It started as a simple excavation project at a reservoir near Snowmass Village. It ended up as one of the largest fossil excavations ever, and the project will soon be featured in National Geographic and as a one-hour NOVA program on Rocky Mountain PBS. A book is also being written about the Snowmastodon Project™

The NOVA program is called “Ice Age Death Trap” and it premiers at 8 p.m MST, Wednesday, Feb. 1 on Rocky Mountain PBS. The television special follows scientists as they raced against a deadline to uncover  the unique site packed with well-preserved bones of mammoths, mastodons, and other giant extinct beasts.

Age of the mammoth

Acrylic painting of Ziegler Reservoir landscape by Jan Vriesen, depicts about 120,000 years ago, when the area was dominated by mastodon, giant ground sloths, and bison. Photo courtesy ©Denver Museum of Nature & Science.

The Denver Museum of Nature & Science sent crews to the site, where they uncovered 5,000 bones of 41 kinds of Ice Age animals. In addition to the mammoths and mastodons, there were ground sloths, camels, deer, horses, and giant bison.

Snowmass Mastadon. Photo courtesy ©Denver Museum of Nature & Science.

Overview of Ice Age dig site near Snowmass Village (lower left). Photo courtesy ©Denver Museum of Nature & Science.

The February issue of National Geographic magazine will feature a short article and photo of the project. The new book, Digging Snowmastodon: Discovering an Ice Age World in the Colorado Rockies, goes on sale at the museum March 20.

A Tusk Force was also formed by the Town of Snowmass Village and they created a non-profit entity called Discover Snowmass to organize, and figure out how to capitalize on the Snowmass Ice Age find. The Snowmass Ice Age Discovery Center is on the Snowmass Village Mall. It’s free and open every day in the winter from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Snowy, the mascot. Photo courtesy Snowmass Tourism.

Snowy, the mascot, is frequently seen around the Snowmass Village Mall. Photo courtesy Snowmass Tourism.

“The scientists aren’t the only ones that are excited about this extraordinary find,” said Patsy Popejoy with Snowmass Tourism.  “The entire community has ‘mammoth’ fever, from a local restaurant changing their name to Little Mammoth Cafe serving up Mastodon Stew, our retailers selling Ice Age T-shirts, mugs, and stuffed animal mammoths and mastodons, to the Town Council approving Widespread Panic’s song ‘Woolly Mammoth’ as the official town song. The discovery has created quite a buzz in the community and with our visitors.”

Dr. Kirk Johnson, Vice President of Research & Collections and Chief Curator of the Denver Museum of Nature and Science and a lead scientist on the dig, will be back in Snowmass on March 22nd to give an Aspen Historical Society-sponsored talk about the discovery. 

Snowmass Mastodon. Photo courtesy Snowmass Tourism.

The Snowmass Ice Age Discovery Center is on the Snowmass Village Mall. Photo courtesy Snowmass Tourism.

More Information

Ice Age Death Trap on PBS

Digging Snowmastodon

Ice Age Discovery

Museum Information

Video of the Dig