Monday, March 21, 2016

View of the Pando Valley Towards Camp Hale

View of the Pando Valley towards Camp Hale, Colorado, which was the training headquarters of the Tenth Mountain Division from 1943-1944. Camp Hale was built in 1942, and decommissioned in 1945. It took seven months to build, hosted 8,000 ski troops and eventually grew to a population of 14,000 men and women. The camp was built alongside a portion of the Rio Grande Railway at the Pando Valley. In 1942 the Army Corp of Engineers altered the river that ran through the Pando Valley, as well as changed the location of the road between Leadville and Minturn. This occurred twenty years before Vail Ski Mountain was envisioned by 10th Mountain veterans Pete Seibert, Bob Parker & Ben Duke. Camp Hale included mess halls, infirmaries, a ski shop, administrative offices, a movie theater, and stables for livestock. The troops built their own ski area a couple of miles further up the road. Hundreds of white painted barracks housing 15,000 soldiers ran like a grid across the valley floor. Training in Camp Hale introduced many to the Rocky Mountains, and while fueling their love of the sport, it also accelerated the engineering of equipment and clothing, and the transportation on snow. At Cooper Hill, where the men would train, the Army built what was the world’s longest rope tow at the time to take the ski trooper up slope for ski maneuvers down. The military base had an almost “romantic” feel about it, and the recruitment effort was boosted through film, emotionally inspired photos and music. The image of skiing was additionally enhanced in the film “Sun Valley Serenade” screened in 1942, featuring the Glen Miller Orchestra and a darling Olympic ice skater: Sonja Henie.  Later, two war-time films were shot at Camp Hale featuring the white-clothed ski troopers: “Mountain Fighters” in 1943 and “I Love a Soldier” in 1944. The Ski Trooper was featured on covers of national magazines and on popular radio shows. Although the effort brought in recruits to add to the 86th and 85th regiments, recruiters realized not enough skiers existed to fill the new ranks, therefore efforts were made to bring in rugged outdoorsmen of all types with the compelling slogan, “The 10th Mountain Division”.  Additionally, 200 women from the Women’s Army Corps were enlisted for administrative support.

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