Colorado.
As the inaugural Olympic Winter Games of 1924 approached, Haugen was elected as the captain of the U.S. Olympic Ski Team. The parade coat in the Museum’s artifact collection was worn by Haugen during the Games for all official ceremonies that the team participated in. The coat is made of felted twill-weave wool. There is fringe along the top of the shoulders and sleeves, and along the top front opening of the coat, made of the same wool fabric. This coat is now on display at the CSM.
Our exhibitions and gift shop are open 7 days a week from 10 am to 6 pm. The CSM is offered at no charge to the public and welcomes more than 75,000 guests annually. In addition, the CSM hosts many programs and events. We host “Vail History Tours” on Tuesday at 11 am and run a program series “Through the Lens” on select Wednesdays at 5:30 pm (Upcoming 2020 dates are 01/08, 01/22, 02/05, 02/19, 03/04, 03/07, 03/18). In conjunction with the Town of Vail, we also host “Tales of 10th” featuring authors and historians telling stories of the 10th Mountain Division soldiers (12/27, 01/03, 01/17, & 02/14). On the same days, the Museum stays open until 8 pm for “10th Mountain Division Night at the Museum”.
Visit our website or social media platforms for more information about our institution: snowsportsmuseum.org. We invite you to join us on our mission to celebrate the stories and people of our great state and the sports that have given us all so much.
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Dana Mathios is the Colorado Snowsports Museum’s Curator & Director of Collections. Since graduation from the University of Denver in 2015, with a Master’s in Anthropology: Museum and Heritage Studies, she has been with the Museum approaching her fifth year with the organization. Dana's interests include preservation, digitization, and research. She has also recently become interested in social media and its ability to create greater access. Working at the Museum has impacted Dana's life in that, before this job, she was not aware of the 10th Mountain Division and their legacy. Through her work, she has learned just how important the 10th story is and is grateful for the snow sports industry that they helped build. Dana is passionate about preserving and sharing the rich snow sports stories of Colorado.