The History of the Legendary 10th Mountain Division, The Men Who Started USA’s Ski Industry

SnowBrains | | Featured ArticleFeatured Article
10th Mountain Division training in California.
10th Mountain Division training in California.

I bet you didn’t know that at least 62 ski areas in the USA were started by 10th Mountain Division veterans.  Even Vail and Aspen were started by 10th Mountain Division vets.

“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

10th Mountain Division in action in WWII
10th Mountain Division in action in WWII

The 10th Mountain Division.  That name is legendary in the ski & snowboard industry, but not many of us know much about these guys.   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 Veterans 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.

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.

10th Mountain Division training at Mt. Rainier, WA
10th Mountain Division training at Mt. Rainier, WA

In late 1944 the 10th was shipped to Italy, fought courageously against the Nazis in many battles, and saw 114 days of combat.

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.

10th

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.

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.  Thank you to the 10th and all of America’s warriors.

10th Mountain Division training at Camp Hale, CO
10th Mountain Division training at Camp Hale, CO

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

– Saw combat in  Cutigliano, Battle of Monte Castello, Monte Della Torraccia-Mount Belvedere,  Canolle,  Mongiorgio, Torbole and Nago.

– 992 killed in action

– 4,154 wounded in action

– 114 days of combat

– 1  Medal of Honor (John D. Magrath)

Modern 10th Mountain Division troops.
Modern 10th Mountain Division troops.

– 3 Distinguished Service Crosses

– 1 Distinguished Service Meda

– 449 Silver Star Medals

– 7 Legion of Merit Medals

– 15 Soldier’s Medals

– 7,729 Bronze Star

– The division was awarded two campaign streamers

(movie trailer of the history of the 10th mountain division called “fire on the mountain”)

 The goal was clear: defeat the Nazis who were entrenched high in the snowy mountains of Italy. Drawing together an elite group of champion skiers, mountain climbers and European mountaineers, the U.S. Army created the 10th Mountain Division, America’s only mountain and winter warfare fighting unit. From the intensive training atop the Colorado Rockies to the spectacular night climb of Italy’s Riva Ridge – where the 10th scored their biggest victory against Hitler’s troops – Fire on the Mountain tells the thrilling story of these rugged, courageous men in all their glory. – Fire on the Mountain Movie

MORE 10th MOUNTAIN DIVISION INFO:

by wikipedia

The 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry) is a light infantry division in the United States Army based at Fort Drum, New York. The division is a subordinate unit of the XVIII Airborne Corps. Originally constituted as a unique mountain warfare unit, the division was the only unit of its size in the U.S. Army to specialize in fighting in mountainous and arctic conditions, thus earning the division the “MOUNTAIN” tab. Today, the division retains its “mountain” designation for historical purposes and is organized as a light infantry division.

10th Mountain Division
10th Mountain Division

Originally activated as the 10th Light Division (Alpine) in 1943, the division was redesignated the 10th Mountain Division in 1944 and fought in the mountains of Italy in some of the roughest terrain in the country. Following the war the division was deactivated, only to be reactivated and redesignated as the 10th Infantry Division in 1948. The division first acted as a training division and in 1954 was converted to a full combat division and sent to Germany before being deactivated again in 1958.

10th Mountain Division training
10th Mountain Division training

Reactivated again in 1985, the division was designated the 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry), to historically tie it to the World War II division and to also better describe its modern disposition. Since its reactivation the division and/or elements of the division have deployed numerous times since. The division has participated in Operation Desert Storm(Saudi Arabia), Hurricane Andrew disaster relief (Homestead, Florida), Operation Restore Hope and Operation Continue Hope (Somalia), Operation Uphold Democracy (Haiti), Operation Joint Forge (Bosnia and Herzegovina), Operation Joint Guardian (Kosovo), and several deployments as part of the Multinational Force and Observers (Sinai Peninsula). Since 2001, the division and its four combat brigades have seen over 20 deployments to both Iraq and Afghanistan in support ofOperation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom, respectively.

10th Mountain Division
10th Mountain Division

Related Articles

23 thoughts on “The History of the Legendary 10th Mountain Division, The Men Who Started USA’s Ski Industry

  1. The 10th Mountain Division Light Infantry has two Medal of Honor recipients. You left that out of your list on the Modern 10th list.

    VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
    0 (0 votes)
  2. In November 1939, during the Soviet Union’s invasion of Finland, Russian efforts were frustrated following the destruction of two armored divisions by Finnish soldiers on skis.[4] The conflict caught global attention as the outnumbered and outgunned Finnish soldiers were able to use the difficult local terrain to their advantage,[5] severely hampering the Soviet attacks and embarrassing their military.[6] Upon seeing the effectiveness of these troops, Charles Minot Dole, the president of the National Ski Patrol, began to lobby the War Department of the need for a similar unit of troops in the United States Army, trained for fighting in winter and mountain warfare. (Wikipedia)

    VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
    +2 (2 votes)
  3. My dad, Ronold Farr, was at Camp Hale. He went to the mountains in Italy to fight. He watched in horror as his General was bombed to pieces in a hut they were in. He loved that man better than a father. These men were true brothers. They had to be in order to survive this type of impossible combat. Germ warfare wasn’t allowed, yet their water was poisoned with Hepatitis to take quite a few of these fine men down…my dad caught it and was shipped to recover in a hospital. He didn’t die. He came home and never really recovered from the PTSD of seeing his dear friends killed. He did manage to build a ski slope in the area of Moose Pond, Bridgeton, ME with a man who footed the cost. That slope was there for decades. Cancer took him in his late 50’s, two years after my first son was born. He is gone, but he is not forgotten, nor are his wonderful comrades in arms and on skis!

    VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
    +7 (7 votes)
  4. My great uncle, Dave Curtis, was a squad leader in Headquarters Company, 2nd Battalion, 86th Mountain Regiment, 10th mountain Division during WWII. He trained at Camp Hale and fought in Italy.

    He won the Soldier’s Medal in Italy for clearing a path through a mine field so that wounded soldiers could be evacuated. I learned all this after he had passed. I wish I had gotten a chance to know him better.

    VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
    +4 (4 votes)
  5. By the end of the 1930s, expansionist policies of Germany, the Soviet Union, and Japan had forced the United States to prepare, secretly, to fight a global war. Then, on November 30, 1939, the USSR invaded Finland with a force of a million men supported by tanks, aircraft, and naval forces. The vastly outnumbered Finnish army fought back valiantly. Soldiers in white camouflage uniforms and mounted on skis contributed much to early victories over the invading Soviets. These ski troops moved swiftly and quietly through forests deep in snow where Soviet troops—unprepared for winter warfare—could not follow. They ambushed Soviet convoys, cut Soviet supply lines, and destroyed several Soviet divisions before surrendering in mid-March 1940. By then, millions of Americans had seen ski troops in action on the big screen. Many began to wonder if the U.S. Army was prepared to fight a winter war in the mountains. Some suggested that the United States train its own ski troops.

    VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
    +1 (1 vote)
  6. My father in law, John Dewey from Wisconsin fought in WW II in the 10th Mountain. Did anyone know him?

    VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
    0 (0 votes)
    1. You can find out more about his service by contacting Ms. Keli Schmid at the Denver Public Library. The 10th Mountain Division Resource Center, a Library partnership, has a database of everyone who ever served in the WWII 10th.

      VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
      0 (0 votes)
  7. wasnt john dewey a big shot in the 10th he is on the first page in my grandfathers warbook, his name was carl spillers

    VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
    0 (0 votes)
  8. My old-man was STAFF SERGEANT GLENN D SIKES, HG Co. 2nd Battalion, 86th Mountain Regt…
    he was one of the first group selected for this training (they were eventually named the 87th Inf Regiment), they were initially sent to Mount Ranier, then to Camp Hale. The 87th was sent to the nearly unopposed invasion of Alleutions. He was transferred to the 86th to assist in the mountain training as he was the oldest non-com in the group; of course, the troops called him Pops. He was awarded the Combat Infantryman’s Badge and 2 Bronze Stars; he was designated as HQ Co’s recipient, based on combat merit, of a 5 day R&R in the Austrian Alps just weeks after the armistice, but these soldiers were called back immediately to deal with Broz Tito’s Yugoslav Partisans.

    VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
    0 (0 votes)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.