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Soldiers had key role in Vail, ski industry

Emma Brownnewsroom@vaildaily.comVail, CO Colorado
Special to the Daily10th Mountain Division soldiers trained in the High Country around Vail before fighting in World War II in Italy.
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VAIL, Colorado Fathers of the ski industry is the name of a free presentation on the Armys 10th Mountain Divisions role in the Colorado ski industry that will be given Wednesday night at the library in Vail, Colorado. Earl Clark and Dick Over, original members of the 10th Mountain division, will speak from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Vail Mountains Minnis Mile run is named after Charles Minot Dole, who started the national ski patrol in the 1930s. He lobbied Washington to start experimental mountain division of soldiers which became the 10th Mountain Division.We wouldnt be here if it wasnt for the 10th Mountain Division, said Justin Henderson said, curator of the Colorado Ski & Snowboard Museum. They played a vital role in the Colorado ski industry.The ski museum is working with Vail library to celebrate local history, commemorate Veterans Day and the 25th anniversary of the library. Clark and Over will share their first hand historic accounts, stories and anecdotes so we can learn about the sacrifices that service men during World War II made, Henderson said. They are fun and engaging and will answer questions afterwards. Ski patrollers recruited the soldiers for the 10th Mountain Division. The 10th Mountain Division was the only army division that was recruited by a civilian organization.The division trained specifically for mountain warfare and is still the only unit the U.S. army has created for mountain warfare. The troops were stationed at Camp Hale, between Minturn and Leadville, and trained in areas now known as Ski Cooper and Vail. Their training at 9,200 feet prepared the men to fight in Europe. The battle of Riva Ridge another run in Vail was the divisions first combat operation in Italy. The troops climbed the Ridge at night and surprised and defeated the Germans. They didnt think Riva Ridge could be climbed, Over said. During their time in Italy, from 1944 to the end of war in 1945, the division was involved in heavy combat. We lost 1,000 men, 4,000 wounded fighting in the mountains of Italy, Clark said. It was very difficult combat action against the Germans as they held the high ground. Our time in Colorado prepared well for that as we trained at higher altitude than Italy. People were surprised we trained as well as we did, Clark saidAfter the war was over the soldiers returned to Colorado, where some of them were inspired to set up a ski area. A few of them founded Vail. They looked over at the bowls and decided this was the place, said Clark, referring to fellow soldier and Vail founder Peter Seibert. Tenth Mountain soldiers Robert Parker and Bill Brown helped Seibert build Vail. There are over 60 ski areas built by the men of the 10th division, Clark said. They played a major role and created the ski industry as it is today, including Arapahoe Basin, Aspen, Vail, Steamboat Springs and Loveland.Clark settled in Denver and skied with his wife, Betty, in Vail and Beaver Creek for 58 years. He only stopped skiing last year. Im not enjoying bachelor life. My wife died four years ago, we had a place at Eagle-Vail for 37 years, Clark said. After she died, going up there feels too lonely.I love the Back Bowls of Vail, he added. We did a lot of powder skiing there, my wife and I she was a beautiful skier.The ski and snowboard museum, located in the Vail parking garage, has a permanent exhibit on the 10th Mountain Division.Through the years we have been thrilled and delighted to see Vail become one of the greatest ski areas in the world, for the public and competitors, such as the World Cup, Clark said. Its great to see it develop in to the marvelous success it is.


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