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For these guys, Vail’s powder can wait

Ian Cropp
Vail, CO Colorado
Kristin Anderson/Vail Daily
ALL |

Last Tuesday, I was walking out of the Vail parking structure with a friend and about to cross the Covered Bridge when we saw a group gathered by the 10th Mountain Division solider statue.

My friend recognized one of the guys and put two and two together: The men were soldiers from the 10th Mountain Division back for their yearly reunion. After chatting with one of the veterans ” local resident Sandy Treat ” and introducing ourselves to a few others, we started heading for the bridge while the guys gathered for a picture in front of the statue.

At that point, my friend looked at me and said, ‘Hey, don’t you feel like those two guys from “Dumb and Dumber” who told the bus full of swimsuit models looking for oil boys that there was a town right down the road?”

While the men in their 80s and 90s bore absolutely no resemblance to to bikini models, the point was well received. Not many people get a chance to meet one of the more storied divisions from World War II. (The 10th was a group of skier-soliders who trained at Camp Hale and fought legendary battles in the Italian mountains against the Nazis.)

With the powder still fresh and busloads of skiers starting to make their way onto the mountain, we decided to ask the guys from the 10th if we could hang out with them for the morning.

One of the guys we met was an Italian who had fought in the underground resistance. He told us about the tests he had to pass just to be accepted into the underground, which included things like unscrewing the gas tank cap of a German tank and adding some of his own octane into it or cutting a German communications wire and mending it with a shoestring, rendering it useless. He said that even the most basic resistance measures, like switching the direction signs of cities at the ports in Florence, would have surely sent him to the gallows had the been caught.

Remember that high school prank you pulled? This puts that to shame.

Another solider, an American, talked about when he saw Mussolini hanging upside-down in Milan. Rarely does anyone get to hear people give a firsthand account of what you read about in history class.

As interesting as it was listening to them talk about their experiences, we got an extra kick out of watching them ski. One of the soldiers, at 93, made some impressive turns and left me hoping that 68 years from now I can do the same.

And Sandy Treat, at 85, left me in the dust a few times in the Golden Peak area ” no joke. This from a guy who promised his doctor he wouldn’t race anymore after a terrible crash last year while training for Masters races. I’d have thought it strange that Treat was still skiing after his fall, which left him unconscious for two days, but if you get to know the guy and all that he’s done, his perseverance isn’t the least bit surprising.

If, by chance, you ever happen to see some soldiers standing in front of the statue, stop and remember that there are some friends to be made on a powder day.

Here’s a quick lesson in the economics of skiing karma. If you take all the hundreds of a seconds by which Lindsey Vonn has finished second, third, fourth or fifth, put them into the bank and let them mature, you get what happened on the women’s World Cup tour this weekend.

Both races ” a slalom and giant slalom ” were scrapped this weekend in Germany and will not be rescheduled. For Vonn, who isn’t as strong in technical events as she is in speed, the weekend turned out pretty well. Vonn holds a 54-point lead on Austria’s Nicole Hosp, a strong technical skier, in the overall. This was supposed to be the weekend Hosp made up ground.

This week, the ladies head to Crans-Montana, Switzerland, for a downhill and super-combined. Vonn already has clinched the downhill title and has a combined win to her name this season. Then, it’s off to Bormio, Italy, for the finals for four races. This is going to be fun.

On the men’s side, Bode Miller continues to amaze us all. With a pair of second-place finishes and a win in Norway, Miller propelled himself ahead of Austria’s Benjamin Raich in the overall and closed in on Switerland’s Didier Cuche (who is second in the overall) in the downhill standings. Remember last year and early this year when we thought Miller was resigned to a few final years of mediocrity?

While I’d love to see an American battle Miller for the overall, I can’t say I mind Cuche being the guy on Miller’s tail. At 33, Cuche is the model of what all ski racers should be like ” affable, hardworking and fast.

No matter how many times you’ve seen it, Leadville’s skijoring is one of those events you need to keep on your calendar. Chris Anthony, who was at the event filming and competing, put a finger on what it is about the sport that makes it so alluring. Anthony said that, in an age where there are endless regulations and waivers and red tape, this is a raw sport.

Really, where can you watch skiers fly down main street behind horses off 10-foot jumps?

Don’t look now, but winter ” that thing that left us for a few days last week ” it’s back.

Sports Writer Ian Cropp skis in jeans or a one-piece and can be reached at 748-2935 or icropp@vaildaily.com.


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