10th Mountain Vet Visits Memory Lane at Ski Cooper
Affordable Family Ski Resort, Ski Cooper, Brings Colorado's Military History to Life
Ski Cooper is well known as Colorado’s family friendly resort. One of the things families love about our slopes, is our old-school charm that reminds them of ski experiences years ago when resorts were simple, easy, charming places to hang out and enjoy winter with family and friends. People have been enjoying Ski Cooper this way for many years. But did you know that preceding its development into a resort, another group of comrades experienced and enjoyed Ski Cooper in a different light?
Mountain Troops Head to Italy in 1942In 1942, the US Army selected neighboring Camp Hale and Ski Cooper as the training sites for the infamous 10th Mountain Division Ski Troopers in World War II. Men were recruited from ski-loving towns, colleges, and universities in the Northeast and Midwest to join the “mountain troops”. This group of men shared a common love of the outdoors, the mountains and skiing. The group that came to Colorado's Pando Valley was committed and hearty; these like-minded individuals quickly formed incredible bonds over their common love of skiing, and their determination to defend the U.S. in Italy's mountain terrain during the war. The was a high attrition rate among this mountain division, but the troops were successful in their battle endeavors and ultimately instrumental in the liberation of Northern Italy from German occupation. After the war, many of the 10th Mountain Veterans chose to return to the Colorado mountains they had fallen in love with, and they found ways to build ski-related careers and lives here that celebrated skiing. It was this history that helped jump start Colorado’s famed ski industry and plays an important part of Ski Cooper’s and Colorado’s ski heritage.
WMF's "Climb to Glory" Documents This Historic JourneyWarren Miller Entertainment, another legendary organization in ski history, along with the Colorado ski museum, has recently memorialized this history with a new documentary, “Climb To Glory”, about the men of the 10th Mountain Division and their role in Colorado’s ski industry. Chris Anthony, Colorado native and veteran Warren Miller film athlete acted as a catalyst for the creation of the film and helped pursue the idea of documenting the incredible story of these war veterans. On January 4 Chris embarked on an adventure with one of the 10th Mountain Vets, Earl Clark, to bring him back to the old stomping grounds of his war unit and see how it has evolved. Riding in a borrowed, well-equipped AWD Ferrari, Chris, Earl and a handful of young friends traveled up to Camp Hale and Ski Cooper on a crystal blue-sky day to relive a bit of Earl’s past.
Ferrari Ride A Once in A Lifetime Experience for War Vet Earl ClarkThere were kids along for the ride, and they were fascinated to learn about Earl’s war experiences, including the special commemorative pin given to him by German troops for his outstanding performance in battle. He talked of the nights when temperatures dropped so low that they slept outside their tents because condensation within them would freeze. He spoke of the moments when they would take off on a powder day, or wander through the CO wilderness to explore because it was simply so beautiful. When the group finally reached Ski Cooper, Earl got out of the Ferrari to have a look, and he recognized smiled about the landscape where they had hiked and skied over 70 years ago. The staff at Ski Cooper came out to greet Earl and hear him reminisce about his experiences on this very mountain where he trained with his troops, who became his lifelong friends, as he had a look at the local area maps and the 10th Mountain memorabilia on display in Ski Cooper’s base lodge.
Have a look next time you are visiting Ski Cooper- it is truly fascinating the gear used by these men 70 years ago for days and months on the snow in harsh conditions. It will give you a new appreciation for the sacrifices these men made for our country in the war, and later to share their love for skiing by returning to Colorado to create an industry. Ski Cooper is proud to have been an instrumental part of this fascinating Colorado ski history, a legacy that resonates in the thoughtful way Ski Cooper operates today.