Happy 75th Birthday, Ski Cooper!December 22, 2017
The 2017-2018 season marked the 75th birthday of Ski Cooper and the winter of 1942-1943, when Cooper Hill first was used for ski training.
Ski Cooper’s Younger Days
So what happened in Cooper’s first year? The area played an important role in World War II—it served as a training ground for ski troopers who ultimately helped turn the tide of the war.
In 1942, the United States Army chose an isolated railroad stop called Pando, Colorado, to be a winter training site. The area was chosen for its nearby rail transportation, rugged mountainous terrain, and 250-inch average annual snowfall, which ensured that troops could do ski training six months out of the year. Cooper Hill, at 11,700’, was part of Camp Hale, which trained the ski troopers of the famed 10th Mountain Division. (See 7 Intriguing Facts about Camp Hale.)
10th Mountain Division History
After two years of rigorous training, the 10th Mountain Division was ordered to Italy in 1945 to spearhead the advance of the U.S. Fifth 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 Appenines and secured the Po River Valley.
The 10th Mountain Division’s victories played a vital role in liberating northern Italy. By the time the Germans surrendered in May 1945, 992 ski troopers had been killed in action and 4,000 wounded, marking the highest casualty rate of any U.S. Division in the Mediterranean. After the war, Ski Cooper was opened to the public as a ski area.
Ski Cooper’s Birthday Year
Today, Cooper continues to grow and develop organically, improving its base area facilities, adding new events, and keeping Cooper unique. For example, Ski Cooper continues to host its 10th Mountain Ski Down tribute every year. This unique ceremony honors the soldiers of the 10th Mountain Division.
Cheers to another great year!