What does downhill skiing have to do with history? When asked this question, Conserve School students may tell you about the 10th Mountain Division of the United States Army. In History class at the end of this past week, students learned about the creation of an Army division that specialized in cold weather combat.
Prior to Wold War II, the United States did not have a mountain unit that specialized in cold weather combat. There just didn’t seem to be a need for one. Charles Minot Dole, president of the National Ski Patrol, was adamant that the creation of such a division should be top priority for the Army. Finally in 1943, the 10th Mountain Division came into existence at Camp Hale, Colorado.
Students met at the recreation center to start class by gathering their skis and setting off in military formation for the sledding hill. Earlier in the week, Campus Services staff members flattened out a ski run on the north side of the sledding hill so that students could ski down it. At the base of the sledding hill, History Teacher Michael Salat passed out a reading on the 10th Mountain Division. Students took turns reading aloud before they moved on to the practical portion of the lesson.
The 10th Mountain Division played a large role fighting in the Apennine Mountains (Italy) during World War II. Their training in cold weather and high altitude combat served them well when they scaled Riva Ridge and captured Mount Belvedere from the Germans. One of the skills that the 10th Mountain Division would have been trained in was skiing. In fact, many of the members of the 10th Mountain Division were skiing enthusiasts and would go on to promote the sport after the end of World War II.
After some instruction in downhill skiing technique, students took to the slope to enjoy the rest of class.
Leanna Jackan, Graduate Fellow