Snowmass Discovery: Base Village positioned to house Ice Age center by 2021

Erica Robbie
Snowmass Sun
Ziegler Reservoir, the site of the 2010-11 ice-age fossil dig in Snowmass Village.
Snowmass Sun file

After years of advocating for a home to display the state’s largest fossil dig, Snowmass Discovery officials expect its ice age center to open its doors in Base Village by summer or winter of 2021.

Snowmass Discovery executive director on-loan, Michael Miracle, at a Town Council meeting Monday offered a brief update on plans for the exhibit that will live in the bottom floor of the community-use Collective building (formerly known as Building 6).

The nonprofit recently contracted Carolynne Harris Consulting and Studio Tectonics — whose list of high-profile projects include the Dallas Holocaust Museum, the College Football Hall of Fame and the Sierra Leone Peace Museum — to help create the exhibit concept.

“One of the great things that has come out of working with them on this is they’ve reminded me, and I think everyone who’s been working with them, what an incredible thing this Snowmass discovery was,” Miracle said. “As this has been sort of stalled out and sort of stuck in conversation about how big of a space, does it get the space or not, who’s going to pay for it, let’s do a feasibility study, we’ve lost a little bit of sight of just what an extraordinary thing it was.”

The fossil discovery, Snowmastodon, occurred at Ziegler Reservoir, just outside of town limits between 2010 and 2011. Snowmastodon was significant for a number of reasons, one of which is that it was the highest elevation ice age discovery to ever take place.

The excavation also uncovered the most mastodons (36) ever found in the world.

“The potential for this to be a differentiator for Snowmass is really remarkable,” said Miracle, who was recently appointed to executive director in the interim, following the November of 2017 resignation of former executive director Tom Cardamone.

While the project is still in the early stages of planning, Miracle called it, “refreshing to have some real wind blown back in our sails from real museum-designing professionals.”

The consultants created a 37-page “exhibit concept” draft that Miracle referenced in part during his presentation, but said is not ready to be released to the public.

From interactive video screens and a topographical display of Snowmass to a full-scale mastodon replica, the document offers many ideas, Miracle said, some of which will progress, and some that will not.

“We’ve realized that to bring something like this to life, it’s really unrealistic to do it on a super tight timeline,” Miracle said, “so we’re thinking a realistic opening for this would be 2021, either the summer or start of ski season.”

Beginning in November prior to the 2019-20 ski season, the majority of the Collective’s bottom floor will be a game room operated by East West, Snowmass Town Manager Clint Kinney confirmed after the meeting.

Miracle said he hopes “to have a couple of walls” within the space promoting the future ice age discovery center.

The town will fund 50 percent of the design cost from dollars allocated to invest into the Collective, and Snowmass Discovery will pay for the other 50 percent. Kinney said it is premature to estimate financials.

All told, the 2010-11 excavation uncovered about 6,000 large bones from seven extinct ice age mammal species: the American mastodon, Columbian mammoth, giant ice age bison, ice age camel, horse, deer and Jefferson’s ground sloth. The dig also revealed fossils of bighorn sheep and black bear.