A new ice age discovery center for Snowmass’ Base Village is at least two years from opening its doors, with 2021 targeted as the facility’s debut in the lower level of The Collective building.
The Snowmass Village Town Council, owner of the building, received an update Monday on the discovery center’s status by Michael Miracle, an Aspen Skiing Co. “executive on loan” who has taken the project’s lead. SkiCo owns the adjacent 99-room Limelight Hotel and sees the museum with renewed enthusiasm from a resort operator’s perspective.
Miracle told elected officials that “a realistic opening would be 2021, either summer or the start of ski season” and to think it would open earlier than what is already a “super tight timeline” was unrealistic. The Collective opened its doors last month but for temporary uses including a holiday market and for community purposes such as children’s activities and arts events.
Once envisioned to occupy the entire 8,700-square-foot building in Base Village for which it was specially designed by Harry Teague Architects, the discovery center will now need half or less of the town-owned Collective building. Snowmass Village came to own the building as mitigation by former developer Related Cos.
East West Partners, which developed this phase of Base Village, manages The Collective on behalf of TOSV and has spoken of installing a game room in its lower level until the discovery center is completed. The Collective, along with the adjacent Limelight and Lumin buildings and the ice skating rink and plaza, opened Dec. 15
In April, The Collective will close for construction to finish out the main floor restaurant whose operator has yet to be announced.
An interim ice age discovery center on the Snowmass Mall will continue to operate until further notice. In the lower level of The Collective it’s desired that walls touting “coming in 2021” will announce the new Snowmass discovery center, Miracle said.
Bone every 1.8 minutes
The discovery center will need at least 18 months for fundraising, planning and other development work and Monday’s discussion reflected an invigorated role by SkiCo in jump starting an attraction that could add to its offerings in an increasingly crowded ski resort marketplace.
Miracle reminded elected officials that Ziegler produced “22,000 fossils in 68 days.”
“Amazing things were found here,” Miracle said. “There was a bone found every 1.8 minutes.”
The center will feature three major themes, including the dig itself, which saw ice age fossils, plant materials and other important artifacts unearthed from Ziegler Reservoir above Snowmass Village in 2010 and 2011 after a heavy equipment operator found a mastodon bone during excavation of an ancient pond as a new snowmaking source. The ice age era and climate will also have places in the center where their stories may be told.
If it’s completed by 2021, that will mark a decade since the first discovery by bulldozer operator Jesse Steel in the project for the Snowmass Water and Sanitation District. Water and San then struck an agreement with the Denver Museum of Nature and Science on the bone collection and preservation.
The timeline to develop the center is ambitious, said Mayor Markey Butler, who spent years working for a nonprofit.
“Everyone is anxious but the timeline is still aggressive,” Butler said Monday night. “It’s a lot of work and I applaud your efforts.”
Miracle said he and the consultant Carolynne Harris Consulting and Studio Tectonic had been fine tuning a 44-page document about the center, of which he teased council with small portions on Monday. The consultants SkiCo is using have designed other high profile museums, according to Miracle.
He allowed that there were ill feelings in the community that no bones from Ziegler were left in Snowmass Village as the entire collection of materials was sent to the Denver museum.
“The shorthand for the discovery center has become the bones, and maybe in not most friendly sense. In a dismissive sense. Those bones are an incredible asset to us,” Miracle said.
Town councilman Tom Goode said after recent visits to the DMNS he was bothered with the little credit paid to the Snowmass discovery and that the Ziegler bones were kept in storage rather than displayed.
“If anyone’s been to the museum, they have a section on mastodons, but they don’t necessarily address Snowmass,” Goode said. “None of the bones are from Snowmass. They barely even mention Snowmass.”
Miracle agreed that getting some of the bones back up here would be helpful, but said they would require special displays and and humidification requirements for this altitude.
“That would be a big piece of this. Getting those bones in front of people,” Miracle said.
Ian Miller, curator of paleontology for Denver Museum of Nature and Science who also serves on Snowmass Discovery board, could not be reached for comment. Miller was on site for some of the original Ziegler dig.