You don’t have to be a serious fan of figure skating to enjoy the World Figure Skating Museum and Hall of Fame.
But it sure makes things a lot more enjoyable if you have a passion for the sport.
Plan to spend a couple of hours inside the museum. You can learn all about jumps and spins, as well as gain an appreciation for the development of blades and boots.
The 10,000-square-foot facility has been located at 20 First St. in Colorado Springs — a stone’s throw from the world-famous Broadmoor — since 1979.
Inside its walls are displays and artifacts from some of the most famous skaters in the sport — household names in American figure skating such as Peggy Fleming, Dorothy Hamill, Michelle Kwan and Scott Hamilton. Hall of Famers from around the globe include Ekaterina Gordeeva, Sergei Grinkov, Midori Ito, Katarina Witt and Sonja Henie, who has an entire wing of the hall dedicated to her skating and Hollywood film career.
Another key figure enshrined in the Hall of Fame is Italian-born coach Carlo Fassi. Skaters from all over the world came to train with Fassi, which gave his training camp a strongly international atmosphere. His students included World and Olympic champions Fleming and Hamill, as well as John Curry, Robin Cousins and Jill Trenary, who makes her home in the Broadmoor area. Fassi also coached Hamilton and Paul Wylie in the early stages of their careers.
Located near the entrance inside the building is an Andy Warhol painting of Hamill holding her skates. He made his portrayal in 1978 as a tribute to the 1976 Olympic Gold medalist, who modeled her signature wedge haircut.
One of the most moving parts of the museum is a large area on the main floor dedicated to the 1961 U.S. World Team that perished in an airplane crash in Belgium. The Boeing 707-329 was en route from New York City to Brussels on Feb. 15, 1961, when it crashed on approach to Zaventem Airport, killing all 72 people on board and one person on the ground.
The fatalities included the entire U.S. Figure Skating team, who were traveling to the World Figure Skating Championships in Prague. Despite a thorough investigation, the cause of the crash remains a mystery; the most likely explanation was thought to be a failure of the tail stabilizer-adjusting mechanism.
A museum fan-favorite is the Peggy Fleming corner in the lower level. Fleming trained with Fassi in Colorado Springs at the old World Arena, which was located near The Broadmoor. Fleming won the Gold medal at the 1968 Grenoble, France, Winter Games.
Upon her return to America, the city of Colorado Springs threw a festive parade in Fleming’s honor. The downtown streets were lined with thousands of her adoring fans.
Fleming makes her home in the Denver area today and is a regular visitor to the Springs. She is among the many famous visitors to the museum. Others famous visitors have included Hamilton, Brian Boitano and hockey legend Gordie Howe.
Many of the museum’s daily visitors are interested in seeing items that Fleming, Hamill and Kwan wore in competition.
The museum is in the same building as U.S. Figure Skating, the governing body of the sport. U.S. Figure Skating moved to Colorado Springs from Boston in 1979, one year after the United States Olympic Committee relocated here from New York.
U.S. Figure Skating was started in 1921. In 1965, people began dropping off items at the Boston offices in the hope that there might someday be a museum honoring the sport’s biggest and most important stars.
The first class of the World Figure Skating Hall of Fame was in 1976. That inaugural group consisted of legends Tenley Albright (United States), Andree Joly and Pierre Brunet (France), Richard “Dick” T. Button (United States), Fleming (United States), Gillis Grafstrom (Sweden), Carol Heiss (United States), Henie (Norway), David Jenkins (United States), T.D. Richardson (Great Britain), Jacques Gerschwiler (Switzerland), Jackson Haines (United States), Gustave Lussi (Switzerland), Hayes Alan Jenkins (United States), Axel Paulsen (Norway), Ulrich Salchow (Sweden), Karl Schafer (Austria), Reginald J. Wilkie (Great Britain), Howard Nicholson (United States), Edi Scholdan (Austria) and Montgomery Wilson (Canada).
The 2019 World Hall of Fame class is made up of Natalya Bestemyanova & Andrey Bukin (USSR), Ondrej Nepela (Czechoslovakia), Eva Romanova and Pavel Roman (Czechoslovakia), Gabriele Seyfert (East Germany) and Yelena Tchaikovskaya (USSR/Russia).
The 2019 U.S. Figure Skating Hall of Fame class consists of the pairs team of Carol Fox and Richard Dalley, Timothy Goebel, and Julie Lynn Holmes.
The Hall of Fame has been divided into a world hall of fame and U.S. hall of fame since 1992. Several skaters, coaches and contributors are in both halls of fame. The halls of fame are located on the lower level of the museum. Take time to read the bios of the famous inductees and relive some of their accomplishments.
There used to be an extravagant ceremony honoring the world hall of fame inductees. That practice has not occurred in several years.
The U.S. hall of fame honors its inductees each year at the U.S. Championships.
The lower level also has an extensive trophy collection and a corner dedicated to the history of the Ice Follies, as well as an Olympic pin display case.
In the center of the lower level is a library dedicated to housing the most extensive collection of figure skating materials in the world. The video and film collection, consisting of more than 3,500 items, dates from the 1920s and includes Henie’s 1928 Olympic performance.
Competition records for national, international and Olympic events are available from the mid-19th century to the present. You can read up on how Fleming became the lone American competitor to win a Gold medal at the 1968 Games.
The photograph collection contains nearly 20,000 images, many early tintype and glass negatives. There are also nearly 1,500 books in more than a dozen languages, along with complete sets of North American and European magazines, newspapers, scrapbooks, private letters, programs, sheet music and historical greeting cards.
The museum store is on the main level and offers a wide range of unique skating-related merchandise: books, posters, videos, jewelry, toys and other gift items. All proceeds from sales help support the programs of the World Figure Skating Museum. Donations are also appreciated.
Group tours are also available by booking ahead. Call 635-5200 or visit worldskatingmuseum.org for information.
The museum hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Friday. Admission is $5 for adults, $3 for seniors, and $3 for kids 6-12. Kids 5-under are free.