Vail’s Chris Anthony is documenting the 10th Mountain Division
VAIL — Chris Anthony’s new film will continue his life’s work, if he’s able to complete it.
The plan is ambitious, a sequel of sorts to the critically acclaimed “Climb to Glory,” which was produced by Warren Miller Entertainment in partnership with the Colorado Ski and Snowboard Museum. That film examined how the 10th Mountain Division of the U.S. Army came into existence at nearby Camp Hale in 1943.
In making “Climb to Glory,” the common thinking in examining the timeline of the war and its immediate aftermath was that the 10th Mountain Division hung around in Italy for a little while after the German surrender in May of 1945, but not much else. After “Climb to Glory” came out, however, information started coming Anthony’s way about the period that suggested the troops were there for longer than he had realized, in unique and historical areas, and some of those soldiers were quite active.
“A historian from Slovenia visiting the United States came across the film at the Colorado Ski and Snowboard Museum and noticed there were a lot of photos that were taken not in Italy, but actually in what is now Slovenia,” Anthony said. “He started doing more research, and learned there’s a history of the 10th Mountain Division that took place in a whole different region of Italy and now Slovenia that no one really paid attention to.”
The Julian Alps region is an area Anthony has been making annual visits to for the last two decades. He started developing a fascination with the area after seeing pictures of it on the wall of Marco and Amy Wheeler Tonazzi’s home in Vail.
“I would go over to their house for dinner for great Italian food and I would always stare at the photos of the little village where Marco was from,” Anthony said. “Twenty one years ago I said ‘I’m going to that village.’” I stayed in a little cabin that Marco’s brother owned, and just fell in love with the region.”
The region represents the easiest passage between the Adriatic Sea and the Black Sea along the Continental Divide in Europe. Great military campaigns have taken place there from Caesar to Napoleon, all seeking passageway from the Adriatic into the interior of Europe. Being a narrow valley, it’s fairly easy to defend and has required the protection of alpine troopers from Italy for generations.
Tonazzi’s father and grandfather were members of the Alpini, Tonazzi himself represented them as a member of the Italian ski racing team, and his brother is a historian who has recreated original World War I front line formations, barracks and tunnels in a little park in the area. Anthony and Tonazzi have been taking trips together there for years.
“The little town where Chris and I go back with our trips was, during the first World War, part of Austro-Hungarian empire,” Tonazzi said. “It only became a part of Italy between the two big wars. This part of the country, being first Austria then Italy, had families living in the same village that used to be enemies during the previous war. So there is a lot of intriguing history and unique situations that came from how the border was there between two ethnic groups — German and Italian — and how it moved about 20 miles left and right during the wars.”
The 10th Mountain Division arrived after the Germans surrendered in World War II.
“They came to keep security and patrol the border that was being decided after the end of the war,” Tonazzi said. “For Chris, I think the real inspiration for his movie is the fact that the first international ski race after the war was held in June right above this little village in Italy, now Slovenia, in June of 1945.”
Some of the men from the 10th Mountain Division took part in the race and did quite well.
“Everything is aligning to where I need to tell this story,” Anthony said, without revealing too much about the specifics of within the actual tale. “Fans of ski racing, alpinists and those who love World War II history will find this fascinating, I just know it.”
Anthony had the same feeling about “Climb to Glory,” a movie that started in much the same way.
“’Climb to Glory’ took years of pitching and pushing before it was actually rolled out,” Anthony said. “I had to do a lot of begging and pleading and especially fundraising, and for a while I was convinced I would have to do the whole thing on my own, although I didn’t really have the confidence in myself that I could do it. Right when I had decided I would hire my own cameraman, Warren Miller Entertainment jumped on with the same passion, they sent a couple of filmers out to Vail and Ski Cooper during a 10th Mountain Division reunion and were able to absorb a lot of the costs of doing that. The end result was beautiful, entertaining and also teachable.”
The final trait, as described by Anthony, wasn’t fully realized until after the film came out.
“I found that taking ‘Climb to Glory’ into schools as an educational tool was serving as an incredible connection to local, state, national and international history,” Anthony said. “Now that I’m aware of that, I’m looking at the educational opportunities in this new film right away and embracing them.”
Anthony said creating educational tools through his films has become his most important achievement throughout his long career as an on-screen personality in the ski movie industry. Displaying the same passion he brought to “Climb to Glory,” Anthony has recently turned his focus to pitching, pushing and fundraising on the next chapter of the story.
“I feel more confidant in myself that I can pull this off,” he said. “Also, while it’s an expensive project, the cost of things has gone down because of technology. Production companies have shown interest, especially if we can raise funds in the same way we did with ‘Climb to Glory.’”
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