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Originally published Saturday, February 16, 2013 at 5:24 PM

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State's snowsports history about to find a home with museum for Snoqualmie Pass

New museum set to open next January

Seattle Times staff reporter

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Washington's ski and snowboard industry is bursting with history dating back more than 100 years, and the Snoqualmie Pass area will soon be home to a permanent museum.

Dave Moffett of Mercer Island, the former president of Snoqualmie Summit's four ski areas, is spearheading the Washington State Ski and Snowboard Museum (WSSSM) project.

"We've been looking for the right place to build a museum, but the problem was finding the ideal space for it," Moffett said. "This has been in the back of my mind since we sold the ski areas in 1997.

"We've had about three false starts creating a museum going back to the mid-1980s, and now it looks like our vision of making this happen will come true," Moffett said.

The idea of preserving Washington's snowsport history actually was started by the late Irv Pratt of Mercer Island, who was the curator for the Ancient Skiers collection of ski memorabilia. Pratt's collection has items dating back to the 1890s.

"Pratt (who died last April) came up with the idea that there should be a permanent display of the skiing history in our state," Moffett said. "His vision of a museum came about in the 1980s and 1990s when the U.S. Forest Service Building on Snoqualmie Pass served this purpose. It was a pretty small museum (which has since closed)."

Recently, Crystal Mountain Resort has been the home to some of the displays in its main lodge.

Word started to spread about a year ago that Bryce Phillips, owner of evo Ski & Snowboard Shop in Seattle, along with The Pass, LLC, was planning to build a development on 5.31 acres across the road from The Summit Inn at Snoqualmie Pass.

As part of the development, Moffett says they'll be allowed to lease a 1,740-square-foot space within a section of the building that will house a restaurant and microbrewery.

In addition, the complex will have 12 Northwest modern lofts and a coffee shop.

Site work and utility installations began last September. Work is expected to be finished by December, and a grand opening for the museum is planned for Jan. 3.

The property eventually will have up to 108 residential units and 15,000 to 20,000 square feet of commercial space.

"I can't think of a more suitable place for the museum to be located, and it's got all the points for success," Moffett said. "We've got everything going for us in this space. It's the busiest pass in the state, plus you've got a large ski area nearby. It will also get a lot of summer people who use the area as a stop-off point along I-90."

Moffett, and Dollie and Hugh Armstrong (parents of Olympic gold medal skier Debbie Armstrong) of Seattle have led the initial work on the museum project.

The nonprofit museum's financial obligations include a five-year lease, and the group hopes to raise about $350,000 through pledges.

"We've already reached more than half the goal," Moffett said. "Any funds exceeding the build-out will be put into an endowment fund to help cover future costs."

Museum exhibits include a treasure trove of interactive maps of statewide ski venues, Xbox 360 Kinect ski racing game, narrative with slideshow on state's history of skiing, theater with seating for 15 to 20 visitors, pre-modern ski and snowboard gear, and a gift shop.

There will be photos, videos and write-ups of Hall of Fame members; Ancient Skiers; legends such as Otto Lang, one of the Northwest's first ski instructors; and local Winter Olympians like Phil and Steve Mahre and Debbie Armstrong.

Washington snowsports companies also will be part of the displays including K2, Roffe, A&T, Sturtevants, Fiorini, Osborn & Ulland, REI, Eddie Bauer and Gnu/Lib Tech.

Monitors will highlight unique accomplishments such as the evolution of snowboarding at Mount Baker; ski school history, all-night skiing in the state, Outdoors for All Foundation, a group enabling those with disabilities a chance to experience outdoor activities, and the state's extensive rope tow system, which once had the most and the country's first surface tows.

Local award-winning photographers Joe Scaylea, and Carl, Gordy and Lowell Skoog; cartoonist Bob Cram and others will have their works on display.

The concept of building a permanent museum has been well received by the state snowsport industry.

"It's a wonderful project and a long time coming," said Guy Lawrence, The Summit at Snoqualmie director of marketing.

"We have strong benefactors based out of Washington, and some very influential people involved with the ski and snowboard scene," Lawrence said. "It's about time we celebrate and put it all together. The timing couldn't be better."

The WSSSM website will soon go online at www.wsssm.org. More details are available by calling 206-854-3626 or email drm@davemoffett.com.

Mark Yuasa: 206-464-8780 or myuasa@seattletimes.com

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