Camp Hale is a chance to honor veterans and Colorado’s ski history


High in the Colorado Rockies, the Pando Valley is home to more than just beautiful scenery.

During World War II, the Valley played a pivotal role in developing soldiers who beat fascism in the Italian Alps. The training these soldiers received at Camp Hale not only delivered the Allied victory overseas, but also helped launch Colorado’s outdoor recreation economy.

The Second World War was fought in places many American service members were unfamiliar with, such as the unforgiving alpine terrain of Europe. Our leaders knew that to challenge the Axis powers on their terrain, we would need to develop new methods and bases to train our soldiers. After months of urging by the National Ski Patrol, the Army agreed to train a group of Americans in high-altitude combat.

Over the next seven months, a small town was developed in the mountains of Colorado with ski hills and mountain training courses, and named Camp Hale in honor of Spanish American War veteran and Colorado native Brigadier General Irving Hale, eventually housing 15,000 soldiers with a common background — skiers who knew how to handle the harsh conditions.

Because of their training at Camp Hale, these American soldiers went on to help liberate Italy and beat back Nazi Germany. After the war, many soldiers returned to the mountains and helped develop the outdoor recreation industry, which now contributes tens of thousands of jobs and billions of dollars to Colorado’s economy.

The base was decommissioned in the 1960s, and only traces of the camp’s existence remain. We cannot let its history be forgotten – and I certainly will not.

I’m a proud 7th generation Coloradan who learned to ski and climb in our mountains. My passions have taken me across the world as a professional skier, leading to my induction into the Colorado Snowsports Hall of Fame and to the opportunity to share my love for the sport and outdoors with our younger generations.

Almost 30 years ago, I was asked by Colorado Ski Country to become a youth mentor – a task that has taken me into the classroom and given me the chance to share our history through film. One of my most requested segments is the history of Camp Hale and the 10th Mountain Division.

And over the last few years, I’ve traveled across not just Colorado but the world, sharing the story of the 10th Mountain Division and their travails and triumphs in the Julian Alps through my documentary, Mission Mt. Mangart.

For many who haven’t heard the story of Camp Hale, you could easily miss it off the side of Highway 24 on the way from Leadville to Vail – the few signs that mark its existence don’t do justice to its storied history.

The story of the 10th Mountain Division — from their training at Camp Hale to the ski race they held at the base of Mt. Mangart to celebrate the end of the war to the ski industry they started once they returned home – is one that I have devoted part of my own life to telling. But without more resources, more Coloradans and Americans will grow up without ever hearing the special history of Camp Hale.

At the request of a broad coalition of Coloradans, Senators Michael Bennet and John Hickenlooper, Congressman Joe Neguse, and Gov. Jared Polis have requested President Joe Biden create the Camp Hale-Continental Divide National Monument to protect this special place. I believe that the indelible impact that Camp Hale and the 10th Mountain Division has had on our national and world history is worth enshrining now and for future generations.

I hope that President Biden will follow through with news reports that he will elevate Camp Hale through the National Monument designation it deserves when he comes to Colorado next week.

Chris Anthony is a Colorado native, professional skier, and Snow Sports Hall of Fame inductee. He runs the Chris Anthony Youth Initiative Project, which aims to improve the quality of life by introducing youth to educational enrichment opportunities. This op-ed was edited by staff from Sen. Michael Bennet’s office before it was submitted to The Post.

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