The 10th Mountain Division. That name is legendary in the ski & snowboard industry. But, I don’t think many of us know much about them. I’ve looked into this group and have been blown away by what they did in war and what they did for skiing in the USA. In light of recognizing Memorial Day today, I’d like to share some basic information about the legendary 10th Mountain Division and what they did for us in war and in peace.
“Fire on the Mountain,” a documentary about the 10th Mountain Division’s training on Mt. Rainier and more
The 10th Mountain Division in WWII:
– Arrived in Italy on January 6th, 1945 & immediately entered combat
– Fought in the roughest terrain of Italy during WWII
– 992 killed in action
– 4,154 wounded in action
– 114 days of combat
– 449 Silver Star Medals
– 15 Soldier’s Medals
– 7,729 Bronze Star
– The division was awarded two campaign streamers
Some 10th Mountain Division and Vail, CO history.
The 10th Mountain Division trained in various places from 1943-1944 including their base at Camp Hale (9,200 ft near Leadville) in Colorado and at Cooper ski area. Mountaineering experts Jim & Lou Whittaker (first American to summit Everest & founder of Rainier Mountaineering Inc., respectively) were hired to train these men in Camp Hale and on Mount Rainier, WA. The 10th trained hard to live, sleep, climb, ski, and fight on snow in the harshest conditions. During maneuvers, the 10th would lay down their skis on the snow, throw their double sleeping bags on top of that and call it good for the night. This training created some of the strongest soldiers America had and they were called on to prove it.
In late 1944 the 10th was shipped to Italy, fought courageously against the Nazis in many battles, and saw 114 days of combat.
The 10th Mountain Division still fights on today. The 10th has been involved in both the Afghanistan & Iraq wars since 2001 and they’re still out there.
After World War II many of the 10th Mountain Division warriors came home to the USA and continued skiing. Much of the US ski industry was started by 10th Mountain Division veterans. It’s valid to say that the ski industry in the USA would never have become so widespread without these warriors.
“After the war, ex-soldiers from the 10th Mountain Division fired-up America’s modern ski industry. They published ski magazines, opened ski schools, and established ski areas, including Vail, Aspen, Sugarbush, Whiteface Mountain and others. At least 62 ski resorts have been founded, managed, or employed head ski instructors that were 10th Mountain Division veterans.” –thestormking.com
Every time I see that 10th Mountain Division sign on highway 89 in Lake Tahoe, I think of these guys and what they did for our country and for skiing on so many levels. Thank you to the 10th and all of America’s warriors.