Treat: Preserve Camp Hale, a sacred space for the 10th Mountain Division and Colorado ski industry (column)
As one of the few remaining 10th Mountain Division veterans, I am writing to express my support for the Continental Divide Recreation, Wilderness and Camp Hale Legacy Act, currently being considered by our House and Senate.
There are many possibilities for continued and future use of this area — education, outdoor recreation, historic interpretation and more — but first, the area needs to be protected. The Continental Divide Recreation, Wilderness and Camp Legacy Act would safeguard 28,000 acres in and around Camp Hale from development. It would protect the valley where the camp bustled with 10,000 troops, barracks, rifle range; 40,000 mules; sled dogs; a train depot; and climbing rock still used today.
It also would protect the surrounding mountains where we lugged our 90-pound packs uphill on stiff, wooden skis, bivouacked in snowstorms, learned to use our ice axes and endured some of the roughest mountaineering conditions possible in our training for winter warfare.
I believe these are sacred areas and deserve protection and the same respect that the 10th Mountain soldiers earned during their heroic defeat of the enemy in the Italian Alps. This would be the first-ever National Historic Landscape protection in the United States, and I can think of no area more deserving. Not only were we warriors for our country, but many of us returned home and dedicated the rest of our lives to building the highly successful U.S. ski industry.
Today, skiing is a major part of the outdoor industry in our country. According to the latest study reported in The Denver Post (Oct. 27, 2018), in Colorado, we have a $62.5 billion outdoor industry that accounts for 500,000 jobs. Ninety percent of Coloradans took part in some sort of outdoor recreation last year. Skiing and snowboarding, of course, contribute a big chunk to our thriving outdoor industry.
The 10th Mountain Division’s legacy is a big part of this story. When we returned from World War II, many of my fellow soldiers and I came back to the mountains we loved. Some started ski areas such as Vail and Arapahoe Basin. Others became businessmen with retail stores that continue today, such as Gorsuch Ltd. Others, like me, continued to ski for the pure love of the sport and of the mountains. This is how we contributed and helped the ski industry become what it is today.
With Colorado the attraction it is, it’s also important to protect the lands for future generations. Camp Hale is situated in the middle of the largest wildlife migration corridor in North America and at the headwaters of the Eagle River. Safeguarding this area is key for healthy wildlife populations, which attract hunters and fishermen from all over.
I grew up in an America that valued our wild lands, and this is a value I hope lives on long after I’m gone. I’m now 95 years old, and I want to see the Camp Hale lands protected before I die. Come on, Congress, and especially Sen. Cory Gardner, let’s get this bill approved.
Sandy Treat is a Vail resident and 2010 inductee to the U.S. Ski Hall of Fame. He taught skiing to the troopers at Camp Hale and served in the European theater during the war. He shares his stories of Camp Hale days weekly through ‘fireside’ chats at the Colorado Snowsports Museum in Vail.