Snowmass Discovery to present ideas for center |

Snowmass Discovery to present ideas for center

Jill Beathard
The Aspen Times
Tom Temme, a paleontologist and fossil preparator for the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, glues a piece of a mastodon tusk together at the Snowmass Village Discovery Center on April 4. Nonprofit organization Snowmass Discovery will present recommendations for a permanent attraction related to the 2010 ice-age dig to Town Council on Monday.
Aubree Dallas/Snowmass Sun |

By the numbers

35,000 visitors expected annually

2,750 to 7,500 square feet

$3.2 to $5.6 million estimated cost of building center

$670,000 to $830,000 estimated revenue

$633,000 to $857,000 estimated operating costs

The most tangible concepts to date for a visitor attraction related to the discovery of ice-age fossils in Snowmass Village will be presented to the Town Council on Monday.

Earlier this summer, the nonprofit Snowmass Discovery hired consultants — with the help of private donors and the town — to conduct a study on the most appropriate size, cost and character of a potential facility. That study is complete, and consultant Andrew Anway, of Amaze Design, will present his findings to the public Monday, along with Tom Cardamone, executive director of Snowmass Discovery, and board member John Rigney.

“There’s been a community expectation that as soon as we had the results of this study in hand, we would move forward with the recommendations,” Cardamone said.

The team is recommending that the attraction have three parts: a central location with exhibits and programs, some dispersed observation platforms at Snowmass Ski Area overlooking the dig site and an interpretative trail leading to an observation area by Ziegler Reservoir.

A summary of the findings written for the Town Council says that primary location will be in Base Village. That has been floated at meetings about the development, but a museum space also has been considered during talks about the town’s entryway, and Cardamone acknowledged that the location is still up for discussion.

The building size should total between 2,750 and 7,500 square feet, the summary said. That’s not very specific, but the consultants think a size anywhere in that range would be manageable for the Snowmass community, Cardamone said. In other words, they’ve ruled out a space of 20,000 feet, for example, because it would be bigger than the community could support.

In comparison, the current location of the Ice Age Discovery Center on the Snowmass Village Mall is about 2,000 feet. However, its main shortfall is its low ceiling.

“It’d be hard to fit a mammoth skeleton or a mastodon skeleton in a space that size,” Cardamone said. “We need to be thinking museum-displays, science-activities kind of spaces.”

The capital cost of the venue is projected between $3.2 million and $5.6 million, depending on where in that range the final size ends up.

What’s next

Some frustration has been voiced in the four years since the dig — which produced thousands of ice-age fossils and other prehistoric evidence — about the lack of progress on an educational facility that also could produce tourism. Cardamone was hired as a part-time director in April 2013, after a brief study had been conducted by John McCarter, former CEO of the Field Museum in Chicago.

However, Snowmass Discovery wasn’t established as a nonprofit organization until this year. Then, this summer, a paleontologist from the Denver Museum of Nature and Science worked on some of the bones in the center for the third consecutive tourist season, and Cardamone began leading tours on a limited basis to Ziegler Reservoir, the site of the dig, which is on private land.

The next step in the process is to have some meetings with representatives of the town, Aspen Skiing Co. and Related Colorado, as well as the public, Cardamone said. Many stakeholders were interviewed already during Anway’s and McCarter’s research. Cardamone hopes to have a conceptual plan by the start of next year.

The timing of completion of the facilities depends on whether the nonprofit decides to build a center from the ground up or remodel an existing space, he said. Also, if the facility winds up being part of a bigger overall project like Base Village or the entryway, that construction schedule would impact it, too.

For more information, call Cardamone at 970-379-0185.


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