Aspen's Crown family pumping funds into Denver museum's Ice Age fossil dig in Snowmass

By Troy Hooper
Real AspenMay 31, 2011
Scientists aren't just digging up bones in Snowmass. They're raising money too.

The Crown family of Aspen and Chicago, owners of Aspen Skiing Company, together with the Aspen Skiing Company Family Fund at Aspen Community Foundation, have given $100,000 to the Snowmastodon Fund.

"This is the most significant discovery in Snowmass since the Big Burn and we are excited to play a part in the efforts to learn everything we can about prehistoric life and how it applies to today's scientific challenges and questions,” Aspen Skiing Company President and CEO Mike Kaplan said in a press release. “Snowmass is a truly special place and the Snowmastadon site will only build upon the depth of experience for all that live in and visit the Valley."

The donation puts the project at nearly the halfway point of its fundraising goal.

“We have now raised $460,000 toward our $1 million goal,” said George Sparks, president of the Denver Museum of Nature & Science. “We are so very grateful for the support of this exciting endeavor. The fundraising continues so we can uphold our commitment to conduct the scientific research and share this amazing discovery with the community.”

Museum paleontologists returned last week to Ziegler Reservoir where a mother lode of Ice Age fossils were recovered in October. Working in teams of five, 43 scientists and volunteers are working daily at specific locations such as a bed of mastodon bones in a moraine and the site where the original mammoth was found.

Last fall, workers uncovered 10 American mastodons, four Columbian mammoths, two Ice Age deer, four Ice Age bison, a Jefferson's ground sloth, a tiger salamander, insects, snails, and large quantities of ancient plant matter. So far this spring, mastodon skulls, pelvises, vertebrae, ribs, wrist bones, ankle bones and arms have been unearthed along with mammoth tusks, a ground sloth forearm and claw, bison bones, deer bones and teeth from a prehistoric camel.

In all, more than 300 bones have been recovered so far this spring.

Fundraising covers the immediate cost of the fossil excavation as well as the scientific and educational components of the discovery. Museum officials have worked closely with schools in the valley, state and nation educating them about the Ice Age.

Earlier this week, the museum conducted a live two-way broadcast to 25 classrooms in 10 to allow 1,200 children to view work at the site and ask questions of the scientists on the ground.

“This project is really ambitious and we have a great team at work,” said Kirk Johnson, the leader of the museum's excavation team and vice president of research and collections. “It's extremely rewarding work, thanks to these amazing finds so far. With only 40 days to go we are shoveling like mad in a race against time and we continue to bump into bone after bone.”

Experts say the Snowmass site is one of the most significant discoveries in Colorado history.

comments: 1 Comment on "Aspen's Crown family pumping funds into Denver museum's Ice Age fossil dig in Snowmass"

ups – May 25, 2012, at 7:19 a.m.

here’s a little history from Aspen Skollie from Feb 5th, 2010:

This is the story about a small town folk singer and his “anthem for local working people.” It’s about corporate bullying, irony and karma. It’s the story of “Big Money.”

Dan Sheridan, a 20-plus year Aspen local, released an album in 2003 that included a song called “Big Money.” While the song has been popular among some locals, Sheridan has never gained much notoriety past the Aspen corridor of Highway 82. That is until recently. On January 1, 2010, Sheridan played a gig at Sneaky’s Tavern in the new and incomplete Snowmass Base Village. [Yesterday’s front page story was: Skico accused of fraudulent actions in Base Village condo sales. It was written by local author Brent Gardner-Smith.] A group in the small crowd requested “Big Money” and Sheridan obliged them by playing the song. Sheridan said he had noticed “dudes in full-length fur coats and cowboy boots” but that he “got the feeling that everyone wanted to hear it.”

While no one ever heard from the man-fur sporting tourists, there was apparently one person in the crowd who did not want to hear it. An Aspen Skiing Company Vice President complained to the Director of Food and Beverage, and on the following Monday Sheridan was fried. By that Wednesday the Aspen Times published a story detailing the events, and Jeff Hanle, the Skico’s spokesman, was quoted as saying, “An artist can express himself how he wants. But that doesn’t mean we have to provide him the stage.” Suddenly everybody was talking about “Big Money.”

The newspaper was flooded with letters to the Editor with such headlines as “Censorship by Skico,” “Downright Pathetic,” and “Boycott Skico,” and by Thursday the Aspen Skiing Company was calling Sheridan to say that he could come back and play any song except for “Big Money.” Aspen Daily News printed the story “Skico welcomes Sheridan back without “Big Money””. Hanle called the incident a “PR debacle” and said that he hoped Skico could put the incident behind them and move on.

Unfortunately for Skico, that was just the beginning. More letters poured into both Aspen newspapers,… and even Pitkin County Commissioner Jack Hatfield dissed the Skico for all to see on Grassroots TV. The original story became the most read article on the Aspen Times website, and it was picked up by Denver’s Westword.

Skico moved on and decided to ride the holiday wave by promoting Aspen Snowmass in major cities like Chicago, San Francisco, and L.A. The company took its first billboard ads since 1958 with the headline “It’s Time to Fly” featuring hometown sweetheart Gretchen Bleiler. However, the story would not die.

While the Skico was posting billboards along the 405 in L.A., the L.A. Times was printing an article titled “Folk song strikes a touchy chord in Aspen”, which can now be found on their website under Home/Collections/Wealthy People. Instead of giving Sheridan a quiet warning and letting a couple of urban cowboys take offense at a small show, Skico officials alienated Aspen locals and undermined their own major advertising campaign. Corporate karma can be a real bi#ch.

The story finally reached Gawker: “Take heart, hippie communist folk singer Dan Sheridan… you are quite correct. Big money ruins everything. And that’s gonna suck for the rich, if they ever leave their cocaine-and-expensive-hooker-strewn Jacuzzis.”

The good news is that Dan Sheridan is now a folk hero, and everyone wants to hear “Big Money.” Still, is an apology authentic if it only comes after you have been called out? Would Sheridan still have a job if the Aspen Times had never printed that story? No one at Skico has yet to take responsibility for the firing of Dan Sheridan. There is no transparency and no accountability, and perhaps that is why this story continues to play.

You have to wonder what is going on at Aspen Skiing Company. In a new story Curtis Wackerle for the Aspen Daily News ask why Skico has stopped delivery of the newspaper to its hotel properties. Hanle is quoted as saying that the amount of newsprint on display at the properties “was just overwhelming” and that it had nothing to do with the Daily News running the story “Skico’s green efforts didn’t include Residences at The Little Nell.”

“An artist can express himself how he wants. But that doesn’t mean we have to provide him the stage” sounds a lot like “A newspaper can say what it wants, but that doesn’t mean we have to provide it the circulation” or advertise with it. It’s not so much a bullet to the Daily News as it is a sucker punch. Skico fail.

-Skollie Life

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