Snowmass Discovery announces new leadership, 2013 plans

By Real Aspen
July 8, 2013

Snowmass Discovery, the local non-profit organization tasked with creating a plan of action for the fossil discovery in Snowmass, has reached an agreement with Aspen Center for Environmental Studies (ACES) to provide additional focus and leadership led by ACES’ President and Chief Ecologist Tom Cardamone.

Cardamone’s role over the next six months is to engage critical partners, experts, and consultants to guide Snowmass Discovery to the most effective and appropriate responses to these discoveries for the benefit of the community, its guests and society. Initial funding through a grant from the Town of Snowmass Village allowed the organization to bring on Cardamone and fund consulting with notable experts in the field and increased summer programming in collaboration with the Denver Museum of Nature and Science.

“This is exciting news for the many people who have eagerly awaited the next phase for this incredible discovery,” says John Rigney, chairman of Snowmass Discovery. “By working with Tom, and partnering with a fantastic organization like ACES, we’re bringing one of the most respected science leaders in our community to shepherd our future plans for these treasures.”

Tom Cardamone

“Collaborating with valley nonprofits in order to accomplish mutually beneficial environmental science and education goals is what ACES has done for decades. Working with Snowmass Discovery is a logical partnership that fits well with our existing Ice Age Discovery walk and furthers our goal of educating on climate change, plant phenology, and natural history,” said Chris Lane, ACES Chief Executive Officer.

“The first tusk unearthed, if that had been all, would have been remarkable,” said Cardamone. “Six thousand fossils, including seven very impressive ice age beasts, is nature’s version of Montezuma’s Treasure of jewels and gold. I couldn’t be more excited to be a part of the future of this find.”

In 2010 and 2011, over 6,000 bones were excavated from Zeigler Reservoir in Snowmass Village by 70 scientists and staff from the Denver Museum of Nature and Science and over 100 very enthusiastic local volunteers, many of them school teachers. The bones represented mammoths, mastodons, a giant sloth, camel, ancient bison, deer and horses from the ice age.Another very important aspect to the discovery is that the plants preserved there are revealing a 100,000 year record of changing climate. A team of more than 45 scientists from 18 institutions in 4 countries continues to piece together an emerging body of knowledge from Snowmass’s bonanza of Ice Age fossils.

New this year, many of the bones unearthed in Ziegler reservoir during the discovery will be coming back to Snowmass Village, courtesy of the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, to be opened and prepared for further analysis. A museum fossil expert, Gussie Maccracken, will be in Snowmass at the Ice Age Discovery Center this summer, beginning July 1st, opening and preparing ‘jacketed’ fossils from the Snowmass find. The “preparator” will work with a number of trained local volunteers and be able to carry on a running narrative with Center visitors regarding the fossils she is uncovering and how they fit into the bigger picture of the entire discovery.The Ice Age Discovery Center located on the Snowmass Village Mall, is open daily from 10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. Call 1-800-SNOWMASS or visit the Ice Age Discovery website for more information.

Also this summer, Colorado Mountain College will host a weekly lecture series on Pleistocene topics on Tuesdays at 5pm through August 20th at the Discovery Center. Similar to last year, ACES will lead daily Ice Age Discovery walks, starting each day at 1pm at the Discovery Center, and running through September 2nd. And finally, Aspen Skiing Company is working with the Denver Museum of Nature and Science to create a “Dig Pit” full of reproduction ice age fossils for kids of all ages to find, re-find and piece together.

The Snowmass and Roaring Fork Valley community’s immediate response to the landmark discovery was the formation of a task force – cleverly dubbed the “Tusk Force” – to bring a diverse local audience together to identify possible courses of action for the find. In late 2011 a second generation of this group was formed and has now become the organization Snowmass Discovery. Snowmass Discovery has been tasked with creating an appropriate and inspired response equal to Colorado’s largest fossil discovery and the world’s best high-elevation Ice Age site.

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