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The History of the Legendary 10th Mountain Division

The History of the Legendary 10th Mountain Division,

The Men Who Started USA’s Ski Industry

SnowBrains |  |

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.” –

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.

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


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

Posted from Sniw Brains

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