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The 10th Mountain Division: A Glimpse at Vail’s Lasting Legacy

by | Feb 1, 2021 | Vail

Are you researching the best things to do in Vail for your upcoming vacation?

If so, you’re probably seeing a lot about the Colorado Snowsports Museum and the 10th Mountain Division. Unless you’re a World War II buff (or an aficionado of skiing history), you might be unfamiliar with this fascinating chapter in Vail’s legacy.

In this post, we’ll journey back to the 1940s and the very start of the US ski industry. Keep reading to learn more about your favorite winter sport and the brave men who made it popular in America!

What Was the 10th Mountain Division?

You’ll find the current U.S. Army 10th Mountain Division located in Fort Drum, New York. To trace its origins, we need to travel back in time more than 70 years (and 2,000 miles west) to Camp Hale, Colorado.

In 1942, at the height of World War II, the US Army sought to create a “mountaineering division” of elite soldiers. They chose Camp Hale (a few miles from modern-day Vail) as the ideal location to train soldiers to ski, fight, and survive in high-altitude, harsh winter conditions.

The result? In the winter of 1944-1945, “The Tenth” was assigned a dangerous mission fighting German soldiers high in the Apennine Mountains of northern Italy. In the Battle of Riva Ridge, they broke through German defenses and pushed further into Europe, bringing the Allies one step closer to victory.

How Did the 10th Mountain Influence the Ski Industry?

The 10th Mountain Division earned their rightful place in military history, but that’s only the beginning of their story. When the war ended, these soldiers returned to the US, bringing their skiing skills and experience with them.

Up to this point, skiing was considered to be a “European” sport. Only after World War II ended and the Tenth returned home did the US ski industry begin to take shape.

Over the next several decades, 10th Mountain veterans started at least 62 different ski areas throughout the US. They also published ski magazines, opened ski schools, and started companies to manufacture and sell ski equipment.

Not surprisingly, many veterans had a special affection for the Colorado mountains where they trained and skied. Tenth veteran Pete Siebert first climbed up what would become the front of Vail mountain in 1957, describing the view from the top as “the most mind-blowing landscape of all.”

Five years later, on December 15, 1962, Vail ski resort officially opened. And the rest, as they say, is history.

Learn More Colorado History During Your Vail Vacation

Well, there you have it — your introduction to the 10th Mountain Division and its place in US ski history.

When you arrive in the beautiful Vail Valley for your vacation, take a moment to reflect on the brave soldiers who trained for war in these mountains. And while you’re strolling around the village, be sure to stop into the Snowsports Museum to learn more about Colorado history.

Of course, you’ll need some time to relax and unwind during your Vail vacation too. Apres Massage is a brand-new boutique spa in West Vail, and our skilled therapists are ready to make you feel amazing.

Click here to book a session or give us a call at 970-445-2114. We look forward to welcoming you soon!