Chris Anthony, Louise Borden teach local fourth-graders about 10th Mountain Division, Vail pioneer Pete Seibert
EDWARDS — History matters, especially when it’s your hometown history.
Pro skier and Colorado Ski & Snowboard Hall of Famer Chris Anthony spent several hours wisely and well in the company of Eagle County Charter Academy fourth-graders with his film, “Climb to Glory,” and Louise Borden’s book, “Ski Soldier: A World War II Biography.” Both chronicle Colorado’s famed 10th Mountain Division in general — and Pete Seibert in particular.
Borden’s book is new, published Tuesday, Sept. 11, by Boyds Mills Press. It’s 176 pages and follows Seibert from his childhood through his battles and injuries during World War II and finally to Vail.
The books are available to any classroom that wants them, Anthony said.
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Anthony met Borden at The Bookworm of Edwards during a book tour.
“When I found out that this book was written for elementary-age students, a light went off that it would supplement the ‘Climb to Glory’ talks I do at elementary schools,” Anthony said.
He reached out to Eagle County Charter Academy fourth-grade teachers Amy Guercio and Danielle Towle to see if they wanted to create a lesson plan and the presentation was born.
“The students related to it immediately and showed enthusiasm about learning more. During a time when U.S. history is being destroyed, this is a wonderful way to engage youth into a bit of American and world history,” Anthony said.
It’s their history, too
This history matters to them because it’s not only Seibert and Vail’s history, it’s their history, too. Seibert started like they did, skiing in his backyard in his hometown, Sharon, Massachusetts, with his buddies such as fellow Vail Pioneer Morrie Shepard, who grew up with Seibert.
“It’s a beautiful book to get this background,” Guercio said.
Among their many projects, the ECCA fourth-graders created hand-drawn, oversized postcards depicting scenes from Colorado, Italy and other locales where Seibert’s travels took him.
On the back, just like actual postcards, the students wrote notes from Seibert to family members and other loved ones. The notes are from Seibert’s point of view and talk about his adventures in Camp Hale; an army camp in Austin, Texas; and Europe.
The notes, heartfelt and mostly upbeat, helped the students see Seibert’s world from Seibert’s point of view, a valuable life skill for anyone.
As Friday’s presentation continued, groups of students stood at the front of the classroom and read their postcard notes to the rest of the class. They covered how much Seibert said he loved skiing, how much he disliked skiing with a 93-pound pack while holding a grenade and life in Camp Hale and in Austin.
There was one to his parents back in Sharon the night before he and the rest of the 10th Mountain Division headed into the battle for Mount Belvedere. In their postcard note from Seibert, the fourth-graders told Seibert’s parents that his knee was blown out and his arm was badly injured but that they should not worry about him — he’d be fine.
And on the morning’s final postcard, Seibert told his family back in Sharon, Massachusetts, how he and his buddy Earl (Eaton) climbed seven hours up to what would become Vail Mountain.
Every postcard note signed off with “Love.”
When they were done with their projects and Anthony’s presentation Friday, the fourth-graders graders knew where Italy was and what it looks like, where Mount Belvedere and Riva Ridge are and what happened there, that the 10th Mountain Division was Minnie Dole’s idea and that President Franklin Roosevelt (not the similarly named Teddy Roosevelt) pushed it through the Department of Defense.
Anthony has been skiing since he was 18 months old, because, he said, his parents wanted to keep skiing so they brought him with them.
He is founder and executive director of Chris Anthony Youth Initiative Project. He is a professional skier and works with the sports action documentary film company Warren Miller Entertainment.