Our favorite time of the year is finally here! It’s no secret that here at Outpost Sunsport, winter sports are our passion. We have been looking forward to hitting the slopes with our friends and family, and we can’t wait to finally get back on the mountain after (what feels like!) a long break.
What better way to celebrate the beginning of ski season than with a fascinating walk down memory lane of the unique history of Colorado’s ski industry? This past October, President Biden made a visit to Colorado and declared Camp Hale, located between Red Cliff and Leadville, a National Monument.
During World War II, just months after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941, Camp Hale was created as a training site for a unit of mountain soldiers. Strategically located in the Eagle River Valley of Colorado, Camp Hale was the perfect place for these soldiers to train in snowy, wintery conditions – the same conditions these soldiers would face on their deployment to the Italian Apennine Mountains in 1945. At 9,200 feet, Camp Hale was surrounded by steep cliffs, rough terrain, and got plenty of snowfall (not to mention freezing temperatures!). The camp was home to 15,000 people, 14,000 of which were soldiers.
The men who trained at Camp Hale became known as the 10th Mountain Division, and were the only U.S. troops trained specifically for warfare in mountainous and wintery conditions. When deployed in 1944, the 10th Mountain Division used their skills in skiing, mountain climbing, and traversing in difficult winter conditions to gain strategic occupation of a mountain in northern Italy, ultimately assisting the Allies in winning the war.
When the war ended and many 10th Mountain Division veterans returned to the United States, they didn’t stop skiing! In fact, former members of the 10th Mountain Division have been credited with establishing 62 well-known ski areas across the United States, including our favorites! That’s right – Steamboat, Vail, Aspen and Arapahoe Basin were all founded by members of the 10th Mountain Division.
Did you know that before WWII, skiing was a primarily European sport? Clearly, this is the group to thank for bringing skiing to Colorado – not only did the men of the 10th Mountain Division go on to create many of our favorite ski areas, but they were wildly successful at spreading the popularity of the sport nationwide. In fact, we feel that we owe the very existence of Outpost Sunsport to these brave men – without them, we may not have gotten into the ski business in the first place!
President Biden’s recent designation of Camp Hale as a National Monument is significant, as we feel that this designation bestows appropriate honor upon this group of men who not only made a difference in our country’s ski industry, but who sacrificed their freedom to make a significant contribution to the war efforts.
We will forever be thankful to the 10th Mountain Division for their immense contribution to society – and we can’t believe that such a fascinating piece of history took place in our very own backyard! It’s amazing that something that took place in the mountains of Colorado changed both our country and the entire world.
We hope that next time you’re in the mountains to ski, you take a moment to pause and remember the group of men who are now known as the “Fathers of the American ski industry.” Or, why not pay a visit to Camp Hale yourself? Next time you’re headed up to ski at Vail, take a stop at our nation’s newest national monument – you certainly won’t regret it!
Take a look at this gallery for a few fascinating photos of Camp Hale & the 10th Mountain Division, from 1944 – present!