Vail to honor 76th anniversary of the Battle of Riva Ridge on Thursday | VailDaily.com
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Vail to honor 76th anniversary of the Battle of Riva Ridge on Thursday

Run on Vail Mountain named in honor of the fight that turned WWII around for the Allies

The 10th Mountain Division, the famed winter warfare unit that trainded south of Vail at Camp Hale, was instrumental in breaking down the German Gothic Line in Italy during World War II. (Colorado Snowsports Museum
Special to the Daily)

Riva Ridge is the longest run on Vail Mountain, but it’s named for a historical event that spans back to World War II. Thursday marks the 76th anniversary of the Battle of Riva Ridge and to commemorate this pivotal point in history, the Colorado Snowsports Museum will host “Climb to Glory,” a documentary about the famed winter warfare unit — the 10th Mountain Division — that trained just south of Vail at Camp Hale.

The virtual showing of “Climb to Glory” is part of the Through the Lens series offered by the Colorado Snowsports Museum. Hosted by extreme athlete and filmmaker Chris Anthony, viewers will learn first hand from soldiers of the 10th Mountain Division that were interviewed as a part of the documentary.

“Riva Ridge and the battle on Mount Belvedere proved the concept that was the 10th Mountain Division. It also put the German army on notice that new soldiers, unlike any they had encountered before, were entering the battle,” said David Little, military historian for the Tenth Mountain Foundation. The German troops had concluded that Riva Ridge was “not climbable” and held a stronghold referred to as the German Gothic line across the top of Italy’s boot, measuring 8 miles deep by 108 miles wide.



In order to remain concealed, the troops had to conduct this mission at night, without artillery fire and as quickly as possible. On Feb. 18, 1945, 700 men congregated on Riva Ridge, while the rest of the division waited to take Mount Belvedere the next night. Carrying heavy ruck sacks and weapons, ammunition, climbing gear and provisions, soldiers of the 10th scaled the snow and ice-covered slopes of Riva Ridge. As luck would have it, a fog set in while the soldiers worked their way up, helping to conceal their positions from the enemy.

At the end of 1944, the Allies’ 16-month war struggle had left Italy in shambles, and the Germans were prepared with artillery batteries around the country. The Allies were unable to break the German Gothic line across the top of Italy’s boot, measuring 8 miles deep by 108 miles wide. (Colorado Snowsports Museum
Special to the Daily)

To hear from these soldiers and realize how amazing it was to conquer this feat after the Allies’ 16-month struggle to start the war that left Italy in shambles is what “Climb to Glory” sets out to accomplish. These stories of the 10th Mountain Division, whose motto is “Sempre Avanti” – Always Forward — are a central part of the Colorado Snowsports Museum, which has the largest display of 10th Mountain Division artifacts in the country.



The Colorado Snowsports Museum has the largest display of 10th Mountain Division artifacts in the country. (Daily file photo)

“I was asked by the Descendants of the 10th Mountain Division to host a virtual event this year since an in-person gathering could not take place in Vail due to COVID-19,” Anthony said. “This is such an interesting part of our history, not only for the country, but for the outdoor industry as a whole. When these soldiers came back, they created ski areas like Vail, outdoor education and mountaineering schools like NOLS and Outward Bound, SKI Magazine and Nike.”

This event is free and open to the public of all ages on Thursday evening at 6:50 p.m with a Q-and-A session following the documentary. Donations to the Colorado Snowsports Museum are appreciated and can be made via a Venmo QR code once you register. For more information and to get information on how to view this presentation and documentary, visit the Colorado Snowsports Museum website at snowsportsmuseum.org.


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