Here in the High Country stories about the 10th Mountain Division are ingrained in the culture — a sort of mountain lore now passed down through generations.
Spend enough time in Summit or Eagle counties and you’re bound to walk by a statue or a plaque dedicated to the men who came here to train to be part of the first division of American ski troopers in World War II and who then returned after the war to lay the foundations of the ski industry that so many of us came here to be a part of. Take a bike tour on Vail Pass in the summertime and those stories may even start to fringe on folklore. A guide may point out Machine Gun Ridge and explain how soldiers trained up there through the winter. They say there’s still an old howitzer gun up there somewhere, or at least that’s how the story goes.
Lost artillery legends aside, many of the famed division’s influences are far more concrete. From Vail founder and 10th Mountain Division veteran Pete Seibert’s work to open Vail Mountain to today’s Alpine touring ski technologies, all have their ties back to those Army skiing pioneers.
“Without the 10th Mountain soldiers, we wouldn’t have the ski resorts we have today,” Copper Mountain ski patrol supervisor Shauna Cocksch said. “The equipment that they used revolutionized our ski equipment.”
Many 10th Mountain veterans helped forge the industry’s boom in the post-World War II era and into the 1950s and ’60s.
“(They) helped bring the European experience to Colorado,” said Susie Tjossem, executive director of the Colorado Ski and Snowboard Museum.
That story is the inspiration behind one of Warren Miller Entertainment’s most recent films, “Climb to Glory: Legacy of the 10th Mountain Ski Troopers.”
The film is a collaborative effort, funded by the Ski and Snowboard Museum and Warren Miller Entertainment.
“We realized that these experiences would be lost if we didn’t capture them firsthand,” Tjossen said. “We thought that they (Warren Miller) were a perfect partner to do this.”
The film originally started as a 7-minute segment in the Warren Miller movie “Flow State,” from 2012, and was expanded into a full 45-minute documentary.
“This project was five years in the making,” Tjossen said.
Part documentary and part lighthearted Warren Miller feature, the story follows the development of the 10th Mountain Division with old film clips and recent interviews with surviving veterans. It also connects their pioneering efforts to the present. Well-known Warren Miller athlete Chris Anthony first proposed the project and was involved in production. He and Seibert’s grandson Tony Seibert — who recently died in an East Vail avalanche — both are featured prominently in the film, at times skiing on gear from that era.
After showing an initial version of the film in Vail in January 2013, the producers went back and “retouched” film, Tjossen said. The new version premiered locally last month in front of a sold-out crowd in Vail, shortly after Seibert’s death. It will premiere in Summit County Saturday, Feb. 22, at the Sky Chutes Theater in The Edge building in Copper Mountain’s Center Village. The screening is part of Copper Mountain Safety Patrol’s annual 10th Mountain presentation. Admission is $15 a person, with proceeds benefiting the Copper Mountain Safety Patrol and the 10th Mountain Division. Division veterans Warrant Officer Dick Over and Capt. Earl Clark are expected to be on hand for a brief presentation and question-and-answer session. The film also will be screened at the Breckenridge Festival of Film in March.