During World War II, one of this country’s secret weapons was a group of hardy outdoorsmen known as the 10th Mountain Division. Many of its veterans went on to pioneer the US ski industry as we know it. Now, there’s a film that takes a closer look at what the soldiers went through, and later accomplished.
Climb to Glory: Legacy of the 10th Mountain Division Ski Troopers was produced by Warren Miller Entertainment. It features the company’s long time pro skier Chris Anthony. The film is being presented tonight by the Aspen Valley Ski and Snowboard Club and the Aspen Historical Society. Nina Gabianelli is the Society’s Vice President of Programming and Education.
“The 10th Mountain servicemen were a special unit, special units actually, formed to navigate through the mountains in Europe through the second World War.”
And decades after, too. But during those years of World War II, they trained at Camp Hale near Leadville, and the surrounding areas, and that sometimes brought them into the Roaring Fork Valley.
“...on training exercises and on leave. Often times sleeping at the Hotel Jerome on the lobby floor, throwing their sleeping bag down on the floor for about a dollar, and getting dinner. Enjoying an Aspen crud, which back then was a vanilla milkshake laced with rum or bourbon--many shots of [it]. ”
Many of the servicemen went on to start ski areas around the country… including in Aspen.
“What they saw was a beautiful mountain, an old Victorian city falling down, no doubt, but empty lots in Aspen were $25, an old Victorian home, in the West End, you could pick up for $100 dollars back taxes. And these gentlemen vowed to return and start a resort here.”
Tonight’s screening will include a question and answer session with long time local Dick McCrudden, a 10th Mountain Division veteran. In the film, viewers see the clothing and gear the servicemen used-- which, fair to say, were much more demanding than today’s cutting edge backcountry gear. Chris Anthony and other pro skiers try making turns in the original gear. Again, Nina Gabianelli.
“They’re not good! They don’t stay update for very long, it’s very funny.”
Colorado Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame in Vail also played a part in putting the film together. On a sober note, the film also features Tony Seibert the grandson of a 10th Mountain Division vet who helped start Vail’s ski area. The younger Seibert died in an avalanche earlier this year.
Climb to Glory screens at the Wheeler Opera House Friday, April 4th at 6pm.