HISTORY OF CAMP HALE AND
THE 10TH MOUNTAIN DIVISION
In 1941, Minnie Dole approached the United States Army with the need to train troops for winter survival and skiing. The site, 17 miles north of Leadville and 7 miles north of Tennessee Pass, was chosen.
The camp was planned to house more than 15,000 soldiers and support personnel of the newly established 10th Mountain Division. Construction of Camp Hale was completed in November 1942. The camp lay at 9,300 feet altitude and was selected for its abundance of snow. Four trails were cut and the longest T-Bar in the country was installed at Cooper Hill.
In 1945, after two years of rigorous training, the 10th Mountain Division was ordered to Italy to spearhead an advance of the U.S. Army. In a series of actions that included Riva Ridge and Mt. Belvedere, the 10th Mountain Division breached the supposedly impregnable Gothic Line in the Apennines and secured the Po River Valley to play a vital role in the liberation of northern Italy. By the time the Germans surrendered in May 1945, 992 ski troopers had lost their lives and 4,000 were wounded. This was the highest casualty rate of any U.S. division in the Mediterranean.
A monument has been placed at the entrance to Ski Cooper in memory of the soldiers killed in action in Italy. A second, adjacent monument commemorates the soldiers of the 99th Battalion, Norwegian nationals who liberated Norway in May 1945. Each year a Memorial Day service is held in May and a Ski-in-Reunion in March.
Many ski troopers returned to Colorado after the war and were instrumental in the development of the Colorado ski industry. Several books have been written about these special veterans. Oliver North filmed a special segment of his "War Stories" about the 10th Mountain Division on the slopes of Ski Cooper.
Camp Hale was placed on the National Register of Historic Places on April 10, 1992. There are interpretive signs at the site of Camp Hale and at the entrance to Ski Cooper. U.S. Highway 24, from Leadville to Minturn, has been designated as The 10th Mountain Division Memorial Highway and is on the National Scenic and Historic Byway.
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