Ski Museum celebrates five years |

Ski Museum celebrates five years

Frank Fisher, of the Record staff

Park City, the once-gritty, close-knit mining town, endured mining disasters, diseases taking lives of all ages and low wages weighting down its communal mindset.

One escape, as light as the Utah snow, was for town members to strap boards on their feet and slide down the hill side by side to see who was the fastest, or build a jump to see who could jump the farthest and do the best tricks.

On Saturday, July 14, The Alf Engen Ski Museum invites the community and visitors to come celebrate the five-year anniversary of its interactive showcase of what it was like then, what it is like now, and what it could become.

The state that lays claim to "The greatest snow on earth," has a lot to celebrate in its contribution to skiing. Legendary skiers helped bring about the ski industry with such inventions as the ski brake and quick release bindings, and helped bring about modern resorts that could transport people to the tops of slopes and provide packed runs to ski down, and even lodges in which to sit by the fireplace telling stories afterward. The culmination of it all came with the selection of Salt Lake City to host the 2002 Winter Olympic Games.

Now the museum showcases skiing in the Intermountain West, with a hall of fame wall, donated old time equipment, some of it which made history, films of the early days, a room dedicated to the 2002 Olympics, weather and avalanche information. One of the weather exhibits shows typical western state snow that contains 1 inch of water, being 10 inches deep. Utah snow with the same inch of water is 25-30 inches of light powder. Interactive exhibits help illustrate the information.

Connie Nelson, the executive director of the museum and a life-long skier from Australia, has been connected with the project since 1999. Nelson was on the Salt Lake Olympics organizing committee and remembers it as "the best party ever."

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She said 160,000 people have come through the museum. Eighty-five percent of visitors come from out of state, with many families coming to see where the Olympics took place.

Nelson sees adding more exhibits to the museum, and stresses the importance of keeping it current during the school year; school groups tour the facility, with 26 schools from Summit and Salt Lake Counties touring the facility last year. She praises her staff and the museum foundation for their teamwork. "The more teamwork you have, the stronger you are. The Museum has been such a positive experience," Nelson said. "We’re thrilled with where we’ve been, and where we’re going."

One hundred yards away, potential Olympic skiers train, a week after the town’s 4th of July parade, sliding down what is likely not the greatest plastic on earth surfaced ramps instead of snow, practicing spectacular aerials and landing in a pool.

The museum, named after local skiing legend and pioneer of the ski industry, Alf Engen, was proposed in 1989, by his son Alan, a writer and historian, as a way to remember harbingers of the ski industry, who help make Park City what it is today.

In 1993, the Alf Engen Ski Museum Foundation was established as a non-profit corporation. A site was chosen at the Utah Winter Sports Park, to be built within view of the upcoming 2002 Olympic ski jumping hills and bobsled, luge and skeleton track. The Joe Quinney Winter Sports Center, named after a local visionary whose contributions, along with those of the Eccles families, helped bring the project to life, was turned over to the Salt Lake Organizing Committee, where it became the media center for the 2002 Winter games.

In July 2002, the 29,000 square-foot facility opened to the public, also containing a gift shop, café and conference room.

John and Joann Halnon on vacation, coming from Massachusetts to visit their daughter and son in law, were at the museum on Monday to see exhibits on the Olympics.

Carson Piontek, 8, likes the interactive ski jump in the museum. His brother, Zane, likes seeing the film of the life-size downhill run. Their mother, Mindy, brought them from Baton Rouge over the holidays. They and Barbara Meek, from Dallas, have come to visit local, Sheri Lee, whose daughter, Megan said she is a snowboarder. But even she can find interest in an exhibit of the very first wooden snowboards.

Saturday’s celebration will last from 1-5 p.m. Admission is free. Free hot dogs and sodas will be given to the first 500 guests. Kids can spin the Wheel O’ Fun for prizes. and a magician will perform.

Museum: docent-led tours leave every half hour, beginning at 1 p.m. on the first floor. History lectures will be given by Alan Engen at 1 and 2 p.m. in the theatre on the second floor.

Museum outdoor patio: Bounce house and obstacle course, face painting and temporary tattoos

Arial Freestyle training: Athlete training from 1-5 p.m.

Nordic Jumping Demonstration: K 10, 20 and 40 hills, 3-3:30 p.m., located directly behind the second-floor of the museum.

Park Rides: half price for the Xtreme and Ultra alpline, the Quicksilver Alpine Slide, the Comet Bobsled Ride, and the chairlift ride.

For more information, call (435)658-4240, (801)455-3948, or visit

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