Breckenridge exhibit showcases 100 years of Summit County skiing
Ryan Summerlin January 10, 2013
For whatever the reason, skiers, snowboarders and other downhillers seem to love dressing up and hitting the hill in retro gear on April Fool’s Day and other holidays. It may seem funny now, but back in the day, those high-waist ski pants and one-piece suits were the trendiest things on the slopes. The culture and industry have changed a lot since then, from clothing to equipment.
The Summit Ski Exhibit in Breckenridge celebrates rarities such as vintage clothing, skis, photographs and other objects in its show at 308-B S. Main St. The new Breckenridge Heritage Alliance exhibit, open Tuesdays through Sundays from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., takes up the entire downstairs of the building. It spotlights the changes that the Colorado ski industry has experienced since its early days, now expanded to include Breckenridge Ski Resort’s 50 years in existence.
Numerous historical objects, donated and loaned by locals, help tell the story of snow sports in Summit County.
“Many wonderful friends and supporters of the Breckenridge Heritage Alliance realized the importance of keeping this history alive by sharing these articles from the past,” said operations manager Cindy Hintgen.
One of the articles in the exhibit is a “Sno-Surfer,” one of the earliest snowboards, manufactured in the 1960s by Minnesota’s White Bear Water Ski Company.
The Payne family, from McKinney, Texas, visited the exhibit and was surprised by some of their discoveries. “I didn’t realize that snowboards were around in 1985. The first time I remember hearing about it was in the 90s,” recalled Michelle Payne.
In fact, in spite of the occasional rivalry between skiers and snowboarders, snowboards contributed to the rebirth of skiing, according to Gordon Brownlow, a guide at the exhibit. “Snowboarding saved the skiing industry. Around the 70s or 80s, until Burton started pushing the snowboards, I really believed that skiing was becoming a diminutive activity,” he said. According to Brownlow, snowboards also helped the development of modern skiing equipment, whose shapes and materials evolved influenced by snowboard manufacturing.
Learning how ski shapes have improved and the way physics played a part in it was a highlight for Cailey Payne, who visited the exhibit with her family. The outfits were also a favorite for Cailey and her sister Olivia, who found the development of Breckenridge Ski Resort to be an interesting feature too.
Another curious piece on display is U.S. Pro Mogul team head coach Scott Rawles’ banana-print denim trench coat. According to The Denver Post, Rawles bought the coat at a yard sale for 25 cents when he moved to Breckenridge in 1979. The coat inspired the nickname “Banana Man” after he made it his daily uniform, wearing it day and night around town.
Maureen Nicholls, a 47-year Summit County resident, loaned many items to the exhibit, including a National Ski Patrol Jacket and a first-aid belt for the Breckenridge Volunteer Patrol, dating to 1963-74, approximately. The original splints are still in the belt. Though she noticed dramatic changes in Breckenridge Ski Resort throughout the years with the expansion of peaks 8, 9, 7 and 10, one thing still remains the same: “even though skis were used as a way to go around in the early days, they have always been used mostly for fun. Skiing has always been a recreational activity,” she said.
A response letter to a job application from Breckenridge Ski Corp. – then-owner of the ski area – is also featured in the exhibit. John Timmons was looking for a snowmaking job on the mountain in 1976. Breckenridge Ski Corp. wrote back to inform Timmons that they didn’t need anyone to make snow because of the ski area’s location at 10,000 feet.
Other highlights include an exhibit showcasing items donated by members of the original 10th Mountain Division, which helped shape the Rocky Mountains’ early ski areas such as Vail and Aspen.
“I highly recommend this exhibition. I think that everybody who is a skier or a snowboarder should visit it,” said Kent Payne on his way out of the show.