Ski history divulged on slopes of Cooper
TENNESSEE PASS ” Ski Cooper shut down and 100 skiers opened up on the slopes Wednesday, sharing skiing history and thus passing it on.
The participants descended upon the mountain for an annual day of skiing heritage put on by the International Skiing History Association. Cooper closed April 2, but reopened for the group’s event.
“People swap stories and talk with others about what skiing is,” organizer David Scott said.
The people there represented a massive pool of skiing knowledge and experience, including Scott, who invested 35 years in the ski industry, distributing equipment and most recently working as a consultant. Still, Scott’s ski roots paled in comparison to the old timers carving up Cooper.
Not yet 10 years old, Jerry Groswold helped scout the location for a new ski resort outside Salida, Groswold said. At 6 or 7 ” Groswold can’t remember which ” he accompanied his father and others and skied what is now Monarch Mountain.
“The snow was so deep I couldn’t go,” he said.
To ease the passage, Groswold followed in his father’s tracks until dad hit a stump and cartwheeled, Groswold said.
“I have a vivid memory of his ski tips coming up,” he said, laughing.
Now an imposing, tall and broad-shouldered man at age 74, Groswold’s goal is to pass on skiing history, much of which is diminishing with the passing of the sport’s Colorado forefathers.
“It’s a fleeting thing ” a passing thing,” Groswold said. “If we don’t capture it now, we’ll miss a lot of it.”
The 74-year-old imparts several tales about his own history, beginning with his father Thor, who manufactured Groswold Skis in Denver from 1932 to 1952.
In 1924, a ski race on Pikes Peak might have sparked romance.
Thor worked as treasurer for the Pikes Peak Ski Club, headed by Julie Penrose, whose husband owned the Broadmoor Hotel in Colorado Springs. Groswold found an article in which Bernice Brandt ” later Bernice Groswold ” won a trophy during the race.
“I have no reason to doubt that’s where my parents met,” Groswold said.
Through Thor’s years in the ski industry, he maintained a passion to get others involved in the sport, Groswold said.
“My father worked to get people on skis,” he said. “I learned to give back more than you take, and I lived my life that way.”
In turn, Groswold headed up Winter Park Resort, first as chairman, then stepping down from the position to preside over the resort full-time during the construction of the famed Mary Jane.
Earl Clark, 87, stood before at least 100 skiing luminaries, recounting the history of the 10th Mountain Division, whose members trained at the site of Ski Cooper above the now-defunct Camp Hale.
“In July 1941,” the former division soldier began, Gen. George Marshall began an experiment to create a group of soldiers trained in mountaineering, outfitted with the proper equipment and trained at a to-be-determined location, which became Camp Hale.
Hale was selected because of long winters, cliffs to climb and access on the railroad and Highway 24.
The objective of the experiment? Potentially square off against similar German and Italian soldiers, Clark said. In 1945, elements of the division attacked German strongholds Riva Ridge and Mount Belvedere in the North Apennine Mountains of Italy.
Adolf Hitler had ordered the strongholds held at all costs, Clark said. In 48 hours, the division overtook the two positions, a feat several other divisions previously attempted, Clark said.
During many World War II battles, 999 members of the division died, and most are now memorialized just outside Ski Cooper. Despite all the glory the division received, they “still paid a horrible price,” Clark said.
After the war, many of the men who did make it went on to found or manage some of the first ski areas across the United States. Now, one of the remaining 1,600 division soldiers dies each day, taking skiing and military history with them, Clark said.
He’s helped provide information for a couple of film documentaries, passing the history on.
“While we’re still alive, we’re still able to pass along the heritage,” he said.
Fellow 10th Mountain Division soldier Johnny Litchfield eagerly anticipates the chance to swap tales with army buddies at events like the Skiing Heritage Week.
“We all had a common experience,” he said. “It does something for you business doesn’t do for you in terms of character and development in life.”
Staff Writer J.K. Perry can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 14622, or email@example.com.